Gini Dietrich

Communication and Marketing Trends for 2011

By: Gini Dietrich | October 5, 2010 | 

Wordle: 2011 Marketing TrendsIt might be too early in the year to write this post, but Patti Knight and I had a conversation yesterday about the future of brick and mortar offices and it got me thinking about trends for next year, let alone 10 years from now. So following are what I think are going to be the communication and marketing trends for 2011.

1. Content, content, content. Did I mention content? A lot of people will disagree with me – some think content is dead. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface. All companies should become media companies, in that the content they provide is valuable, consistent, and non-salesy. This will be big for B2B companies while they figure out how to use, what they’ve always considered, intellectual property to attract new customers. Examples include white papers, enewsletters, podcasts, and videos.

2. FTC rulings. It may not be as early as next year, but the FTC is already looking at regulating our industry. It began with disclosure on blogs and then on paid reviews. Next will be around ethics and how we approach traditional journalists and bloggers. That’s why becoming a media company will be even more important – you’ll be able to reach your customers and prospects without relying solely on the influencers. But hire an attorney because you’ll need to really understand what you can and cannot do and say through your content.

3. Net neutrality. It makes me crazy that  no one is paying attention to net neutrality and what Google and Verizon are planning to do. If they are successful, the Internet (as early as next year) will become a paid model, just like cable television. So being able to write a blog post at 6:00 in the morning and post it two hours later and letting it reach audiences around the world FOR FREE will be gone. The playing field will no longer be level and the companies that can afford to have their content delivered more quickly will again be kings of the earth. Not because they’re better; because they have more cash. Davids truly will be fighting Goliaths in an unfair, non-level playing field.

4. Customer engagement. We talked about this a little bit yesterday, in terms of customer-centric vs. customer-focused organizations. If companies do not engage their customers, I mean really engage them as human beings and not as people who you think want to be sold, it won’t matter what kind of content you have, how you follow the FTC rules, or if you have more cash to get on the Internet more quickly. If you don’t know how to engage your customers, start by asking them simple questions when you talk to them: What is one thing we do that you wish we did better? Having Facebook communities and Twitter followers and blog readers are great, but what about those real conversations you have with your customers every day? Begin asking them questions and I think you’ll be surprised at how much you learn.

I have about 12 trends I’ve been thinking about for a while, but they’re written down on a post-it note on my desk in the office and, well, I’m not there today. So stay tuned for a second trends blog post. In the meantime, what would you add?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I’m not going to disagree with you, Gini. Content should be the centerpiece.

    I always tell folks three words: “Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.” (I tell this to Realtors and they look at me like I’m from Mars.) But it’s true – if your content is valuable to someone (it is) then you can use it about 1000 different ways.


    • Dave, you didn’t disagree with me! You’re right about repurposing. People feel weird about it, but just because YOU’VE seen it 12,000 times doesn’t mean everyone else has. You were missed here!

  • Even here where tech is central, part of our mantra is “Content is King”.

    Also, with everything and everyone moving more web/mobile based, I think everyone has a responsibility to being paying close attention to the FTC rulings as well as net neutrality. I shudder when I hear people brush this stuff off, saying “ah, its not going to happen, or its not my concern”…but then when it does they will be first to complain! Make it your concern, because if people just take into consideration your great points above Gini, it is going to affect them & everyone!

    • Jennifer, I am so with you! It truly makes me crazy that more people aren’t up in arms about the possibility of net neutrality going away. If it does, you’re right, people will be the first to complain when they could have done something about it!

  • You’ve started a fantastic list. I especially love the Customer Engagement point you make. No one wants to be preached to all the time; they want to feel their voice is heard, as well. Giving your customers an opportunity to talk *with* you continues to be one of the greatest concepts since, well, ever.

    • Arminda – EXACTLY! And to Elise’s point, it’s all about personalization. Times…they are achangin!

  • Great post. Looking forward to the next. For me customer engagement in a social world is a vital part of learning where your customer is headed.

    • Pamela, and to add to your point, I think knowing where your customer’s industries are headed and understanding the trends they face are vital, as well.

