By Joanne Henry, IABC Trends Watch Task Force Chair
The IABC Trends Watch Task Force is pleased to share six key trends we see shaping communicators in 2021 and over the next few years. Some are a continuation or an evolution of cultural trends already in place, and others are brand new, such as the radical changes in the work place due to COVID-19. Our eight task force and two staff members come from London, Calgary, Jamaica, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Reykjavík, the greater Boston area and Chicago. We do our best to watch what is happening in Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and will do our best to keep the global lens as wide as possible through this task force.
We stand on the (virtual) shoulders of last year’s Trends Watch Task Force and our goal is to dive deeper this year into how these trends are impacting and will impact communicators and their organizations. Even more, what can or should we be doing now that we know more about what is coming at us?
Below are quick takeaways below, and where you have interest, download and dive into full the report, along with their sources, for more reading and information.
Key Takeaways of Our Top 6 Trends
- The workplace is emerging as the great differentiator.
“Remote work, in-office or hybrid?” Will anyone ask what we do anymore?
Many large organizations are already in planning to bring employees back together, while others have pivoted hard to an almost exclusively remote workforce. Communicators will be newly challenged in remote and hybrid groups to find new ways to achieve alignment, the desired work culture, motivation, and — let’s be honest — consistent productivity.
- The benefits of equity, diversity and inclusion apply to the communication profession.
Communicators have an opportunity now more than ever to advance our profession by engaging in cross-communications with diverse global constituencies. We are all communicating to increasingly diverse audiences — what do our own teams look like in terms of truly diverse backgrounds and experiences, in addition to the demographics of race, gender and visible differences? IABC is in an enviable role as the only professional global business communications association. But only if we use it!
- Privacy and the Internet of Behaviors (or “We know what you did last night”) pose important ethical considerations.
Knowing and tracking individuals’ behaviors, not just what they say they will do, is either a marketer’s dream or an ethical nightmare. We think it is somewhere in between, but what is certain is that technology is exponentially increasing the ability to reach into human daily interaction, to respond to them and to even anticipate them. Communicators will be in the middle — again — and can be the ones to understand the implications and responsibilities of using this new technology for good.
- The human experience is what ties us all together — it needs to surface and swim.
Communicators are at the critical hub of integrating the human experience into any business or community mission, initiative or even day-to-day operations. With the global pandemic, we have had the awful experience of shared grief of our impact from the virus, violence, and the economic and psychic disruption that has hit some populations far harder than others. Communications have the ability to share beyond facts, to share emotion, to tell stories visually and viscerally, and to motivate change. Look no further than the videos of people around the world, leaning out windows, stopping their bicycles, ringing bells and clapping for health care workers coming home from their shifts tending the sick and dying. We have seen the future — and it is human.
- We must keep watch over disinformation and deepfakes.
On 25 January 2021, Twitter released Birdwatch, a new tool to fight disinformation by crowdsourcing context, information and sources. In every day since, a vocal chorus on dozens of social channels have argued that calling anything disinformation is a slippery slope. In the wake of social media bans of some unnamed government officials, there has been a hot debate about culpability by the platforms, free speech and censorship. Communicators will be asked to take a stand. New skills will include the ability to ensure your organization’s message gets out and that resources are available to identify and stop the damage of deepfakes and disinformation in your own organization.
- Radical transparency: Will it save us or be used against us?
One of the most sure antidotes to deep mistrust seems to be a response with absolute transparency: This is who we are, what we stand for, where we made mistakes, how we hire, what you’re all paid — what I’m paid — and so much more. Among communicators, the words “transparency,” along with “authenticity,” are more than slogans we put in into company messaging. At least, we hope so. However, radical transparency is easier said than done. Communicators are the ones who must ask: “What do you really mean by that?” Even more importantly, “How far are you willing to go with it?” If we let our carefully crafted language get ahead of our actions, mistrust will only grow deeper and even worse, scar over.
Download the 2021 Trend Report Here
If you are interested in providing further insight or contributing research for any of the trends listed above, or have suggestions for additional trends to keep a pulse on, reach out to the Catalyst editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IABC Trends Watch Task Force
The IABC Trends Watch Task Force identifies key global trends that will have direct impact for communicators and their organizations now and into the future. The task force prepares reports including both analysis and recommendations on how these trends apply to IABC members in their work.
The 2020-2021 Task Force includes: Joanne Henry (chair), Katie Macaulay (IEB liaison), Celine Brassard, Brigitte Fontaine, Donna Itzoe, Mike Klein, Shaniek Parks and Nick Vivion.