Friday 18 January 2019

Gina London: 'New Year's trends in communications can help improve what you say and how you say it'

The communicator: Gina London
The communicator: Gina London

Gina London

It's the last 'The Communicator' column of the year, folks, and I'm typing to you from my seat aboard a lovely Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi. The trip is for a little work and, heck, yes, a little sun. As you loyal readers already know from my writing, I'm certainly a fan of mixing business with pleasure.

Since I'll be there to ring in the New Year and they're four hours ahead of Ireland, I'll cross into 2019 before you. As I'm flying ahead in time, let me provide you an exclusive peek into the future by exploring the important trends in business communications you can prepare for.

But before I do that (and as my flight attendant, Jod, brings me a glass of champagne), let's first recline into our comfortable seat with the tray table down and look back on the year that was.

For me, it was one of change and opportunity.

After months and mountains of paperwork, I finally got official approval from the Government to formally base my international business here in Ireland.

I also packed up my bags from my first Irish love of Cork and relocated to Dublin - creating business and marketing plans, projections, searching for a school for my young daughter, and for a new place to call home.

It wasn't easy. But it was worth the effort. What have your challenges been? Where are you on your journey?

And speaking of moving and journeys, as I type on this plane, it certainly reminds me that this year was also a big year of travel for me.

Corporations are following a policy of nurturing positive values — in contrast to the hard line of the current White House administration
Corporations are following a policy of nurturing positive values — in contrast to the hard line of the current White House administration

In addition to all over Ireland and the United Kingdom, I've been to Italy and Hungary, Sweden and South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and of course, the United States and now the United Arab Emirates, working with an inspiring range of professionals about the power and purpose of intentional communications.

In stark contrast to the fearmongering nationalism and divisive communications coming from the White House and a few other notably unsettling governments, I have found corporations doubling down on their efforts to establish and nurture positive values by applying more strategic approaches to intentional internal and external communications.

It's what you say and how you say it. Words matter.

So, now, let's sit back up with your tray to its full, upright and locked position and look ahead to next year.

1 A Professional Development Spike: As I've written before, we are headlong into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Digital everything demands that employees and executives alike better be continually learning and upskilling.

The demand for this culture of continuous and measurable learning will sharply increase in 2019.

To help keep your team nimble and agile, your HR and communications departments should be working hand-in-hand on programmes that create real transformational opportunities and provide rewards and recognition for efforts and accomplishments.

Communications skills underpin any development programme.

Reinvigorate your employee engagement by increasing your investment on communications training in a variety of areas. Bonus: fold in diversity and inclusion training as part of any and all comms programmes.

2 A Mobile Momentum: On my last flight (just two days ago before Christmas), the woman beside me was beside herself. She had lost her phone and was frantically flinging everything out of her enormous handbag in desperation.

She ultimately found it, but her search reminded me how addicted we are to our phones. We can't live without them. We're communicating on a variety of platforms in a variety of styles.

Looking at the camels on the wall of Etihad's airplane, I think of the little camel emoji I used to punctuate my texts to friends - bragging about where I'm heading. Your company must adapt its communications to suit in much the same way. For instance, do you have an easy-to-use app for customers? How about one for employees?

Mobile device channels with simple, direct and informal language can go a long way to engaging them both.

3 A Video Wave: If your business didn't use video last year, I'll wager you're planning on doing so in the New Year.

A client I'll be working with in January tells me their multinational company is so committed to improving communications that their CEO had a state-of-the-art new video production studio built at their Ireland offices.

Remember, when you present on video, the camera catches everything.

From social media outreach, to internal web-conferences, to website stinger videos explaining your company's story, service or product, it's high time you become camera-ready.

That doesn't mean just a couple of official spokespeople. With social media, every employee is a broadcaster. Help them help you.

4 An Improved Look at Performance Management: Real-time performance feedback tools are the newest use of data to be sweeping across progressive companies in 2019.

Toss out those outdated annual evaluation, tick-box forms that don't accurately capture anyone's entire year of performance.

The more managers and employees can have an ongoing, tech-supported, understanding of expectations and inputs, the better the outputs will be.

Now, as I take another sip of champagne, let's prepare for landing.

Here's to arriving in the New Year with more purposeful and productive communications.

  • With corporate clients in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon

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