Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Planning communication

Planning communication has taken on a new dimention in the last five years.

Developing a communication strategy even two years out means we need to consider a wide range of communications channels and they are changing very fast. For example, YouTube became a mainsteam channel in less than 15 months!

What chance do communications planners have with projects going out just a few years? What will be the important channels for the London Olympics will it be Myspace or YouTube or something else? In truth no one knows. Television may be marginalised by user bandwidth. Even search engines could be marginalised by syndication, social tagging or proprietary sematic web services. It is all guesswork.

Social media has now reach such a critical mass that it has to be part of communication planning for most organisations.

The core prediction of 'Communication - The next decade' published by the UK communications regulator Ofcom (http://www.ofcom.org.uk/research/commsdecade/), is that the next generation of upgraded networks (the so-called NGNs) are likely to be based on the IP (Internet Protocol), leaving the historic differences between different network infrastructures far behind. We are already seeing this change in practice. It means that all media except print is competitive and on a level technical playing field. Daily UK domestic IP penetration will move up from 37% to saturation at 89%. Television as well as radio becomes technically indistingushable from the Internet. The commincations channels will have only two paradigms print and IP.

Broadband will not be up to 8meg as now but over 100 meg and the range of devices, especially mobile devices will allow the Internet to escape from the ubiquitous PC.

The timescale is very short. 100 meg broadband, now being rolled out after trials last year, will cover most UK homes served by cable in 2008, meantime of the 86% of the population who use mobile phones 22% already use IP mobile photomessaging and IP based mobile uptake is now showing signs of rapid accerloration.

As the twin cuves of newspaper circulation and online news page views passed each other in Europe last year communicators saw the maginalising of the only competitor to IP based communication. The decline in relevance for old media is now obvious but we know that online media is disruptive even more than its 17th century print counterpart.

Because of the extent and speed of adoption of Internet Procol devices and communications channels, how will professional communicators wrest the technology from geekdom and transpose it into mainstream education and practice.

How do we find new ways to manage communication. It will have to be an approach that factors-in the prospect of new, unknown and yet deeply influential channels for message interactions becomming hugely signifcant in months and will also have to face the prospect of cataclismic communication channel demise, a phenomenon we have not yet encountered except in the trial run, proof of concept demise of Fax.

Finally, what role is there for communications specialists in circumstances requiring integration of the desires and wishes of an online community empowered with huge capacity for distruption and capability to change how organisations are managed at both strategic and proceedural levels?

If you look at the economic contribution of the Internet in the UK, sector by sector, it ranges from a few percent to over 50% and my current guestimate is that Internet mediation contributes between £100 and 150 billion to the UK economy each year. By extrapolation that is something of the order of $4 trillion globally. This commercial power is bound to be a factor affecting communication management.

The Internet is ubiquitous as a means for communication of all kinds for over a third of the population now and this penetration will grow to 80% as broadcast progressively moves towards Internet Protocol based delivery.

Do we, or should we make time to monitor these shifts in communication technology and application. Most people involved in the communication business are busy dealing with the hear and now and are quite successful using traditional techniques anyway.

Before we start making predictions and second guessing the future channels, we will have to use the established management techniques developed for the management of change, the uncertain, crisis and emergencies.

I suppose we first have to deal in what we do know.

What we do know is that all the channels for communication that were available last year, ten years ago and 100 years ago are still there and many of them have high audience penetration as well.

We also know that some media will be much less significant than now. Can we write off fax or will we see it re-emerge in a new form? Among the junk mail, is a letter going to be significant? Will emails just go into the ether because of spam filters? What we know, is that we will have to continue to ask such questions.

What we also know is that there will be many more new channels to use in the next four years. We know that most will be digital?

We know that we don't know how the new channels will be delivered? Certainly some will be delivered by PC's and some will be delivered to browsers that won't have much by way of processing power but which ones? Some communication will use near field communication and so will video and podcasts morph becsue of these developments?

We can be certain that timescales will have changed. Already we have a doppler effect at play. Bloggers will be aware of thier own content comming back at them as news sometimes morphed, added to or truncated sometimes weeks or months later. The frequency and content of messages plus the time it takes for content to be news or part of the long tail will change message perceptions, reach and understanding. That is another thing that we know we have to watch.

Picture: Glooo