  • Great list, Gini! I concur with the majority here that content has to be top of mind moving into next year. I may also add to the FTC regulations the pending FDA regulations on social media marketing for healthcare and pharma companies. From my camp, that’s a huge topic of discussion and many are waiting on bated breath to see how the FDA decides to regulate phamaceutical product marketing in social media.

    • Krista, GREAT addition from a pharma point of view.

  • Content is everything! My clients are never sure what to talk about, but upcoming events alone are always good info. People want to know what’s happening – and that’s content. Without content, what is there to drive social media?

    It’s one of the Three Cs that I always emphasize – Community, Content, and Contact!

    • And, Erik, do you also advise your clients to talk about what they do best…what’s in their brains? Our clients tell us all the time they have nothing interesting to say, but there is something interesting in every company or they wouldn’t have customers.

      • I admit I’m more interested in event or special driven content – way too slow to help clients talk about what they do best every day. I’m learning to get a balance between the two. But yes, there is *always* something they do well / really care about / think about constantly – and that makes great material.

  • Elissa

    Content! Yes! I’m of the opinion that companies/organizations must become their own developers and distributors of relevant content to their internal/external stakeholders on a more consistent basis. If you want a story told…tell it yourself. This just isn’t about media relations…it’s about good customer communication to your most important influencer groups. If your content is authentic, you won’t always need to rely on third party endorsement of your story.

    • Elissa, totally agree…and in a valuable, non-salesy way!

  • Elise

    I would say that all of these are dead on! To add to trend 4, personalization is also beginning to trend in a huge way – a lot of people these days won’t even begin to look at a press release, pitch, etc unless it is completely customized for them. While this isn’t a new concept, I think that the demand for tailored materials has grown drastically recently and will only continue to grow.

    • Elise, the addition of personalization is right on target! Don’t be surprised if you see me quoting you on that one.

  • Hi, Gini.

    I think I’d add Simplicity (or Simplification) as a necessary trend for 2011. The Twitter streams are getting more and more clogged each day with Retweets and dozens of duplicate Tweets from the same person (and quotes — so many quotes). There are a lot of blogs out there and it’s so difficult to find really unique voices.

    I think the survival of the platforms over the long term (including the ability to monetize themselves) will depend on who can figure out ways to deliver/organize all that great Content that will be coming; to filter out the dreck; and to help us figure out the difference between the two.

    Social media can’t be about rearranging the deck chairs of the boat and redirecting the content of a few. It has to be about encouraging new voices and making sure everyone knows which “older” voices are worth listening to and learning from. We must get away from the mind-numbing volume and get back to the basics.


    • Peter – that’s what we call “the social media echo chamber.” And I try really hard to talk about things here that I’ve not heard from other PR/marketing/social media professionals. Because I agree with you – let’s get back to simplicity AND unique thinking.

    • Excellent addition, IMHO. I tend to use the high fallutin’ word “minimalism” only because it is more of a design ethic and way of life – but I value simple and direct words enough to say that “simplicity” is very important. It helps bridge the gap between traditional media “messaging” and social media “conversation”!

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  • Do what you do best even better and do not worry about your competition. With “instant access” I think too many take a successful element of their competition, add it to their own mix and everyone begins to look like everyone else and therefore indistinguishable. The goal is to be outstanding and unique. If you do what you do well even better, relish the competition, don’t mimic the competition.

  • sazzarella

    Content is key, especially as the audience generator, converter. It has to be relevant and authentic to the brand, company and culture it represents. I agree people should not concern themselves too much with the competition. There is just too much competing for our attention. In addition, pay attention to push marketing. Too often times marketing teams practice the “internal push” and market from the inside of the company – out, which may alienate people in the process of being clever. Part of brand culture is knowing your audience and what attracts them, then it becomes more symbiotic.

    • GiniDietrich

      @sazzarella GREAT point about push marketing. In my expanded version of the 2011 trends, I talk about social commerce as a part of the trend to pull people inside the company.

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  • amyjdean

    White papers, really? Can’t we bury those dinosaurs in the backyard already.

    • @amyjdean Yes, an archaeology dig! I love those! 😉

    • amyjdean

      @JMattHicks We could use the oil. There is an impending oil shortage after all 🙂

    • GiniDietrich

      @amyjdean I’d love to bury them, too, but they work REALLY well for our B2B clients. I mean, really well.

