Guest post by Kris Schindler, managing partner of Start-Thinking.

Our office is open 47 hours a week. During that time, our team members come and go, adhering to a variety of schedules, some full time and some part time. But each of us works 24 hours a day. I insist on it, and if you can’t or don’t want to, there’s not a place for you on our team.

As harsh as that sounds, consider this: The average consumer is exposed to thousands of marketing communications messages every day. The exposure is generated not only by the obvious channels like mainstream media and the online marketplace that expands almost exponentially every day, but also through music, art, film, and television, through overheard conversations, on posters and yard signs, and in hotel room bathrooms. Messages are everywhere; we can’t turn them off.

Have you stayed in a Hampton Inn lately? Its complimentary amenities by Purity Basics invite hotel guests to “Clean your body” and “Clean your face.” And its elevator signage is fun and whimsical. My team, even when vacationing, is expected to pick up on the message the hotelier is trying to send about its brand: “Come. Have fun. You don’t have to take yourself too seriously here.”

If you haven’t already, experience an Ozomatli concert. Band members were recently named U.S. State Department Cultural Ambassadors. When you experience them in concert, you understand why. These culture mashers are citizens of the world, consistently demonstrating that music is, as the band’s vocalist and trumpet player Asdru Sierra has said, “…the key to every culture, the beginning of an understanding.”

I laugh every time I think about election time a few years back. Our state was voting on the gay marriage issue at the same time a man who is very quietly homosexual was running for local office. I was amused by the number of people displaying yard signs that on the one hand voiced opposition to gay marriage while on the other (likely, unknowingly) endorsing a gay candidate. Were they ambivalent, or was the candidate omitting part of his brand narrative?

Very evident is the influence of the popular AMC series “Mad Men.” Retailer Banana Republic paid tribute to the series in its fall 2009 collection and is sponsoring a casting call for a walk-on role in Season 5. That’s a pretty strong indicator that the colors, textures, fashions, and overall tone of the show resonate with the mass audience.

Our job as professional communicators – regardless of the primary discipline in which we work – is to observe these messages and trends, interpret the booms and the busts, use our insight to provide effective solutions for our clients, and, for those of us who are really good at it, forecast the next big thing.

We don’t have much of a choice. We are working in a field that is rapidly changing as a result of consumers being plugged in 24 hours a day. To maintain a competitive edge, we must constantly be tuned in to what’s going on around us, and that means working 24 hours a day.

Kris Schindler is managing partner of Start-Thinking, a full-service creative communications agency headquartered in Wichita, Kansas. While others are spending the summer at the pool, Kris finds herself in the kitchen, trying out new recipes that make the most of her CSA subscription.