I was a panelist along with Peter Debreceny at a Conference Board program in New York hosted by the reputation and issues monitoring web company, DNA13. The topic was corporate communications and Web 2.0. I spoke about brand and reputation management while Peter focused on employee engagement. We agreed that social media are creating two major trends for corporate communications: 1) the need to reset the value proposition of the function from messages to relationships (complements to Jim Grunig for pushing that concept for years!!) and 2) that the traditional barriers between marketing and communications are breaking down, creating new challenges to those without good business acumen and training.

The world is all atwitter—sorry about the bad pun!—about how new social media are changing our society and impacting how we dialog with internal and external stakeholders. Social media are evidence of the increasing “me-ness” of society. Twitter, Facebook, etc. are all about the individual at the center of the “universe”. In the era of mass media, corporations were the center—they controlled the information and its dissemination. Today, people are gathering news, sharing information about brands and companies, and creating communities of common interest. I heard one young woman recently state that if the news is important enough, it will find her. Newspapers will continue to die. But, people still want information. Where they get and who they trust for that information has changed. Recommendations from friends and on-line news are now the two most trusted sources of information in the U.S. We also are in a world in which employees are twice as likely to believe a colleague as the CEO.

I’ve heard a lot of talk from communicators, but I’m not sure there has been much real change in mindset. The conversations at communications conferences still seem to center around media relations, dealing with key opinion leaders, getting the CEO’s message out, etc. It’s hard for a profession that has historically hired former journalists, been the CEOs messenger, and valued media contact-lists to change. Will it? Can it? Those are the critical questions.