5 Communications Trends to Watch in 2019

If you’ve worked in communications for more than a hot minute, you’ve discovered that technology doesn’t wait for you to catch up.

As soon as you think you’ve figured out how to engage effectively on social media or how to get your website to score well on search, the rules change.

That’s especially true today, as online and mobile technology continues to evolve. If you’re not keeping up with the changes, you’re likely to be falling behind.

Here are 5 trends that we’ve been paying attention to that are likely to impact your communications in 2019:

1. Facebook's Faceplant?

Flickr Creative Commons photo by  www.shopcatalog.com

Flickr Creative Commons photo by www.shopcatalog.com

If you use Facebook Pages as part of your social media marketing strategy, you’ve likely noticed that it’s a lot harder to get people to like, comment, and share your posts.

The reason isn’t you. It’s Facebook. 

study by Buffer found that top Facebook Pages have seen a 50 percent decline in engagement over an 18-month period — despite the fact that most top brands are posting a lot more regularly to their pages.

That alarming decline in engagement is largely the result of changes made by Facebook to its algorithm that gives posts from your friends higher value than posts from brands.

Algorithms aside, though, I see this as just the start of Facebook’s diminishing value to communicators. Facebook is losing trust — and users — and I don’t see that trend reversing itself.

With that in mind, we’re advising many of our clients to put fewer eggs in their Facebook basket and instead place them elsewhere.

2. User-Generated Video for Grownups

Gather Voices is a promising tool for organizations that are looking to create user-generated video.

It’s no secret that authentic, user-generated video is often much more powerful than the big-budget, carefully-created videos that are often created by nonprofits and businesses. 

And it’s getting easier for organizations that don’t appeal to younger audiences to encourage their supporters and customers to create accessible, sharable videos.

New tools such as Gather Voices are helping nonprofits and small businesses encourage their supporters and customers to shoot and publish short videos right from their phones — and you don’t need fancy editing skills to get them processed and posted.

We’re testing Gather Voices as part of a contest for the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum — and we are looking forward to sharing what we've learned later this winter.

3. Livestreaming Goes Mainstream

An estimated 150 million people are using Twitch each month to watch people play video games, make crafts or engage in activities like singing and dancing.

And lest you dismiss Twitch and other live streaming platforms as playgrounds for the young, consider this: nonprofits like Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America are using live streaming to raise millions.

If you aren’t yet exploring live streaming as a communications channel, it might be time to start. It’s a great place for nonprofits and companies alike to build partnerships that can help bolster their bottom lines.

4. The Changing Face of Search

If you’re only using traditional SEO tactics to help drive visitors to your website, you might be missing out a on major shift in how Google is serving up search results.

Google My Business — a free tool that integrates with Google Maps and is responsible for most of the “above the fold” results that are served up to users when they conduct searches.

This shift is especially important for businesses that have physical storefronts and rely on location-based searches to drive customers into their shops.

As you build your online and mobile strategy for 2019, it’s time to assess whether you’re leveraging Google My Business, and whether it might be worth investing some of your resources in building your listing or investing in a service like ASAPMaps.

5. Unlikely Content Marketing Channels

Finally, as we pursue content marketing and earned media strategies for nonprofits and businesses, we’re increasingly finding great opportunities with business-to-consumer and business-to-business web channels.

For instance, a number of national brands such as American Express and Progressive Insurance produce regular, how-to content aimed at small business owners. And they’re regularly looking for expert sources who can provide insights on topics of interest to these markets.

If you’re looking to build your own thought leadership presence, it’s worth going beyond your own channels and traditional media outlets and finding niche channels that might help you connect directly with your target audiences.

What trends are you watching in 2019? I’d love to hear what has you excited as we head into the New Year. Shoot me a note to chat!

Why You Need 'Real People' to Make Your Media Pitch Stand Out

Volunteers can often be great spokespeople for nonprofits that are looking to tell their stories in the media. (Creative Commons photo courtesy of DC Central Kitchen).

Volunteers can often be great spokespeople for nonprofits that are looking to tell their stories in the media. (Creative Commons photo courtesy of DC Central Kitchen).

It's not what you're pitching. It's who you're pitching.

You face an uphill battle when you pitch stories to the media.

Today's reporters get bombarded by a constant array of ideas and releases from organizations that are competing for their limited attention and time. Many of these pitches are legitimately interesting -- but these reporters only have the time and space to cover a fraction of those stories.

However, there's an ingredient that can help give your pitch an edge: real people.

While it's tempting -- and easy -- to position your top executive or spokesperson as the ultimate voice in your pitch or news release, journalists know that the best stories are told not by figureheads, but by the people who most easily identify with their readers or viewers.

After all, most people in their audience don't work in a corner office. 

Audiences can, however, quickly see themselves in a story about someone who could easily be their next-door neighbor or a classmate of one of their children.

And here's the thing -- reporters often struggle to find these real voices when they're gathering information for stories.

It's not hard for a reporter to pick up the phone and talk to a spokesperson or executive.

But it's often difficult to quickly find people who are willing to talk about their struggle to make ends meet or why they are giving less money to charity this year.

