2009 Communication Trends

Trend Blend 2009

Trend Blend 2009


I ran across this helpful 2009 trend analysis by futurist Richard Watson. The cluster of grey spheres at the center are the eleven core trends of 2009. Each colored tentacle represents a major area of analysis—family, business, environment, politics, etc.—and the importance of each of the spheres on each tentacle is conveyed through its size and nearness to the center cluster.

The tentacles offer some fascinating hints at challenges nonprofits and foundations may face next year. For instance, combine the most important trend in business—Transparency—with the biggest trend in media—Too much information, and you see a problem.  How are organizations going to help people understand their processes, decision-making, and impact more clearly when people already suffer from information overload?

And let’s not ignore hints about online communications—increasing Micro-boredom that could lead to Unplugging and Digital diets!  In a climate where people may be tuning down the volume of their media interaction, the relevance of  trends like Storytelling, Short formats, Skimming, Seriousness, and Flight to quality, as well as societal trends like Utility, Authenticity, and Islands of tranquility are pretty clear.

If there’s one lesson I take away from this swirl of uncontrollable global risks (I love the Munch head icon), red herrings, and other creepy crawly dangers, it’s this: Get back to fundamental communications strategy focused on meaningful relationships. There’s no room for fat in your communications budget—you can’t afford to waste a penny or lose a single opportunity to win new support. And the only reliable way to get rid of fat is honing strategy.

There’s a great article by Pete Blackshaw in this month’s Ad Age  where he talks about how the new economic scarcity model is driving people back to the basics. His list of the timeless communication truths was flawless: “Friendship must be earned, fame is fleeting, exaggeration begets backlash, it always pays to listen, an open door beats a closed door, and credibility is our most enduring market asset.”

Getting back to basics by doesn’t mean using the same tools you used 10 years ago or even 5 years ago. What it means is knowing exactly what your organization wants to accomplish in the world, who and where your potential supporters are, what you need from them, what they need from you, etc.  This is where the Authenticity trend kicks in! The tolerance for shallow, noisy, or one-sided relationships is getting very low. Even social media users are beginning to see that less is more; better to have 25 close friends than 239 acquaintances.

There’s much more to say about this trend illustration, join in if you have a comment. Meanwhile, here are a few 2009 tips I gleaned from it.

  • It’s all about compelling short stories…visual whenever possible. Concentrate on human impact not processes or activities.
  • Focus on quality (not quantity), utility, and timing.  Produce fewer, higher quality communications. Build a solid relationship using the least amount of  high impact communication possible. Make every communication valuable to the recipients—not just to your organization. Offer them something useful.
  • Move away from busy-looking design in your communications. Strive for elegant simplicity and immediate clarity. Create that island of tranquility people are looking for, without sacrificing your communications goals.
  • Be more personal and human and less institutional. Always, always be honest. (There is no hiding place.)
  • If you’re building communities online, they better not be cul de sacs. Keep participation meaningful, easy, and dynamic for your supporters. Empower them as your emissaries. 
  • If you don’t already, start paying attention to green processes in your communications. And make those processes transparent to your supporters.

One Response to “2009 Communication Trends”

  1. Sylvia Burgos Toftness Says:

    Great post, Gayle. It reminds me of an observation from several years ago – when you’re in a world of high-tech, people crave high-touch. For me this translates as a major need you pointed out: relationships. There’s no substitute for them, and there’s no rushing them. We need good relationships – solid partnerships if we’re to make lasting inroads on the many pressing issues our foundations have chosen to address.
    For me, this means taking the time to understand what value we bring to the nonprofit community, and focusing resources and energies on those vehicles and relationships that will advance specific, measurable objectives. Like you, I work to pare my efforts to “simply elegent” strategies desigend to deliver value to the nonprofits and those they serve.
    Gayle, thanks, again, for this forum.

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