The Factors Shaping Global Communications

Dahlia Zayed

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, is the oracle when it comes to identifying the factors shaping global communications. Here, he picks out the trends and dynamics emerging from the financial apocalypse and the power shift away from the traditional economic powers

– The Need for Innovation

In uncertain times, branding or differentiation and innovation are everything. The first requirement is always a brilliant idea. Then you need co-ordination. Without the first, however, the second is pointless. So creativity and imagination win every time. There is a limit to how much you can cut costs; there is no ceiling on innovation.

– The Rise of Marketing Services

Advertising and Media Investment Management’s overall share has declined. In its place, supposedly less sophisticated, less global and less-developed marketing services have gained. These areas are Consumer Insight, Public Relations & Public Affairs, Branding & Identity, Healthcare and Specialist Communications – particularly direct, interactive and internet communications.

– The Age of Many Media

There is a reason for the growth of marketing services – media fragmentation. The old media have become more sophisticated and the new media have proliferated. Technology has improved the effectiveness and development of cable and satellite television, newspapers and periodicals, radio and outdoor, while spawning new media in direct, interactive and the internet. Many of these new media are more measurable and more targeted.

Media consumption habits change with every generation. Even small children know their way round the internet. Decision-makers in media owners and agencies tend to be in their fifties and sixties; their children and grandchildren are shifting in ever greater numbers to multi-tasking on the web, personal video recorders (PVRs), video-on-demand, iPhones, iPads, podcasts and multi-player internet games. Declining newspaper readership, particularly among younger people and the resultant collapse of established titles are alarming trends.

Many executives are in denial. They believe – or hope – that radical change will not happen on their watch. Yet I know my consumption habits have altered over the past few years – more daily newspapers like The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, fewer periodicals. More cable and satellite television, less network. More web surfing and BlackBerry e-mail. More continuous streaming of CNBC or Bloomberg and now the iPad. More downloading of newspapers and books on my Kindle and now the iPad. I am less willing to wait for detailed analysis in weeklies or fortnightlies. I want news, together with commentary now. Why should I wait 10 days for in-depth analysis of a merger announced on Thursday night? By contrast, though, women seem to be increasing their magazine readership and The Economist powers ahead, even in these threatening times.

“The first requirement is always a brilliant idea. Then you need co-ordination. Without the first, however, the second is pointless”.

– Where Public Relations Wins

Good editorial cannot be bought, only influenced, making one marketing discipline increasingly important – Public Relations & Public Affairs. The growth of the internet and the growing sophistication of polling techniques play to the traditional strengths of Public Relations & Public Affairs, where relationships need to be built with opinion formers. Blogs, social networks and customer websites are a new form of editorial, as important if not more important than The New York Times. Because they are fast and have a more intimate relationship with their readers, blogs can cause disproportionate harm to a brand – or conversely bring great benefit. PR can influence them in a way paid-for advertising cannot.

Public relations will never replace traditional advertising but in the new electronic media, it is a measurable way of building a brand. Chinese and Indian manufacturers will need its services to bring their products to the West, as they go beyond being makers of cheap generic goods to creators of value-added brands. Equally, burgeoning global powers will need public relations to smooth their ways to places of influence in the world. And the financial institutions blamed for the credit crunch will need to buff up their tarnished reputations.

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, is the oracle when it comes to identifying the factors shaping global communications. Here, he picks out the trends and dynamics emerging from the financial apocalypse and the power shift away from the traditional economic powers

– It’s What’s Inside That Matters

Probably the biggest block to progress for our clients – and indeed ourselves – is internal politics. Turf, territory and ego prevent productive change. If the chairmen or CEOs of our clients saw what we saw, they would be horrified. If they and we devoted half the time that they or we spent on internal politics on the consumer, client or competition, they and we would be considerably more successful.

You could argue that most of the communication we co-ordinate is aimed at internal audiences rather than external ones. Some people, such as David Ogilvy and Allan Leighton (when long ago he was at retailer Asda) have maintained that ensuring your internal constituencies are on side is often more important than external ones. Only when internal communications are working can your company talk positively to customers, potential customers, suppliers, potential employees, journalists, analysts, investors, government and NGOs.

Building such virtuous circles in a uni-branded company is one thing. Inside a multi-branded company, things are far more complicated. Trying to ensure 100,000 people face in the same direction at the same time is not easy. On the other hand, once achieved, internal unison and common focus make a very powerful army.

It may not be fashionable to talk about charismatic or strong CEO leadership; the focus is more on the CEO as coach, mentor or team leader.

But our experience is that the most successful companies with which we work have CEOs who understand the importance of the brand, have a strong vision and implement that through a strong CMO.

After all, at long last, it is understood that all business strategy is really marketing strategy, starting with the consumer and working backwards from there.

– Corporate Responsibility: More Important Than Ever

Many companies have made an increasingly important virtue and value of positioning their brand, goods or services as corporately responsible. If you are in the business of building brands, products, services or corporate brands in the long term, this is surely a given.

If you want to build long-term profitability, you cannot dismiss the environment, society, government, NGOs or the press. Indeed, you would only ignore these constituencies if you were in business for a quick buck or short-term profit. We already know from our market research agencies that consumers and people inside companies value socially-responsible companies more highly.

HSBC in banking, and Walmart and M&S in retail are good examples of corporate responsibility. However, three relatively recent events have heightened the importance and significance of CR or Global Corporate Citizenship and made them very fashionable.

First, the deal between Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, involving an exchange of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway stocks, to enable the Gates Foundation to do even greater charitable work.

Second, the decision by Sir Richard Branson, at the second Clinton Global Initiative in New York, to donate up to $3 billion in profits from his Virgin companies to good causes.

And finally, the decision by James Murdoch at BSkyB and his father Rupert Murdoch at NewsCorp to espouse carbon neutrality – along with Al Gore’s influential film, An Inconvenient Truth. All of these events have made it fashionable for chairmen and chief executives to embrace corporate responsibility – and embarrassing for them if they do not.

Responsible consumption will become more important, rather than conspicuous consumption. Consuming less in a more socially responsible way will be crucial – in relation to society, the environment and economy. Thus social responsibility will be more significant to the consumer, our clients, governments, NGOs and all constituencies.

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, is the oracle when it comes to identifying the factors shaping global communications. Here, he picks out the trends and dynamics emerging from the financial apocalypse and the power shift away from the traditional economic powers.

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About Amr Badran

An Egyptian Business Consultant and Corporate Trainer since 1997. I've trained on Management, Leadership and Soft Skills to thousands of people from many nationalities, backgrounds and professions in more than 10 countries across the Middle and Far East. Holder of an MBA and a Candidate for Doctorate in Business. Find more about my Management and Personal Skills Courses at AmrBadran.com and feel free contacting me at Amr@AmrBadran.com
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