Well done for surviving 2018! Last year certainly provided highlights and lessons to be learned for communications practitioners and clients.
With collusion playing a constant role in news out of the UK and USA, and with the current Australian royal commissions into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry and into Aged Care Quality and Safety shining a light on those sectors, Commtractors should expect an increase in general expectations of trust, transparency and accountability in their work this year.
With the constant critique and problematising around the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), companies that play in those areas need to hold themselves accountable to ensure that they comply not only with the law, but also with moral and ethical standards set by the public. Countless examples of unfortunate and needless data breaches turn into worst-practice crisis communication case studies; as with life in general, prevention is better than cure. This can be done by building systems and structures that have transparency and accountability as central features.
Separately, Commtractors should expect continued pushback against “surveillance marketing” – that is to say, marketing and communications efforts that seek to utilise excessive data personalisation to target and retarget consumers.
Studies published post-Cambridge Analytica last year showed that a majority of respondents in Australia (70 per cent) and the UK (54 per cent) find personalisation by brands “creepy”. Those numbers are sure to go up in 2019 unless brands reverse their personalisation efforts.
Public interest communications
There is another way, especially for campaigns that are seeking to achieve social and behavioural change. We should look to the emerging field of public interest communications as one possible solution. The University of Florida-based Center for Public Interest Communications defines public interest communications as “the development and implementation of science-based planned strategic communication campaigns with the main goal of achieving … sustained positive behavioural change on a public interest issue that transcends the particular interests of any single organisation [my emphasis].”
According to its website, the Center delivers these science-based campaigns through the use of systems thinking and human-centred design – both are frameworks that Commtractors should consider using in any of their work in 2019.
Finally, a framework that Commtractors should expect to trend this year is neuromarketing, or the application of neuropsychology to marketing research.
Plenty of work on this topic has been done in the US, but it’s only a matter of time before local brands aim to catch up and engage the market using this framework. It will be interesting to see how key publics respond, given the quite vocal backlash to the above-mentioned revelations last year.