THURSDAY 26 JAN 2023 4:17 PM


How do you keep your messaging relevant and impactful in an industry that is ever-changing? Jamal Dayes, head of digital at Bladonmore, explores how you can keep communications fresh.

Want to have greater control of your message? Of course you do. That’s the be-all and end-all for most communications directors. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of us, our messages are twisted and interpreted by others before they reach their intended audience.

There are, perhaps, thankfully a few decent news organisations that will take a corporate press release and repeat it verbatim in print or via broadcast. That journalistic twist lies deep in the nature of democracy, but it also adds a frisson of frustration to many a communications department as they struggle to drive a set comms line.

Equally, just look at the investor relations world. Fantastic results updates pulled apart by the interpretations of analyst models and their notes. Or a well-defined employee engagement campaign cascaded down across an organisation with something like a Chinese whispers skew along the route to the intended audience.

Power waning

All of these ‘filters’ are part and parcel of the communications process, but they are also losing some of their power in the digital world. Taking your story directly to audiences via, say, a website is nothing new, of course. But pushing a story ‘directly’ to a highly-defined and targeted audience has become incredibly powerful in recent times and has been massively enhanced in the last few years. Want to target a bunch of people frequenting a certain building with your own messages? Easy just roll up a geofencing programme and we’ll get your video playing on all of their feeds.

Equally, we see many companies bypassing the broking and analyst fraternity in the wake of MiFid II and taking their story directly to investors in a way that never used to happen. The surge in company-driven capital markets days are a case in point. Sure, it comes with its own difficulties and slower distribution, but the direct-to-audience story has come to the fore.

And those lovely employees are more in touch with the thoughts of many a C-suite now than ever before again through video updates, targeted content, Workplace, Yammer and the like.

Huge impact

So, what does all this mean for corporate comms teams? For one, the impact on working practices has been huge. Often amid confusion and fear of missing out. Equally, sign-off times on story and news and results releases have crumbled compared to what they were a few years ago as the digital direct pressure has grown. If nothing else, teams have to at least ensure that owned content becomes available direct to audiences at the same time as any filtration from journalists, analysts and the like might occur.

Clearly, in-house content teams have grown as a result. Companies are populating their own thought pieces and intranets in a way not seen since the heyday of corporate magazines, probably in the late 1990s. It is great news for all of those ex-journos picking up redundancy checks from media organisations; the corporate content creation world is once more thriving and open.

Investor relations and employee engagement teams are part of that content drive too, either with growing teams of their own or using agencies to drive content and programmes at key times in the calendar.

Fighting back

But there are fight backs from the filters, too. While the journalist and analyst communities have undoubtedly dwindled under increasing cost pressure, we’ve also seen a different type of news and commentary appearing in recent years. Whether that be the likes of the now well-established Breaking Views or the nascent News Movement sharing its interpretive thoughts on TikTok and Instagram. Meanwhile, buy-side analysis continues to fluctuate in line with market cycles. Thoughtful filtration and comment, rather than simple distribution, is surely a key way forward.

Similarly, the idea that Meta and Google would benefit from growing media spend for ever more as they hone their targeting techniques is beginning to look challenged. It’s not just newer entrants to the market changing that view, regulators and legislators are slowly ever so slowly beginning to act with new privacy, cookie and other data restrictions that will slow down and frustrate some of the direct targeting of content that we have seen exponentially grow in recent years.

Feeling comfortable?

In essence, that direct line to your corporate communication target audiences is open like never before whether in owned or paid content terms. But the premise that it is now the set way of the world is also naïve and up for grabs. If there’s one thing that seems certain – nothing stays the same in the world of digital content distribution. The idea that things will stand still long enough for corporate communicators to become wholly comfortable with the best way to distribute stories and content does not fit with the experience of the last two decades. If you feel comfortable, it probably means that you are missing out on the next big thing.