Commscrum’s predictions for 2011

Dan Gray – CommScrum London

Wow. Is it really a month since we last posted? I suppose the LinkedIn group is partly to blame/congratulate for that – a lot of conversations have migrated over there – but still, it’s a bit of a poor show, and we promise to try and do better over the coming months.

To kick off the New Year, we thought we’d borrow from an annual tradition of KK’s on his own blog, and put forward some predictions for 2011 – three apiece from each “scrum forward”, plus one or two wild cards from all of us. Having been conspicuous in my absence from the last couple of rounds, it’s about time I rejoined the fray and got the ball rolling so, FWIW, here are mine…

1) Sustainability as fundamental long-term viability (an impetus for redesigning core business) rather than ‘green’ and old-fashioned corporate philanthropy (a tactical bolt-on to soften the blow of ‘business as usual’) will hit the big time. Unilever, P&G and Walmart all moving in this direction suggest the elephants are already learning to dance to the tune of real sustainability.

2) As a result, brand narratives will increasingly seek to connect core business activities with serving a higher social purpose, as a means of attracting and retaining customers and talent. (When guys like Michael Porter start prosthelytising about it, you know the idea of ‘constructive capitalism’ is gaining mainstream acceptance!)

3) The need for authenticity – for this sense of purpose to be baked into everything a company does (in the very products and services it provides, in its organisational design, and in the way it conducts its daily business) – will place an increasing premium on genuine strategic consulting capability, leaving traditional brand/comms agencies vulnerable to a major turf-grab by the management consultancies.

Kevin Keohane – CommScrum London

These predictions may, or may not, align with those at DTIM – which haven’t been written yet …  🙂

1)  Employer Branding practice will shift focus to an “internal” rather than an exclusively “external recruitment” focus, with the realisation seeping through that employer reputation is as much what you and your people (and indeed others) say and do on a day to day basis as what your recruitment media communicate.  Dan’s right, authenticity will be seen to matter more. Watch (ideally with a wry, and possible patronising, sense of humour) as all the previous “external” focussed experts magically transform themselves into employee engagement specialists. Cue EVP v.’2.0′.

2) Many organisations will realise that putting “media” after “social” was neither as complicated as gurus were making it out to be, nor as easy as the “just jump in” brigade would purport (tip o’ the hat to Mr Klein).  Cue social media ‘2.0’.

3)  Many “best practices” in employee communications, whether related to writing, intranet, cascades, social media, etc. will become ‘so easy to do and adapt’ that there will be some more innovative firms wondering why they have to hire “communication professionals” to do it.  Which bodes well for external suppliers and providers, and perhaps less so for in house people.  But don’t worry; these things are never as dramatic as hyperbole such as mind suggest…


Lindsay Uittenbogaard CommScrums from The Netherlands

Hmmm.  Well aside from the fact that you NEVER know what is around the corner, here goes:

1) Business schools start to put 2 and 2 together to see that no matter how good communicators are at ‘representing their industry’, ‘stating their business case’ and ‘measuring their outcomes’ – they’re not going to get sponsorship if leaders don’t really get it.  Communication learning makes it on the management school curriculum.

2) The whole communication piece starts moving into its own function (if it isn’t there already) because the internal and external pieces have got to go together.  Any HR / Sales / General Management influence on the direction of communication becomes seen as more of a hinderance than a home.

3) Some Senior Internal Comms veterans start moving out of the profession because the past 10 – 20 years emergence of internal communication – and all of its hopes and aspirations – is settling into a more permanent state of realism that may not be such an interesting battle to keep fighting.  However, these movers are finding that they’re making pretty good leaders now…  surprise, surprise!

Best wishes for 2011 folks.  Mike – over to you…

Mike Klein – Commscrum Janteloven

Am feeling a bit battle-weary at the moment, which is tempering my usual optimism:

1) I see strong signs of cultural retrenchment in 2011 – with the WikiLeaks controversy serving as a clarion call to those who want to roll back all the technology, transparency and interactivity that we have started to take for granted.  Some practitioners will be in for a very tough 3-6 months until business realises the world has truly changed.

2) At the same time, the idea of social and tribal communication, my personal hobby horse as well as a way of looking at informal communication as driver or inhibitor of change, will gain currency – even in management circles.  Impacts will not only include enhanced roles for clued-in comms pros, but also the opening of other “people fields” like diversity and knowledge-management to communication pros.

3) While I don’t necessarily believe that Sustainability will be the banner all companies raise in 2011, I do think organisations will start getting more real about “raison d’etre”–not just in terms of mission (what they do) and not really vision (who we want to be), but more “who they are”.  Expect some evolution in this space.

