Barbara: Strategy is creative and should never be rigid
Communication strategy is a creative process.
It’s not simply about words. It’s about creating conversations. It’s about engaging people. It’s about reputations. Communication strategy uses many tools and mediums – words on a paper, social media posts, video, a newsletter, a focus group, a survey, events, and the media to bring it to life.
When making decisions about strategy, discipline plays a big part, but if we are going to be creative it also requires a healthy dose of intuition. Intuition is that intrinsic feeling that you get that ‘this is right’, ‘it makes sense’, and while many would have experienced that ‘gut feeling’ they would question its validity for decision making.
I ask that you step back and consider that how we feel, sense and speak, how we act, the emotions that we provoke these are often the outcomes of what we seek from a communication strategy.
Communication specialists are trained to be perceptive, look for insights, be sensitive to the environment – it makes sense honing in on that intuitive expertise and bringing it to the table may well promote better strategy and new ideas.
Strategy, strategy, strategy.
Developing strategy, no one wants to munch endless hours and get fuzzy outcomes. It’s the roadmap that’s going to get us where we need to be…
Communication strategy is no different. So, you have your strategy and the road map is set. What could go wrong?
Rigidity and not being responsive to the environment.
If anything, the last three years have screamed the need to be flexible, to be adaptive and not be fearful of change and going off strategy. I’m not suggesting not to focus on the destination – but how you get there may be a little different then when you first started and that’s OK.
In fact, if you are not reviewing and testing your strategy you are placing your organisation at risk.
Holly: being optimistic about design is so 2023
Design, like fashion, often looks to the past for inspiration. Not a new a concept, but what felt new was the way that designers begun to play when we kicked over to 200 and the new millennium.
The ethereal, neon and pastel palettes, Microsoft Office style gradients and 3D effects that permeated 2022 are sure to continue to influence what we see this year.
What I love most about the resurgence of this look and feel is its orientation to digital space and how it introduced and conceptualises 3D – the interfaces of the 2000s. This kicked off in 2021 with initiatives like Louis 200, when Louis Vuitton embraced gaming culture to mark their 200 year anniversary, but it’s also reflected in Facebook’s Meta rebrand activities – what’s exciting is there are new spaces for design and communication to play with tangible value– we only have look at the uptake of NFTs to see that virtual creations are burgeoning.
I was excited to see the shift in brand identity design, with an increasing focus on optimising for virtual spaces. In the late 90s and early 2000s graphic design and brand were focused on print and digital media whereas in 2022 brand and graphic design focus shifted to the digital realm where colour, form and movement are optimised for virtual experiences. Graphic design for the metaverse is more dynamic, immersive and interactive.
Not only that – it’s optimistic. And that feeling is spilling over into my optimism for a creative and dynamic 2023.
Felicity: It’s okay to be cautious, but you must be open minded
What I learned
Being risk adverse does not mean you’re a bad social media manager.
The social media managers who get the most attention – both within social media networks and externally – tend to be the ones ‘pushing the envelope.’ Using humour, leaning into audience behaviours and jumping on to trends before there’s a ‘know your meme’ entry is impressive, and I do enjoy seeing this kind of work succeed.
However, something I already knew, but was solidified for me in 2022, is that creating good, resonant, compelling social media content for sensitive audiences, or within tricky legal contexts, is the true work of a master.
So if your work wouldn’t impress Duolingo followers, but your internal legal or policy team think you’re a legend – I see you. I recognise you. I celebrate you.
What I changed my mind about
TikTok. No, I haven’t started expressing my inner most thoughts via lip sync or incorrect use of ‘POV’. But your company or campaign might need to invest in running a TikTok.
Early in 2022 I replied to a post about TikTok on LinkedIn and said that I was dubious about the level to which people were celebrating the value of the platform, specifically its lead generation capabilities.
I don’t necessarily think I was wrong. I think it’s important to analyse how a platform is going to actually work for you – and I mean nitty gritty analysis of how it will fit into marketing workflows, resourcing, budgets and reporting – before jumping on it because you hear the metrics are through the roof.
However, I’m coming round to it, because of another fact I’ve finally faced up to. Instagram, like your favourite bar from your 20s, is now in need of a new DJ and a refit – it’s not where the young people are. If you need to target young people with any of your messaging, you’ve already claimed your username, right?
