Last week, Time Magazine named its Person of the Year and acknowledged the Silence Breakers - representing all the brave individuals who have spoken out and fundamentally changed the world in which we, and the brands we represent, will operate in 2018. Industry figures previously deemed untouchable have been jettisoned as companies fight for survival. Other brands have been irreversibly tarnished as more and more voices add their stories of unprofessional, unethical and downright criminal practices.
In light of this, next year, transparency and accountability will be a priority for any communications professional.
Trendwatching calls this transparency trend, “Glass Box Brands” – the idea that people want to see beneath a carefully curated surface to the real culture and integrity of an organisation. And, as we’ve seen in the case of Uber and other Silicon Valley leviathans, sometimes we don’t like what we see. This isn’t something we should hide from. As communications professionals it will be our responsibility to help the C-suite understand and embrace this shift (as believe me, this is no passing phase!), helping to define more clearly what our organisations stand for, and ensuring that everyone is living up to these ideals, standards of conduct and culture.
We will also look to organisations to take more responsibility for their role in shaping society. Even ex-Facebook President, Sean Parker seems to regret his part in designing a social media platform that has transformed our society into a bunch of dopamine-chasing, ‘Like’ junkies. The same platforms and technologies that have empowered the Silence Breakers to generate a global thunderclap, have also opened the door to a new form of warfare - influencing the geopolitical landscape through social engineering and fake news. Big Tech, like Big Pharma before it, must acknowledge and take responsibility for its role in society and those of us in this sector must help our brands navigate this new era of uncertainty, scepticism and change, where consumers start to question the information they read and both brands and platforms take a harder line on fake, manipulative content and messages.
2018 is shaping up to be equally fast-paced and uncertain as 2017 so we need to be ready to help our clients and organisations embrace this new era of transparency and accountability, recognising it as a positive move for everyone. Those who embrace this new level of scrutiny will succeed in reinforcing consumer confidence while those who ignore it will ultimately be ignored themselves.