And…as the last worder here, a meta trend:

Anger.  Political anger is at extreme levels throughout the West.  Even in 5% unemployment Denmark there’s a “throw the bums” out drumbeat as elections approach.  Recent political violence in Europe and  the anger-swilling Tea Partiers in the US highlight a trend with real organisational implications.    Most of those rioters and Tea Partiers are pissed off, and they work some where.  And chances are, politics aren’t the only thing they are angry about these days.

Best – and hopeful – wishes for 2011 from the Land of the Missing Sun.


7 thoughts on “Commscrum’s predictions for 2011

  1. mrhibbert says:

    DG#1: Agree, we will see some slow movement in the sustainability as a basic governance trope, gaining momentum, but probably more at the level of organisations who send people to Davos, not the great mass of SMEs who must continue to focus on short-term survival. For those wanting to put their shoulders to that wheel, may be one to watch.

    DG#3 – interesting idea about land grab. The basic trust deficit is in standard business process, esp where in the organisation issues-identification and issues-selling behaviours are supported. Very hard for non-OD outsiders to get a hearing on that.

    KK#1 – less convinced, there. Have a shufti at the last ten years or so of chatter about Human Capital Management as a potential index of good employee practices. Not sure what would tip the balance this year, unless it’s the data folk like TP/ISR and Kenexa are reporting about the delayed slump in employee engagement benchmarks observed in 2010, as fatigue and fear of corporate actions kicked in.

    KK#3 – couldn’t disagree more, but I *would* say that, wouldn’t I?! Agree most of the more transactional aspects of IC are increasingly easy to contract out, but the way the profession’s going, it’s much more about relationships and deep insight into priorities and potentials of specific leadership teams. If you can truly crack that from a location outside the organisation, maseltov!

    LU#1 – let’s just pray those business schools will be hiring course leaders other than the retiring old guard you mention in #3!

    MK#1 – It’s an interesting ‘wake-up call’ for those among us who believe information wants to be free … [as I’ve opined on my stealth blog, here: ]

    MK#2 – I’m still convinced folks like trampoline systems are defining the ‘channels’ of the future, in this regard.

    MK#Postscript – Very interesting that you’re considering wider societal thermometers. I’d love to see more of that thinking, though perhaps in a separate thread …

  2. commscrum says:

    Hi “MrHibbert”. Very much like your reply. You are spot on in saying that the value of content in its context, and that real context often disappears when content gets leaked or otherwise misappropriated. An interesting disinction.

    Also, thanks for the concurrence on the “voter anger” issue. There’s a particularly clear angle here. Much of what’s driving voter dissatisfaction is economic and personal frustration. And where does that come from? Could it be 1% pay hikes, missing bonuses and ever-tightening processes at the office?


    Mike Klein

  3. […] On top of the joys of hitting our straps with CommScrum and the 55-Minute Guides (4 new books imminent, btw), it’s particularly interesting to reflect on a year that will have been bookended by two really great projects that, though seemingly at opposite ends of my capability spectrum, are actually united by that core strategic consulting capability I’m always banging on about (most recently in CommScrum’s predictions for 2011). […]

  4. While I think parts of communications will be outsourced, I believe that companies will always retain their communications strategists. Communications will definitely become more commoditized, but there will always be a need for someone to oversee the overall direction of communications.

  5. kevinkeohane says:

    Erm … yes, I don’t think anyone whould outsource their comms strategy… but they might do well to take external advice. Sometimes.

    Re: KK#1 and #3. As always, nice points Adam. My empirical experience, which is of course not theoretically or statistically valid, is that 5 major organisations have asked us to work/pitch for EB and EVP work and when we get the brief the focus is internal. Probably driven by all that Kenexa-type insight.

    Re #3, My answer would be that, in many cases, an external, objective, third-party professional perspective trumps ingrained, sometimes politically motivated behaviours and activities.

    I so say “in many cases” because clearly situations differ. In my personal experience — and the key here is given the right “governance” I suppose is the best word — it can be the ONLY way for an organisation to navigate knotty issues.

    But I would say that, wouldn’t I?

    Of course, in less toxic organisations it’s a different story. They often don’t need that external perspective except as an extra pair of hands, etc…

    • mrhibbert says:

      Kevin, your ‘ojective perspectives’ have their place, of course. I’ve found them valuable more times than I can count. To the extent that an objective perspective is what’s required, anything can be outsourced.

      My point is really that organising is a subjective process, ie, involving Subjects, not ratiocinating supercomputers. So meanings are not free, but partisan, and it often takes intimate involvement in the web of these relationships to strike the Giordian knot at the optimal angle. That’s where I see internal comms having a future.

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