Rise Of Hybridism In Brand Communication
The key for effective communications going forward is to balance between the conventional, traditional media and the newer, lighter digital media.
With growing accessibility to information due to affordable data packs, obtainability of digital mediums and rise of new age content creators, it is safe to say that a transformation is underway on how one consumes opinion or builds their own voice. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has accelerated this rate of change – with lives completely upended and physical distancing measures in place, opinion has become louder than ever before. Not to mention more shareable, and sometimes – even viral. In other words, we are witnessing a massive and revolutionary democratization of information, which is blooming and cementing both the brand’s and consumer’s right to express their opinion clearly and freely. While social media has evolved from a connection tool into a communications tool, traditional media still retains a balanced and unbiased opinion in the minds of the masses. The digital transformation does not mean a break away from the old and conventional ways of building opinion and sustaining it.
Thus, the primary responsibility of communicators in 2021 and going forward is to strike a balance between old and new media to cater to a widespread audience. This presents an opportunity to become what we can call a ‘hybrid’ communicator: one that can bridge the gap in the evolving communications landscape.
So, what is the role of the hybrid communicator in 2021?
In times such as the one we are living in currently – where change is the only constant, it is imperative as a communicator, to be in a position to anticipate changes and trends in communications and act effectively and promptly. A communicator today must have the ability to pre-empt information – this includes not only obtaining an arsenal of information but also packaging it in a way that it gets most traction. For brand communications, the democratization of information allows for direct and emotional engagement with consumers across platforms and mediums – the communicator needs to be familiar on a granular level with the right platforms, where consumers are spending most of their time. For example, the online media portal of a leading regional newspaper has about 40,000 active users on their site at any time – knowing the benefit and reach of the platform, will help a communicator choose the website over print any day.
With the uncertainty that 2020 brought into our lives, today, consumers have heightened discretion and are going through social media pages and online media websites for verified information and content. An example I’d like to give in this context, is the heightened use of fact check websites by brands to disseminate verified content, control and eventually negate false news.
Thus, you see, much like in other professions - the role of communicators will also have to adapt to the new normal in 2021 and perhaps enable the other functions in the organization. The key to adapting to this change is viewing the role from outside in and not inside out – conveying a brand’s messaging in a way that reaches out to consumers in a ‘language’ and manner which is relevant for them to receive optimal results.
One must also realize that the target audience for the communicator has expanded from the media to also encompass the consumer – who has also become a communications stakeholder with the democratization of opinion and the rise of user-curated and user-generated platforms. The gap between Marketing and communications is starting to blur very quickly as stakeholders begin to overlap.
With consumers becoming stakeholders, there is an increasing demand for instant interaction and effective communications. Consumers want accountability and transparency. The new, digital means of communications are able to cater to both these issues in an effective manner. They enable a two-way communication between the brand and the consumer. This, in turn, will build strong relationships with consumers as you begin engaging with them in real-time. The bottom-line here being to communicate effectively and repackage our messaging in a way which is preferred by the consumers via both traditional and new means.
Speaking of changing target audience and trends of how content is consumed, how often do we skip reading an article to watch a video covering the same issue instead? The answer perhaps lies in the upsurge of usage of infotainment and the revolutionization brought by videos and OTT platforms. These platforms also allow for “fluid” communication, where users spread messaging through sharing and re-posting. These newer avenues not only suit the fast-paced lifestyle of our ‘digital natives’ but have also in turn brought about significant changes in the lingo used by brands. Upon closer examination, one can recognize the rapid replacement of heavy corporate lingo by easy, palatable content. Thus, hybrid communicators need to understand the immense gain in adopting newer formats, generating fun yet informative content and speaking to the consumer within their context.
If one were to ask me my greatest learning from the year 2020, it is that, the key for effective communications going forward is balance – balance between the conventional, traditional media and the newer, lighter digital media. Another lesson that the pandemic has taught most of us is empathy. I firmly believe in retaining an empathetic, humane element in our messaging and build stronger connect across all our stakeholders through the adaption of a ‘hybrid’ approach.
To sum it up, I will end with a quote that I feel resonates best with the role of communicators in the road ahead for us in 2021. In the words of Socrates - “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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