Changing Communications Landscape

Part of my job as director of communications for a global organization is understanding global trends and their impact on the work my organization does. Earlier this month, I listened to a live telecast focused on the communications aspects that surrounded the World Economic Forum, recently held in Davos, Switzerland.

What struck me about the conversation that featured Arianna Huffington, Adrian Monck and Olivier Fleurot is how much the communications landscape has changed in less than a decade.

Monck, who is managing director of Communications and Media for the World Economic Forum, noted that communicators now have access to incredible tools. For example, Twitter is one of the primary ways to stay informed.

“There are these engines for creating a platform to talk about serious stuff,” he said.

Monck, who is responsible for disseminating communications from the World Economic Forum, said he is no longer reliant on the media to report the conversations. “The old method was to ‘PR’ it, but now you have platforms to have your own conversations,” he said, referring to social sites and blogging.

He wasn’t criticizing public relations, but rather noting how using all of the platforms can lead to a “phenomenal release” of information.

I considered his comments in the context of conferences I attend. At social media ones, the Twitter feed is usually scrolling on a screen within the room. The comments often add to the conversation. For example, the speaker may not recall the exact title of a book. While he continues to speak, an audience member quickly identifies the book and shares it via Twitter. Everyone in the audience now has it.

Huffington, who is chair, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, talked about how she was asked to bring blogging to the Forum in 2005. “They understood the power of incorporating social media and new media.”

For change to happen, Huffington said, a critical mass is needed to make a difference, and social media can help with that. She also talked about how huge problems can be solved through philanthropy and the rise in the number of companies that are making causes part of their annual plans.

I’ve seen many more job postings that relate to corporate social responsibility. It’s an opportunity often to combine philanthropy and communications in one position.

Finally, Fleurot, CEO of MSL Group, said social media allows people to really follow what is happening in the world, whereas in the past conversations happened behind closed doors. The impact of new technologies is changing our world every year, he said, and the key issue is “Are we running fast enough to keep up?”

Fleurot cautioned, though, that communications companies also don’t want to run too fast because not all clients are running at that speed. “It’s such a fast pace,” he said. “How do you adapt to that?”