The New Normal is commonly attributed to Wall Street’s post-recession investment returns. But technology has created a New Normal for corporate and brand communications’ too says Ruth Golembo, MD of Lange Strategic Communications, the top mid-size PR consultancy in SA.
Having spoken at a recent AMASA meeting in Cape Town Golembo said the internet has emerged as the best propaganda tool ever and in its wake thrown open a whole new world of media and marketing channels.
Aside from the once new - and increasingly normal - social media channels, digital marketing opportunities today include billboards which can personalise messages to each receiver.
She says clever new uses of out of home media have been a necessity because consumers can more easily hide from advertisers due to PVR and selected newsfeeds.
“In addition to the changing channels, consumers too have changed. They are no longer the gullible masses marketers and communicators used to talk to.
“The New Normal in communications has given the voiceless a channel through which to chat back to brand and corporate communicators and the advent of citizen journalism has completely changed the playing field for mainstream media commentators and trendsetters,” she said.
To simplify the debate, she summarised the most dramatic changes for strategic communicators into five new rules of engagement as follows:
- CUSTOMISE – both the channel and the message now needs to be customised more than ever before. Because target markets are able to more easily select what they want to read and what they want to hear and see on television, communicators need to customise the message into something which is relevant to them.
- GET REAL – because consumers have become far more astute in the wake of the information era, authenticity has become key when communicating. It is very much easier for the truth to out in this New Normal- era than ever before. Perceptions need strong proof points to become reality these days and the more truthful and authentic a communication is, the better the chance of it being credible and believed.
- TELL STORIES – a great way of cutting through the information overload’s clutter is to tell real stories that strike a chord with consumers and it’s become a great way to connect consumers and brands. A brand like Johnnie Walker for instance uses the great stories of success of various high achievers around the world to inspire others to Keep Walking. Its current campaign is Walk with Giants, which is currently flighting on TV in SA which tells for example Formula One champion Jenson Button’s tale of success despite many setbacks and even the Richard Branson story of his empire which started in a phone booth in London is told by the brand.
- SIMPLIFY – while this has always been one of the rules of good communication its more pertinent now than ever before. An interesting example of how communication can be so detailed and complicated that it baffled even the most astute financial investors, is the ENRON debacle in the US. Enrons’ market accounting was an ‘open secret’. The company communicated very well and prior to their downfall were one of the darlings of the stock exchange. But theirs is great example of making too much noise in their communications – they made it all too complicated and none understood the implication of their accounting models until it was too late for the company to change.
- EXPECT BACKCHAT – one of the most important rules of the New Normal in communications is that brands and corporate communicators no longer own the message. Nowadays everyone has a voice and can respond to all communication messages, tear them apart, make fun of them, make them their own and discredit them. In the past journalists were hugely authoritative but nowadays citizen journalism is the New Normal. Bloggers and tweeters and once seemingly innocuous commentators like Arianna Huffington who established the Huffington Post as an alternative voice now can seriously affect public opinion.
Golembo said in summary that the New Normal in Communications - in-line with the new expectations created in financial services of single digit returns - had created a different value set when it comes to strategic communications and has made open, honest dialogue by brands and corporations more essential than ever.