Sam: podcasts capture niche audiences
In 2022 the popularity of podcasting as a medium to tell stories and share key messages continued to boom.
In Australia, 755 million podcasts were downloaded throughout the year and, as reported by Mumbrella, the Infinite Dial Australia 2022 report showed Australia had overtaken the United States as the biggest national consumer of podcasts globally. In the report, the number of Australians said to have listened to a podcast in 2022 was found to be 40 per cent, as opposed to 38 per cent in the US. The study also found those who consume podcasts are heavily engaged in their listening, each tuning into an average of seven episodes weekly!
As podcasting continues to prove itself as a legitimate and effective communications medium, it is clearly apparent that it should be considered as a potential tool within any modern comms strategy. Even where at first glance topics seem like they might have narrow appeal, they can still be turned into something exciting, entertaining and relevant to a broad cross-section of listeners.
Let’s take the forestry industry as an example … while the Forest and Wood Products Australia podcast series ‘WoodChat’ has a clear primary audience of those operating within the forestry and wood products sector, each topic has relevance to a multitude of secondary audiences. For instance, the 2022 episode titled ‘How technology is being used to make Australian forests smarter’, which focuses on Artificial Intelligence, sensors and drones, has clear appeal for anybody with an interest in the practical application of technological advancements more generally. Similarly, the episode titled ‘Showcasing Australian forestry’s environmental stewardship’ would be of relevance to anybody with a broader interest in the issues around climate change.
Therefore, as demonstrated by WoodChat’s continued popularity amongst audiences outside of the forestry industry itself, whatever your niche, there is bound to be an audience for it amongst podcast listeners!
Our media specialist: here’s what you need to know about pitching in 2023
After two years of COVID, the coming and going that dominated the narrative of all media, 2022 promised more opportunity to pitch and achieve placement of other stories. There were many big news events in Australia and around the world think Shane Warne, floods, federal election, state elections, cyber hacks and the Queen were some. Timing for stories that couldn’t sit alongside big news was certainly challenging but not impossible with a more tailored approach.
Release me or not?
It’s tempting and costly to craft a Media Release and distribute it far and wide to attract maximum media exposure. Media outlets get hundreds of releases every day which is testament to the art of headlines that hook and opening sentences that make those who make the decisions want to read on.
Big news that affects many people will always attract big media, for every other announcement a Media Release needs some luck to land at the right time, on the right day and hopefully not coincide with another ‘big news’ release.
The alternative is to pitch directly to editors and journalists who have spots to fill but need it to be framed for their audience. At the heart of journalism is storytelling and many times throughout 2022 the media traction was achieved by pitching directly to relevant editors and journalists of local publications with engaging stories.
It is without doubt more time consuming but some of the results were spectacular and a reminder that a story in local hands is worth two in a national media bush.
Monika: Look beyond the obvious and prepare in advance
When I reflect on 2022, two issues stood out as complex challenges for organisations of all sizes and sectors: cyberbreaches and activism. Two key lessons emerge from high profile incidents – look beyond the obvious and prepare in advance.
- Optus and then Medibank’s data breach crises stand out. But cyberbreaches at Smith Family and Xavier College demonstrated that these types of breaches are not the exclusive domain of the “big end of town.” Organisations of all types and sizes can be affected.
- The Manly Sea Eagles pride jersey fiasco and Essendon Football Club’s handling of the appointment and almost immediate “resignation” of Andrew Thorburn as CEO, highlighted the complexity of what it means to be truly inclusive when it comes to corporate and consumer activism
In both instances, scenario planning could have gone a long way in helping pre-empt and plan for these issues.
With cybersecurity and activism on the rise, we can expect more examples such as these in the year ahead. Planning for these eventualities won’t guarantee your organisation will come through with its reputation unscathed. But they will go a long way towards building its resilience to avoiding an issue and withstanding the impact when one does occur.
Louis: Woof, or how important it is to have a friend at work
Being a good colleague and an effective team member is the bedrock to making connections at work that make your day brighter. And to do that, you need to be in tip top shape yourself.
It comes down to if you are going to love and support everyone else, you need to love yourself first!!!
So even if things get a little tough, you need to still make time for yourself. Get that exercise in, eat healthy. Make sure you take the time to sniff the grass with your mates. Get out in the sunshine, or the rain, and most importantly, make sure that you get lots of pats.