In the last 8 years, since I left university, I have been working as a spokesperson. Nevertheless I am absolutely convinced this position will become useless in the short-term period of time. Why? Below I offer three trends that we should be afraid of.
1. Direct Communication
In general, institutions have communicated through intermediary agencies – mass media. Originally, one of the reasons why the position of spokesperson was created is the need for someone who can manage and maintain relationships between these two opposing sides.
With the constantly decreasing power of traditional media and the huge rise of the internet, especially social media, the importance of direct communication with permanent interactivity will become higher and higher. Companies must be in touch with their target groups 24/7 via social media profiles, blogs or their own “TV channels”. Frequently, these owned media have hundreds of thousands or millions of subscribers and their reach could be now compared to traditional media.
So, in this circumstance, when direct communication is becoming more and more influential and traditional media are losing their position, the role of spokesperson is threatened proportionally.
Spokespersons serve as the face of organizations. They speak not only as institution representatives, but also substitute its management in front of the media. This will become a less trustworthy position in terms of the current rising demand for authenticity.
To be an efficient communicator one must take responsibility for the communicated topic. In crisis communication it should be management in this position and at conferences or in expert forums it should be specialists. Even these people are often not skilled and experienced in terms of public appearance, credibility and expert information are much more valued nowadays.
3. Less Centralized Communication
Traditionally, spokespersons are the only ones with the competence to speak with the media. They serve as the central point for entire company communication, responsible for every message going public. Currently, when having a social media profile or blog is common for every member of an organization, it is becoming impossible to manage the flow of information and acting as though everything is under control.
The space between official and unofficial communication is being blurred and content from social networks is picked up and amplified by traditional media. Tweets and posts are replacing official statements and video blogs are substituting press conferences. Each organization has a dozens of faces instead of one.
So should spokespersons be concerned?
Even though I consider these trends as inevitable I don’t worry about people working in the field of communication. On the contrary, communication will become more important than ever. But our role in organizations will have to change. The first signs of future development are visible even today.
First, the existence of so many channels means a constant pressure to produce new content. Instead of communication departments, companies will need small newsrooms with the capacity to produce tailored messages for a variety of target groups.
With so many channels and decentralized communication, institution will still need to stay focused and on message. Employees from communications are the right ones to manage and coordinate not only media relations, but also complex brand perception, for instance in online space or in terms of internal communication.
Constant evaluation is becoming more important when transferring communication online. With proper knowledge, PR field could be finally turned to a more exact area, where we can measure and analyze the efficiency of activities. One could get feedback for every media output almost instantly and adjust decisions based on it. There would be no need for emphasizing the importance of Big Data in this circumstance.
Spokespersons in their classic role as intermediaries between organization and media are history. In the close future this position should be reconsidered as a communication manager with abilities such as content creation, distribution or evaluation, with a deep understanding of different communication channels and their users. A change, which would make communication more interesting than ever before.
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