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December 16, 2020

2020: The Year of the Communicator

What an interesting year! I’m not sure how many end of year wraps are going to start that way, but it’s the best way I can think to open up on what I’ve seen this year. 

For me, 2020 was the year that the core principles of good communication became clear to see. It’s rare that you get to experience the same event across the world and compare and contrast different approaches and their effectiveness. 


Last week we hosted our final webinar of the year with a panel of media experts across Australia and New Zealand, and it gave me the chance to reflect on what 2021 might look like. Rather than a trend list I thought I would outline some key themes that will continue into 2021.

Listening:

During 2020, call out culture continued to grow while everyone was in their homes and consuming more information. Online social movements have “cancelled” celebrities, influencers and brands due to behaviour or values that don’t reflect those of their key online audiences. On the other side of this, there was also an increase in divisive rhetoric, conspiracy theories and misinformation. As a communicator, it’s crucial to not be singular in the type of information you consume and to consider if you are across new platforms, different audiences and opposing points of view in your own media consumption.

Crisis: Respond and Adapt with Clarity, Compassion and Creativity:

I have always believed and advised that leading with compassion and transparency promotes authentic communication, which I know is a point most communicators agree with, just sometimes it can be hard to convince stakeholders of that same point of view. It’s always clear in crisis who has a bank of trust to draw on and who doesn’t, and when you couple this with some audiences growing increasingly wary of governments and media, it’s important that the trust is built and maintained consistently outside of a crisis. 

During the crisis itself, we’ve seen the need to be incredibly clear and transparent this year. Public health information can be complex and needs to be translated and applied to a wide audience, in the languages and formats that work best for those audiences rather than the communicator. Governments have created new frameworks that have become vernacular, and I know I know way more about viruses and immunology than I ever thought I would.

The Year of the experts:

I have directly taken this idea from Patrick Crewdson, the editor in chief at Stuff (you can listen to this here) At the beginning of the year I would have struggled to name the Chief Medical Officers of major countries in the world, this week I made a team quiz questions about them, and have put an image of t-shirts with the face of Dr Ashley Bloomfield (Director General of Health in New Zealand) on them in a number of presentations this year. I think this illustrates a sentiment that has existed for journalists for years: as communications structures have expanded, they want access, and they want to hear directly from experts. Audiences have echoed this in 2020 through high viewership of entire press conferences and live streams from public officials. Creating a supportive communications environment that can allow experts to be heard and embrace their role in the media can take work, and a bit of evidence and training (especially in a raw and unfiltered media environment), but I hope it continues into 2021 – it only helps to build trust and transparency. 

This is just scratching the surface of what was quite a year, and one I’m sure we all won’t forget anytime soon. In spite of what was a tough year for many, it’s pleasing that communications has been given an opportunity to prove the value on a broad scale.

I want to sign off with some holiday reading and resources (because there’s nothing quite like some measurement reading on the beach!) 

AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) hosts a month of great content and events on communications measurement each November and it’s the chance to hear from experts all around the world. This content is all available virtually and on-demand here: https://amecorg.com/measurement-month/2020-mm-events/

There’s something relevant here for everyone, from influencers and google studio to those just trying to get their head around research and evaluation. If beach homework isn’t your thing, bookmark the site and come back to it with fresh eyes in January. 

Here’s to a safe (and maybe less eventful) 2021! 

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