Four 2017 predictions

Daniel P. Simon

Daniel P. Simon


Nobody has a crystal ball that says what the future holds, but we’re always thinking and talking about the outlook for our industry, particularly with respect to how changes in the media and corporate environment affect communication in the financial services space.

As the first month of 2017 draws to a close, we took some time to ponder what structural developments are most likely to shape financial services communication during the next year. Here are four forecasts that the Vested team came up with.

More alternative news sources will come online or scale.

That traditional media is dying is a well-worn cliche. What’s talked about less, but what is just as important, is the fact that non-traditional media is living large.

Non-traditional, or alternative, media sources come in several varieties. Some digital outlets like Buzzfeed use filler content and clickbait to subsidize real reporting. Others, such as OPEN Forum, are owned-media properties of big brands that mix content marketing with feature reporting. Still others, such as Mother Jones, are nonprofits that survive in large part on donations and tax exemptions.

Social platforms like Facebook Live and digital broadcast media like YouTube are making it increasingly easy to broadcast video reporting in a cost-effective way.

These kinds of models can, and in our estimation will, displace traditional media as go-to sources of information, and this evolution will give communications practitioners more options when communicating externally.

Leaks will continue to drive news.

It is increasingly risky to try to keep things secret.

To be clear: Leaks are nothing new. The United States has a rich history of protecting would-be whistleblowers that dates back to the False Claims Act of 1863. Those principles are too strong to be torn apart entirely in 2017.

But conditions are, to use an understatement, much different today. No network is completely secure, and everything is vulnerable. Anonymous chat platforms, email services, and browsers designed to evade surveillance are widespread, and media outlets are taking elaborate steps to ensure that sources can contact reporters with near-complete anonymity.

It is simply harder to keep important information out of the public’s view. This is both good and bad at once.

Financial services companies should have strict protocols in place to deal with leaks, whether they’re legitimate gripes about in-house issues or nefarious campaigns designed to disrupt and embarrass the company. The news cycle will in all likelihood reinforce the value of this kind of strategic planning.

News will increasingly be viewed as an asset.

As conventional media dwindles and information becomes harder to control, more executives are coming around to the notion that news is inherently an asset whose value must be maximized.

This will continue to drive changes in the tactics that communicators use to bring news to market. Exclusives and “earlies” will begin to become the default with respect to coordinated media outreach. Transactional reporting will become as commonplace in financial services as it is for beats like technology and politics.

Teams will develop their own preferences for using these techniques. Clearly stating these preferences should be a point of emphasis for both agencies and in-house teams.

Transparency will be paramount.

The best-communicating financial services companies will, in our estimation, share an increased focus on transparency and clarity in 2017.

Much of what these companies are building and bringing to market can sound scary but are, or can be, transformative in a positive way. For example, many of the industry forecasts cite advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning as leading trends for finance in 2017. To a general public that is generally skeptical of automation, these things sound bad.

They’re not.

They lower costs, make more service available on demand, and better facilitate commerce.

Financial services companies would be well-served in 2017 to talk more openly about technical matters like product development and engineering. Consumers want to see that there are real people creating the technology that they increasingly rely on. They want to see how things are made.

Pulling back the curtain on development will engender a greater level of trust between a service provider and its customers.

(Image via Flickr.)