AN ADVENTURE IN CHINA

The pace of modern life affords limited time to stop and reflect on where we’re going.  Yet things continually change and develop around us.  This is no less true in corporate communications as it is anywhere else.

With the growing corporate acceptance of digital and social media and the (often over-called) demise of traditional media, the communicator’s role is changing, yet buzzwords like ‘engagement’ and ‘’digital influence’ don’t begin to answer the key question: what does the future look like and what do we need to do, as communications professionals, to prepare for it?

With work diaries dominated by the seemingly incessant ritual of quarterly results announcements, kick off events, daily, weekly and monthly deadlines, staff management, budget reviews and the litany of often unnecessary meetings, it can be hard to find the space to think.

So we get busy being busy, prioritising and filtering the information that comes at us from every angle. We concentrate on the information we need for today’s tasks; everything else gets ignored or filed away for unlikely future consumption.  Our minds begin to narrow and we lose some of the objectivity and perspective that is a key part of our value.

Earlier this year, I decided it was time to stop for a while, to take stock and to consider where our industry is going and what the future might mean for people who, like me, call this industry home.   This blog was a key element in helping me think things through.

I’ve spoken to lots of senior people, some working in-house and some in consultancy.  There appears to be little or no consensus on what our future looks like.

What is clear is that there’s a battle for dominance developing between the communications and advertising departments as mass markets become markets of individuals.  The comms department is generally seen to be better equipped to take advantage.  The rise of what some call corporate journalism (or brand journalism) presents an opportunity to expand our remit (or agency billing) if only we can get better at managing and analysing the data to justify the shift in emphasis and investment.

Most agree too that the PR agency business model needs to change.  Again, there is little consensus on how and to what.  If agency leaders do have answer, they’re reluctant to share them.

Geographically, things are different too.  The west remains constipated by economic uncertainty and a lack of growth.  Asia, meanwhile, is powering ahead with optimism fuelled by economic growth.

After due consideration, I decided to choose optimism over austerity. That decision has taken me to Asia, to a global role for a global leader in technology headquartered in Southern China.  Being a Chinese company seems, in many ways, to be the role’s biggest communications challenge.  People seldom trust what they don’t understand.

Consciously taking time out to consider the future and choose the next step is a luxury that few have the opportunity to enjoy and one I’ve been very grateful for.  I’m more conscious of the luxury of time now than I was when I decided stop to consider the future and the next challenge.

I plan to share my thoughts as I (hopefully) make sense of what I see and learn here under a new category – the ‘Asian adventure’.

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