The communication industry is changing faster and faster:
2009: Landing of airplane in New Yorker's Hudson River: user of the short message service Twitter report the incident before the New York Times or CNN…
2011: Allianz starts Corporate Newsroom for communication with about 20 million customers and about 30,000 employees
2012: Gruner und Jahr suspends the Financial Times Deutschland
2017: It is said that Kim Kardashian (9.4 million Instagram followers at the time) can demand up to $ 500.000 for a post
Both of them have bene working in PR / product and corporate communications for more than ten years. What has changed in the meantime?
Nieberle: Communication is not as linear anymore. This might sound negative but is intended as a positive, since it means it has gained both flexibility and dynamics. A look at our industry: ten years ago we worked on customer accounts separated by product or corporate communication – today we consult 360° for our customers; always with an eye on the communications objective and thus the target group. The same development could also be observed in journalism for a while now; keywords "news room" or "cross-medial".
The effects of digitalization can be found everywhere. How do you manage it properly?
Nieberle: You used to notice how communication was becoming more digital for instance in how online prevailed over print media, then social media over classical channels; today, digital communication is everywhere, the tools exist and are established. What changes is mainly the focus on how they are used. I see a clear increase in importance in communicative disciplines that manage the organizational effects of digitalization. Internal communications and change communications are clearly more important than they used to be.
Have certain practices gained or lost in importance due to digitalization?
Nieberle: Topic-oriented work has become more important and is establishing itself more and more. To put it differently: The focus is more and more on the topic, rather than the communication channel. You have a topic and think across channels – integrated – how and when to communicate it. What has changed? No more encapsulated thinking; faster, leaner work in large offices.
Today it is possible to reach stakeholders more directly through different channels. Does this bring disadvantages for corporate communications and PR?
Heinickel: Communication occurs indeed more directly via the target groups themselves. Whether it is an exchange with citizens, e.g. for energy projects, or word-of-mouth campaigns in which consumers can test products and report about them. In addition, the pure description of features is losing significance. Good story-telling and emotionalization are more important. This is not a drawback but makes things more exciting. Of course, a prerequisite is a good monitoring system that covers all channels so as not to lose track of things. Fast but well-considered reactions in the individual channels are essential.
The change to more and more communication channels is continuous. What does the future still hold?
Heinickel: "Innovate or die". You have to reinvent yourself every year to some extent in order to be able to provide optimal consulting on the latest trends – this is true for companies and us as agency. In the coming years, communication will be even more aligned with the customer journey. The topic of "voice", i.e. language-based news à la Alexa, could also become a communications trend. It is important to master these new formats and their function and estimate whether one can reach one's own target groups effectively with them.
Do you have any tips you can give us?
Heinickel: As always, the most important thing is an overarching business strategy. What are the objectives and targets? Who are the target groups? Based on this, one can optimize campaigns and communication mixes.
Nieberle: As I mentioned, within digitization internal communication is becoming more important in companies again. In change processes, it is important to get the employees on board early on. "Join us projects" can be a charming way to promote identification with the brand and company.
Heinickel: Social media offer valuable feedback – listen and exploit the potential of earned media. This is how you can recognize what your stakeholders think about you, your products, and your topics.
Nieberle: Finally, results monitoring is becoming more and more important because the ROI is more important than ever in communications.