Five Expected Communications Trends for 2017

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Five Expected Communications Trends for 2017

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As many of us move towards the Christmas rush and the end of another year, we at Communication for Development Ltd (CfD) are looking towards 2017 and pondering what it holds in store. What’s predicted to appear on innovative communications and PR professionals’ priority lists once we’re all back to work? What trends and developments do we need to keep up with? And how can our team of visual storytelling experts continue to ensure that our clients’ messages get through in impactful ways? Here’s a compilation of five particular trends we expect to see unfolding in 2017.

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1. Increased use of video

In 2015, video accounted for 64% of the world’s Internet traffic. A forecast published by Cisco last year makes an evidence-based prediction that this will rise to 82% of Internet traffic globally. A separate report by Canadian publisher Valnet, entitled ‘A Publishing Transformation: The Rising Dominance of Digital Content in 2017’, predicts that video content will make an even bigger appearance on our screens next year. It cites the Digital Video Advert Spend study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, stating that advertisers are expected to increase their spending on video production for mobile by 62%.

For us development communications professionals, this translates to greater use of video in fundraising, appeals, advocacy campaigns and programme monitoring and evaluation (M&E). We have seen how effective video can be for the latter, through our own experience in making films to visually complement CBM and Mobility India’s Chamkol baseline evaluation. Moving ahead, we’ll also be collaborating with Australia-based The Story Catchers, who specialise in using participatory video to measure social impact.

2. Mobile-driven content means more visual storytelling

Despite the detrimental effect on our eyesight, humanity’s screen-shrinking shift from laptop to tablet to mobile continues. Mobile-friendly content means using fewer words and turning instead to visually appealing mediums in the form of images, videos, apps and interactive information transmission. While long-form journalism and academic articles will still have their place, this tendency is good news for visual communicators like us here at CfD.

Expect more infographics, more photo stories and the gamification of prevalent issues. Some brilliant recent examples to inspire you include the Dadaab Stories, a collection of stories from the inhabitants of the world’s largest refugee camp curated by FilmAid International, which take the form of films, images, songs and poems; and the awesome Second Scoreboard initiative, which has effectively popularised the issue of domestic violence in Costa Rica by literally putting it on a par with football scores.

3. Fresh, authoritative content for search engine optimisation (SEO)

As marketing professionals will know, continually posting fresh content is very important for boosting your presence in Google’s rankings. Search engine algorithms are set to influence our content generation even more during 2017, as they will prefer authoritative material that shows a high calibre of subject-specific knowledge, known as ‘thought leadership content’.

Well-respected niche content, targeted to your particular audience, is what will optimise your organisation’s website’s chances of being easily searchable and findable (‘well-respected’ in SEO speak means that lots of other high-profile websites link into your content and mention it on their pages). For international development non-profits and CSR communicators, this is going to require engaging with the broader issues that underpin projects and demonstrating our expertise, while simultaneously showing sophistication, being creative with topics and format, and posting regularly (at least twice a week according to First Page Sage). Sounds tough? We can help.

4. Live-streamed events

In recent years, we’ve seen a clear increase in live video streaming of public events for marketing purposes. Businesses have had a head start, with 44% of executives surveyed by Brandlive saying they’d hosted a live streaming event via video as a marketing strategy during 2016. Globalhealth PR predicts that this will increase, noting that YouTube, Facebook and Instagram have recently incorporated more features that have contributed to making live public debates and events popular. Of course, we’re used to watching live debates on TV. The Internet has made this much easier and provided us with a proliferation of possibilities for consuming content ‘live’. These range from Twitter’s ‘tweet chats’ at designated times to debates within the comments section of the Guardian’s Global Development Professionals platform, engaging a panel of experts and a facilitator to keep everyone on track (here’s one example).

The Overseas Development Institute is an example of a development organisation that streams some of its events live and then posts a video recording later for the benefit of those who cannot attend in person (here's a recent example). Easy access to such events via our phones helps us connect with like-minded people, form communities of such people that are relevant for our work and participate in dialogues on key issues, while saving time, cutting transport costs and reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.

5. Communicating through ‘virtual’ or ‘augmented’ realities

For those of us who did not embrace Pokemon Go (or don’t have children who did), this might still sound like something out of a sci-fi film, or a technology reserved for the realms of gaming or artificial intelligence. Virtual or augmented reality (AR) has arrived in many sectors and is something we need to keep on our radars as communicators. Using a little creativity and imagination, some international NGOs have already begun to cleverly apply AR for their own purposes.

Last year, charity: water harnessed the evocative, immersive power of AR during its fundraising gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. After dinner, attendees were given headsets and transported to rural Ethiopia, where 13-year-old Selam narrated the story of what clean water means to her and her family. The audience got so involved in the film, and so moved, that by the end of the night they’d committed to donating an incredible US $ 2.4 million.

This interesting article by Marty Swant has more examples of non-profits using AR for their purposes and causes. What can you envisage? The report by Valnet that we mentioned earlier predicts many new possibilities for communicating through AR on the horizon this coming year, though it may only be capitalised on by those non-profits that are large enough to have the funds, and those that can negotiate the right partnerships.