One of the best ways to prepare for what’s next is to imagine the future. 

The easiest way to do this is think of what a technology advance is capable of and then think through the use cases we will find relevant to our audience. 

Today, we’ll take a shot at imagining the future of communications. Each trend reflects a technology-driven shift that is already occurring. It is less “will it happen” but “how it will happen.” 

Let’s take a sip of our coffee and get started. 

The New Influencer is Actually AI, not a Person – it is up to us to influence AI. Nearly every AI-driven app being built is learning by scraping available open-source information. As a result, it is more important than ever to share more content on our companies and brands. Imagine building additional tabs on your next website that contain studies, Q&As and other information you want to ensure AI picks up. We will care less about traffic to these sections and care more that AI can get to it. Remember, thousands of new apps are being created each month. 

Search Engines will become Personal – today, one major platform leads in search (Google) and about 15 are considered relevant worldwide. That dynamic is about to change. With new apps, like Perplexity, we can see a world where we build search engines by topic. Imagine building a search engine for multiple sclerosis or for the next pandemic or the NFL. Our ability to scrape the right information, organize it and deliver what you need via search will lead to thousands of search engines. We will compete to make our search engines useful and relevant to the customers we serve. We’ll do the same for internal use. 

Inflection AI Will Revolutionize Customer Experience – new apps, like, combine search, memory, and conversational capabilities. This “big 3” plus the ability to incorporate proprietary information will change customer service. For example, when you go on your United Airlines app, it will remember all of your interactions, know your travel patterns and you will then have a conversation that will lead to options. You’ll pick one and the work is done for you. And the efficiency of your interaction will improve each time. 

The Marketing Funnel will Collapse – we are spending time wondering how text to video will work, since it just seems cool. That’s step one. Step two is the reverse. Imagine creating visual content that we share in an ad-like manner and when you touch it, an experience emerges, which could include text, audio, video, pictographs, or anything useful to helping you learn about the topic in an immersive manner. We will have more of a chance to move from interest to action and collapse the marketing funnel over time. Why make people click for more when we can ask/answer questions in one place? 

Listening will Shift to Intelligence – as more sites, apps and platforms flood the market, is a better listening platform the answer? Not likely. The shift will move towards better intelligence, which can be described as our ability to center our thinking on what matters to us. Imagine following the 26,000 oncologists in the U.S. or the 300,000 resellers of technology and understanding what they think, which channels they use, which topics and people are most important and more. Intelligence will drive better ideas and campaigns. 

A New Content Creation Process to Serve Our World – the entire content creation process will be shaken up, but not in the way we think today. Creative leaders and content creators will be more valuable than ever. Humans matter. But what will change from a process standpoint is dramatic. A small team will be able to create thousands of videos or posts or audio clips in 350+ languages in days or weeks. Our ability to serve global teams will change how we build and define our global teams. What will hold us up are our approval processes, so it is important to figure out that parallel system concurrently. 

Audience-Based Media Planning will Drive PESO – media buying and planning has been the domain of advertising. The big shift, however, is moving from channel-oriented planning to audience-based planning. In other words, if we are looking at each zip code or town and work from this start to a national level, our audience-based insights completely change our media planning and buying. Our choice of paid, earned, shared, or owned media (PESO) will be driven by what we learn, not what we did last time. And since we have this type of system built, as the audience shifts, so should our media. It will be disruptive, and it will favor those who are excellent in analytics, AI, and media. 

Gaming will become Mainstream Media – we don’t think twice about working with celebrities and getting involved with Hollywood. Why not do the same with an industry that is 15-20x as large. Gaming is becoming the new family room. We talk with friends in audio chats, we buy product directly within platforms, we respect influencers in these communities and there are three billion of us. Gaming is the new media frontier. It is where many choose to “live” outside of work. 

Trust is Diffusing, not Decreasing – trust is not decreasing in our world, it is diffusing to new places. So, when we lament that public or private sector orgs are declining, we are failing to see the big picture. The shift is moving to new influencers, new platforms (e.g., gaming) and new organizations. How we measure reputation, how we prepare against disinformation and how we choose to protect our employees and customers will become a new form of organizational responsibility. We will redefine what we mean by building and protecting a reputation.  

AI will Change Change Management  – mobile apps will be able to take a town hall that is 60 minutes long and give you options. Do you want a one page abstract? Or an audio version only that is ready for you when you drive home? Or do you want to ask two questions and pull out the relevant information for you? Or translate all of it to your language of choice? And do you want the app to remember your preferences, so you don’t have to do this work each time? We’re almost there today. The difference will be engagement of a 100,000-person company that is closer to 100%, not 25%. And the engagement will be considered to be more relevant and personal to their needs.

We have an exciting time ahead of us. It will lead to major opportunities for communications to show its value. Our ability to build powerful narratives, work in an agile manner and understand how to relate to our audience are all core skills that make us ready for the future. 

Now, time for another cup of coffee.