What do the next 12 months hold in the field of digital communications? We round up some content trends and expert predictions, including how the jobs market has changed as a result of Covid-19…
No one has a crystal ball right now but let’s look ahead at what the next 12 months might hold in the field of digital communications. The predictions below touch on business needs, AI and content approaches, techcomm and UX, recruitment and Covid 19’s impacts on work practices and the market for jobs.
As a recruitment and training specialist in the digital communications area, we are connected to many experts and employers in these fields. So let’s see where they think digital content is going in the short term. If there is one trend in this year of radical changes to business operations and staffing, it has been the need for a hefty dose of agility in our approaches to work. Here at Firehead, we’re using the mantra ‘recognise, prioritise and adapt’ to deal with the changes.
Content put to hard business use
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has tapped into its large community to find out what is on the mind of 100+ content marketers and other experts going into 2021.
One of the common themes raised is that content marketing and digital communications will be tied ever more into the bottom line. Covid-19 has shunted business operations into becoming more digital for many organisations and this shift will put an extra responsibility on content teams. Robert Rose of the CMI says there will be more to do to meet these new digital demands and new skills may be needed (in content ops, digital asset management, measurement, paid media, etc) to fit new roles and responsibilities.
While Covid-19 continues (and beyond), there has been the accelerated change in consumer habits and expectations towards digital operations and experiences. The rise in ecommerce and digital sales, virtual events, online research, and real-time conversational interactions will all need to be catered for. Businesses will be looking to add value and may already be pivoting towards going fully online or stepping up their digital content, communications and sales channels.
With recessionary pressures and business shrinkages, the 2021 landscape will be one of tight budgets and uncertainty, so the focus will not only be on winning customer experiences with your content, but on the ROI of these.
Innovation and AI content solutions
Also on the CMI article, Peyman Nilforoush, of inPowered, suggests that AI will ultimately solve the content ROI problem by delivering business outcomes, such as leads and conversions, more efficiently. With ever-improving natural language processing models and new technologies coming to the market, AI-optimised content may help achieve this end. As Serge Lupas, CEO of the media division at Kantar, says here: “Covid-19 has triggered a decade’s worth of innovation in just a few short months.”
Technical communication and other content professionals will be a key part of how quickly and easily those innovations come to bear on the bottom line.
The human factor in an increasingly digital world
The trend towards automation and personalisation will continue for the efficiencies and scale on offer. But one impact arising from the coronavirus pandemic is the need for more human interactions,. According to Carmen Hill of Chill Content, “we’re all feeling a bit of digital burnout” so her CMI prediction is that content experiences that feel human – “analog, artisanal, authentic” – will be more memorable, even when they are virtual.
Digital burnout is also a risk for the army of remote workers created by the global pandemic. While the home-working revolution has forced a massive culture shift in how business teams work together, there are pros and cons of this.
On the plus side, Tim Hopma at Zazzle Media, in Zazzle’s social and search predictions, says that real-time collaboration apps are on the rise, especially in areas such as design and content creation. Which is, of course, good news for content developers and app creators.
New ways of working, new content approaches
But businesses should also be aware of the effect 24-7 virtual workplaces can have on employee wellbeing. For app developers, we think this could be a key moment in how they design for the new generation of app users in the workplace. And for employers to factor in the need for soft skills in the virtual workplace. We at Firehead have long experience working remotely, and firmly believe in strong parameters between work and personal time – parameters that we see widely being crossed while people are learning to work remotely for the first time during the pandemic.
As a result of 2020’s digital shift and a renewed need for human interaction, we can expect more video, podcast and webinar content to replace face-to-face interactions. The good news for many is that lo-fi content is also becoming more acceptable, and “slick professional content” may be a casualty of that. “Content will become more interactive and engaging to close the customer experience gap,” adds Oracle’s Kelvin Gee in his CMI prediction.
Social media will provide a window on the audience experience. and an opportunity to learn for brands that want to foster a more authentic connection. Sprout Social’s 2020 Trends and 2021 Predictions summary says that listening to your audience and understanding their needs will be more important than ever this year. Demonstrating empathy and authenticity will also lead to more meaningful audience engagement on digital channels.
Many in our audience work in technical communications. The accelerated digital transformation of 2020 will lead directly to larger audiences for technical documentation and UX – and, as a result, more work for techcomm authors and editors.
Back in April, Ray Gallon, co-founder of The Transformation Society, outlined his Eight predictions for the future of techcomm 2020-2030, from content operations and curation to API specialists to the Internet of things. We expect many of these 2020 trends to continue in 2021. Other predictions include chatbot integration, more interactive help guides, speech-based content, voice-oriented interfaces, convergence of marcom and techcomm, movements to the cloud. Our friend Ellis Pratt, director at Cherryleaf, has put together a techcomm trends podcast for 2021 – listen in here as he delivers the podcast while walking near London’s Heathrow airport (remote working outdoors because why not?!).
UX Planet has underlined and added to these techcomm predictions in its 2021 UX trends post, including:
- voice commands becoming widespread through virtual assistants and voice interfaces (VUIs)
- adoption of ethical design standards
- AI-based accessibility boosts (from automatic captioning, translations and summaries)
- UX writing and microcopy maturing to fit new digital experiences and adding “personality and precision”.
Hybrid workforces where employees work at home, at the office or in several locations are likely to become the new normal for many organisations. Digital content professionals are already well placed for this shift. In the fields of technical communication and wider comms and content work, working from home is already common. On top of this we are also rising to the challenges around how information will be delivered in future through Information 4.0.
Unfortunately many people have lost their salaried work as a direct result of the pandemic, so what does 2021 hold for those working in the digital communications field?
Post-Covid jobs market and recruitment
CJ Walker, Firehead’s founder and managing director, says: “Economic downturns tend to shift work away from salaried positions, where budgets and planning can feel insecure, to temporary work, consulting, contracting, freelance, where it’s not so hard to justify the budget for one project.
“I’m also seeing a large uptake for certain digital comms skills such as UX writing and conversation design. These are new areas, and require investment in upskilling. Maybe now is a good time to add new content skills to your portfolio.”
She adds: “If you work freelance in digital comms, this is also a good time to register with Firehead. We’re actively looking for talent for our clients.”
Register with us!
If you work in digital communications, we are actively looking for new candidates with skills in the following areas:
- Conversation designers
- Technical authors
- Content managers
- UX writers
- Content strategists
- Instructional designers
- Practitioners in knowledge graphs, semantic web
Although we work in a highly digital field, you will be pleased to know that we don’t apply automation to our recruitment practices. We appreciate the human element and want to know all of our candidates as people, not just files and spreadsheets. Clients and candidates we know come back.
When a suitable job comes up, we talk to you about the technical skills, check your suitability and apply our long experience in the field to determine a match. We vet potential candidates according to our clients’ requests to complete their team, after long discussions with them.
To register with Firehead, visit our Candidates section.
Image (CC): iXimus/Pixabay