  • TheFrenchGuy

    Yes!! Finally someone is concerned with Net Neutrality!!! THANK-YOU!
    Nowadays, people do EVE-RY-THING with the Internet, and what platform do we ALL use to access it: Google. Aren’t we already Googling information instead of searching for it? Google is the new Kleenex, the new Xerox, the new… you get my drift.

    Imagine a world where you have to pay for speed access, where accessing a small local hyper-specialized bookshop’s website takes twice as long as logging onto because the owner can’t afford it. All of a sudden, Google and Verizon thwart everything the Internet is about; thwart innovation; and thwart what made them the underdog at the beginning and giants now.

    We can’t let Google and Verizon transform the Internet into cable TV.

    I posted something on this very subject a couple of months ago:

    • GiniDietrich

      @TheFrenchGuy It makes me crazy that no one is concerned about the possibility that net neutrality goes away! I’ll read your post on it and help you raise more awareness.

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  • Resume_Writer

    I think location based technologies will continue to grow, all through the supply chain, social media and otherwise. Of course, the mobile phone will be the catalyst for many of these programs.

    Great article.

  • TheFrenchGuy

    @Resume_Writer Doesn’t it scar you though!? I don’t think I wanna know everything my wife and my friends and my family does. Not that I am hiding anything, but I do want to retain some of my privacy as an individual. Kenneth Gergen argued back in the 90’s that we, as individuals, were reaching social saturation… and that was back in the 90’s. I agree with the man. imagine what this new advancement will do to us as social individuals, if we have no more privacy… of any kind. Yikes!

  • sazzarella

    @Peter Osborne I absolutely agree with you, Peter. We are/will reach social- media-over-saturation point. Seemingly, everyone becomes an expert when given a voice or a platform from which to launch/sound-off. It is fairly easy to discern the good/unique contributers from the bad, but unfortunately, we have to actually read through it first. Too bad we can’t Tevo through the “mind-numbing” content (like we can commercials on TV).

  • Resume_Writer

    @TheFrenchGuy The location based technologies don’t scare me, because at this point most are permission granted, so I can control when “I’m followed.” There are other aspects of the online world that concern me from an identity, and brand management perspective for sure. No going back at this point though:-).

  • Alicia

    Gini, the FTC acronym where does it come from? Thank you!

  • Great post. Luckily, you don’t have to worry much about #1 because you seem to have that part down. Regarding #3, I haven’t heard it stated that way and that sounds like an extremely unfair situation. I will definitely be reading up a lot more on net neutrality and stay updated. Thanks for the excellent info, as always!

  • ginidietrich

    @Alicia The Federal Trade Commission. Is that what you’re asking?

  • PierreRattini

    Net neutrality scare me to death. I need to read more and I hhope you will keep us all up to date on what we can do. Together we are very noisy! Bwahahaha

  • PierreRattini

    Net neutrality scare me to death. I need to read more and I hhope you will keep us all up to date on what we can do. Together we are very noisy! Bwahahaha

  • charlotteulvros

    Interesting and great post! Recently wrote something on the same subject and how these trends affect the communicator’s daily life.

  • adidienne

    @GiniDietrich That’s what I was talking about. Nobody knows about this stuff. it’s not in the news, and yet here we are.

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  • HandleyNation

    As a content writer, I have to say I’m excited about content being one of the main needs- you could say resources- of the future. handleynation

  • ginidietrich

    @HandleyNation I’m quite excited about it, as well!

  • ginidietrich

    @HandleyNation I’m quite excited about it, as well!

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  • xeniaconsulting

    Gini, I really like your point about customer engagement. Each time we normally use the word, people use it in the “Sales context”. However there is a lot more that you can do in customer engagement, that can ensure you will get your sales anyway.


  • Marketers will start to make social media a part of their everyday life.

  • NancyM.

    These marketing and communication trends indeed are taking place in 2011. Customer engagement through social media is one of the most evident points. More and more businesses are using social media to communicate with their customers and the manner they address these customers is changing too.

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