Three business issues for your attention in 2013

Optimistic about 2013

A New Year has dawned and even though full-ahead work isn’t what everyone is doing yet – wait until next week for that – our thoughts clearly are tuning in to what the coming weeks and months hold and what we need to do.

As surely as the New Year arrived just after midnight on December 31, so it is that your email inbox, Twitter stream, Facebook feed and Google+ stream are already filling up with helpful and earnest suggestions, instructions and how-tos about the business, communication and technology trends you must pay attention to in 2013.

I’ve read through quite a number of such missives. While undoubtedly helpful, far too many are focused only on craft activities like social media and getting more likes to your Facebook campaigns. Others are a bit generic and stray into politics and economics where a crystal ball will probably work well.

So what ought the communicator (and marketer) also be thinking about at the moment?

It’s worth casting your mind over the bigger picture and consider some issues that will unquestionably impact organizations in the coming year, requiring our focused attention and skills to figure out how to do our best for our employer or our client.

Of the many tips and tricks I’ve read during this Christmas/New Year break, an article in PR Week’s US edition by  Paul Gennaro caught my keen attention as it succinctly highlights what I think are three key business issues that will influence and underpin much of what we tactically do in our campaigns and other business-supporting activities and programmes in 2013:

1. Trust

Gennaro thinks that the overall results of the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer might level off after alarming declines last year for trust in government, business and NGOs. I hope he’s right although I don’t have a great deal of confidence that trust in corporate leaders (largely the occupants of the C-Suite) and politicians will show such an improvement – if a decline in negativity can credibly be seen as any kind of improvement. We’ll know for sure when Edelman publishes the results of its latest annual global survey in a few weeks.

2. Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR as a brand differentiator is an intriguing concept. Yet I think it’s key to consumers’ perceptions of trust in a brand and the reputation of an organization – two facets of people’s behaviour shifts that manifest themselves in how we tune out marketing and tune in to brands that represent shared values. Isn’t it now clear that brand building must focus on authentic relationships and reputation? What else matters?

3. Social Business

Inter-connected with trust and CSR, the way in which a business conducts itself and behaves in relation to the marketplace and its own workplace is the core of it becoming a social business. Gennaro mentions the Arthur W. Page Society’s New Model for Corporate Communications, a framework for how communication leaders can define and activate their companies’ unique corporate character and build “advocacy at scale.” It’s something I believe is the key to what being a social business really is about (and a topic on which I gave a keynote presentation at Arthur W. Page’s global social media summit in October 2012).

So these are three business issues that I think are worthy of our laser-focused attention in the immediate weeks ahead and no doubt during the whole of 2013. What others would you add to an “essentials” list?

Happy New Year!

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.


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  2. David Phillips

    The Arthur W. Page Society’s thinking is very 20th century. It is of a model in economics and communication that is linear and not network.
    I see little merit.

    • Neville Hobson

      Can’t really agree with you on that, David. I find Page’s suggestions and ideas for the future of organizational communication pretty inspiring.

      I see their new model as an evolution of their authentic entreprise concept of some years ago now, bringing it right up to date for large corporations. Maybe that’s the key – it’s intended primarily for large corporates and all the issues to consider with such orgs when you’re looking at introducing signficant change.

      Page presents the new model not as a finished set of ”this is how it is” statements and examples, more of an “unfinished construct” suggesting change that communicators need to effect in their organizations.

      It’s definitely not “one size fits all.”

      • David Phillips

        I agree that this is an evolution and would have been all the better for a quick scan of academic papers like this one It was published in 2006.

        The reality is that for most organisations there is a bigger and more significant conversation surrounding them than their ability to influence. In many cases the conversation is too big to monitor.

        The C Suite may well attempt to formalise the the character of the organisation (I would call it analysis of corporate values). They can be found by analysing company web sites and social media using Latent Semantic Analysis. Inevitably there will be variance between what the C Suite believes, what the web site and corporate social media output says (all this LinkedIn profiles – wow!) and what the public is saying.

        Now, the management has the task of managing variance (it is a common management task and so not too hard). So many miss-fitting constituents with corporate comms differing from marketing and employee content online not to mention all those externals. The “initiation” part of the APS matrix is much more complex than the paper suggests. APS do not even suggest the technological approach sizeable companies may need to deploy. If Google is using it, then it is one important and very influential approach and not the only one. The dozen or so C Suite members do not have such skills or resources.

        The culture of big organisations is not owned by the C Suite it is owned by many constituencies.

        At this stage, if the analysis is done well, does the organisation follow the Grunig Excellence Model? Two Way Symmetrical interaction is pretty hard.

        Or will a different model suffice?

        There are practical as well as ethical issues here. As we move from the irritation of brand, product and corporate transparency to the downright frightening radical transparency arena – an inevitable development as we digitise more of our world – there are some hard decisions to be made (if you want a case study, the BBC’s reputation stinging events of last year is a case study). In such circumstances the ‘Authentic Enterprise’ is a mirage.

        One thing we already know is that ‘Owned Media’ is an illusion.

        Blumler and Katz ‘Uses and Gratification’ work tells us that at every point of intersection there is a need for negotiated ‘permission’ between message sender and receiver to accept message transmission and on the terms that are mostly in the hands of the receiver.

        The move from linear communication to network communication is big. It has many facets and we are beginning to identify the tools we can use to research what is happening.

        The numbers of intersections are greater. Fewer intersections are influenced by the organisation and a number of them are also mediated by technologies more then people.

        The nexus of values, which is a reasonable description of a modern enterprise, is probably the best way the APS can move forward.

        The model may not be finished but is does need a much more grounded approach and there is a need for a big re-think too.

        • Neville Hobson

          A terrific assessment, David, thanks. I hope you’ve shared that directly with the folk at Arthur W. Page!

          I have no issue with the points you make. Insofar as Page’s new model is concerned, it all adds to the “unfinished construct” notion I mentioned earlier; it’s certainly how I see it. You draw attention to that yourself with your question after your comment on the Grunig excellence model.

          Far from having no merit, as you stated earlier, I believe Page’s new model adds significantly to the conversation. Precisely the point, imo.

          • David Phillips

            I agree. We do need the debate and we do need it in the public arena. The page contribution is structured and that is a big move forward.

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