If you can solve that problem for them in advance and identify a real person or two who is willing and able to be interviewed in your pitch, you dramatically increase your odds of getting your story covered.

As a result, before you send an email to a journalist or draft a press release, take a little extra time beforehand to see if you can find a person beyond an executive or spokesperson who is willing to be interviewed for the story you're trying to pitch.

This is true whether you're working with a nonprofit, a company, or even a government agency.

I recently offered advice on how to identify real sources at nonprofits for Nonprofit Marketing GuideCheck it out if you're looking for more ideas.

Make the Most of December: 5 Holiday Hacks for Communicators

Flickr Creative Commons photo

Flickr Creative Commons photo

We’re heading into the home stretch. 

Black Friday is behind us, Giving Tuesday is upon us, and the ever-busy month of December awaits.

For communicators, December offers some unique opportunities to get your message out and the chance to lay the groundwork for a strong start in 2019. 

Let’s dive in with some ways to make the most of the last month of 2018. 

Wrap the year up right 
The old newsroom standard—the year-in-review story—can be your friend in December. It’s usually a light lift to look back through the highlights from the past year and piece them together for a year-in-review story or series of blog posts.  For internal communicators, it’s a great way to reinforce key messages, highlight successes, and set a tone for the coming year. For nonprofits, a year in review reminds donors and volunteers of the great work you did in the previous year and provides a platform to say thank you to your biggest boosters. 

Procrastinate no more
The year is winding down and that long-awaited, much-talked-about website refresh is still stuck in neutral. We get it, website refreshes are like the Land of Misfit Toys of the communications world. They never seem to get the attention they need with other priorities always seeming to squeeze them out. December is good month to break the cycle by crafting an action plan to get it done. Commit to lining up the resources you need and create a timeline to get that stale website refreshed and relaunched in the first quarter of 2019. 

Tug some heart strings
News reporters can’t resist is a feel-good holiday story. If your organization has a heartwarming success story – particularly one with a timely Christmas or holiday hook— start pitching. Such stories are easy to find at many nonprofits. For businesses, maybe you can repurpose an internal story about an employee whose making a real difference in the community could be pitched to an external news outlet. Whether it’s a story focuses on client you helped or an employee making a difference, make sure before you pitch that they are willing to participate and know the story’s angle. It’s also a good idea to prep them for the interview so they can think about how much of their story they’re comfortable sharing.

Be resolute
According to U.S. News, about 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. That means the odds are against those of us who are using the new year to set new goals. To beat those odds, take specific actions now that will make it easier to stick to your resolutions once the new year begins. That could be as simple as scheduling meetings now that will keep you on track through the first half of the year, or  signing up for a conference or webinar that focuses on a skill you want to strengthen. Last week, for example, we talked about the importance of getting an early jump on your annual report. Establishing a firm timeline now and lining up the resources you need will help keep the project on track. 

Say thanks
I just read an article about how Chik-fil-A is killing its competition with kindness. More specifically, the fact that their employees are trained to say please and thank you is reportedly having a big impact on their bottom line. Makes sense to me. A simple thank you to customers, volunteers, donors, employees, friendly reporters…just about anyone goes a long way. 

And finally ...

Peter and I would like to say thank you to our great clients and the many friends and supporters of Turn Two Communications. We couldn’t do it without you! 

We’re looking forward to a great 2019 – which will feature our refreshed website … we promise! 

3 Keys to Your Best-Ever Annual Report


Annual report season? Don't sweat it.

With Thanksgiving now a fading memory, we’re heading into the home-stretch of another year. 

For many among us, that means annual report season is about to get into full swing. Depending on your past experience, that prospect can either fire you up or reduce you to a puddle of sweat. 

No doubt, the annual report process can be stressful. Yet with the right approach, you can limit the angst and reap the many benefits of creating a solid and engaging report. 

Annual reports offer a great opportunity for your organization’s leadership to communicate with depth and context to key audiences. And while annual reports recap the results and accomplishments of the past year, they can also lay out the vision for the future and set the tone for the coming year.

We've found there are three keys to creating a great annual report while keeping stress to a minimum.  Here they are:

Start now: The time is here to start laying the groundwork for a great report. Top of the to-do list is establishing an execution plan and timeline that will allow you to tell your story in most compelling ways possible. Getting early buy-in and lining up the right resources can help assure you're well positioned to start building your report once you close the books on 2018.

Identify your secret sauce: What set you apart in 2018? What drove your strongest performance, and put you on the right track to future success? Every successful organization has niche strengths and key characteristics at the core of its success story. Take the time to define your secret sauce. Then find interesting ways to highlight it through relevant customer, donor, volunteer, client, or employee stories. 

Create a post-publication plan: Too many organizations publish their annual reports and then simply move on. That's leaving a lot of value on the table. Your annual report can serve to set the tone for the year ahead.  My blog post, 5 Easy Ways to Leverage Your Annual Report highlights some of our suggestions for getting more mileage out of your annual report all year long.

2018 will be over before we know it.

Creating an action plan now will give you the best opportunity to effectively tell your story of the year that was – while also laying out your vision to make the most of the one to come. 

Want to get moving? Connect with me to brainstorm -- or to get some inspiring examples to help get you started.