Relevance, transparency and trust: the cornerstones of success in 2017


1 February 2017 | 5:00 min read

In 2017, the big challenge for leaders will be to maintain relevance in a time of accelerating change. We forecast further transformational change for organisations and entire sectors this year, writes SenateSHJ Chief Executive Neil Green. He shares the Australasian communications consultancy’s annual predictions for the issues and trends that will shape the year ahead.

Whatever sector people work in, it is likely it will be shaken up and transformed in the course of this year. Organisations will evolve in a way that will continue to disrupt previous behaviours, and they will be placed under more pressure as they manage that change.

We see the accelerating change of 2017 taking five main forms – our ‘Future Five’. The Future Five shows that we will not get a rest from change this year, and our successful leaders and businesses will be those that can respond to change, stay relevant, maintain transparency and engagement, while also responding to people’s desire for tailored and truncated content.

Below is a summary of SenateSHJ’s Future Five for 2017, or watch the video. 


1. Post-truth politics is the new norm

Clear narratives and storylines, transparency of key messages and intent will be crucial, if businesses and governments are to plug the trust deficit in 2017.

This post-truth age is one of individual empowerment. Power has transferred from corporations to consumers, from politicians to voters, and from ‘elites’ to the common person. 

In 2017, businesses and governments will have to work harder than they ever have done to communicate with their target audiences.

Communicators will need to cut through the fear and uncertainty that the recent upheaval on the political stage has created, with compelling narratives that capture hearts and minds, and build confidence in ideas and institutions.

Communication has an important role to play in helping span the divides in political, cultural, and social spheres. Messaging needs to be clear, simple, visual, and tangible in order to capture attention.

2. Values and ethics win the hearts of customers

Flowing on from the mistrust and sense of fear with the post-truth age, customers are seeking trust in organisations whose values and behaviours resonate with their own.

In 2017, we expect values and ethics to become an increasing driver for customer and staff engagement.

Establishing an emotional connection is vital. Seeing and feeling will hold more weight on public opinion than reports or evidence-based approaches.

How a customer feels and their emotional response will become the new truth. The public is no longer seeking out an expert for advice to inform their decision – decisions are based on the experiences of like-minded people.

Organisations will need to act in such a way that resonates with their audiences’ value systems. They will need to be focused on building a strong foundation internally and externally, allowing them to build a loyal staff and customer base, and to build goodwill for their ‘reputational bank’.

3. Enter the era of self(ie) obsession

Today everyone has a voice (and images). This 2016 trend continues to drive behaviour.

Online outlets are now the ‘go-to’ for news and information, with content on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook increasingly seen as more trustworthy than news websites.

Online and social platforms are not only being used by the public to source news, they are also used to create and distribute their own news. Users are encouraged to create and promote their own content, which is rewarded with likes, shares, and comments.

Consequently, a ‘me’ culture has proliferated where everyone, and anyone, can be a journalist, editor and publisher; delivering ‘breaking news’ and playing a part in keeping local and global networks updated. We have seen the meteoric rise of the ‘new media’ individuals (bloggers / commentators, etc.) and groups.

Organisations will need to understand the importance of choosing the right time to engage with their audiences on social media. Planning and preparation is key to upholding a strong reputation. Tone is just as important as content.

Communicators need to ensure that messaging is individualised, using tailored content that perpetuates the online profiles they have created for themselves.

The trick will be to communicate in the right context – using data, sensors, mobile and social media to pick up on and respond to social cues that allow for more targeted communication and valuable online engagement.

4. Collaboration for survival

In 2016 we predicted collaboration would be a strong revolution. We will see this continue in 2017 as consumers persist in seeking holistic solutions to their needs.

As companies continue to look at innovative ways to meet customers’ needs, we expect 2017 to bring further collaboration between organisations, and communities and businesses. We anticipate industries will collaborate for survival.

Consumers want to engage with a one-stop-shop to solve their problems and meet their expectations. As organisations seek out new partnerships and opportunities to co-create and co-design solutions, there is a role for communicators in realising the potential value of collaboration and the benefit it brings.

Communicators can help organisations effectively engage with stakeholders to create shared value. Important consideration around building trust and reputation with the new entity will give a much broader narrative around value, the benefits of the collaboration and the positive social impacts.

5. Rise of the tribe

As a result of the significant political events of 2016, and the upcoming French, German, and New Zealand 2017 elections, we may see further upheaval and turmoil in the market, and a sense of entering ‘unchartered waters’ for individuals, organisations, and institutions.

The great ‘silent majority’ has already demonstrated that it feels hopelessly out of touch with issues such as globalisation, illegal immigration, climate alarmism, and political correctness. The reactions to these widespread (and legitimate) grievances is yet to be fully understood.

As a result people will trend away from the mainstream and will seek to become more connected with their neighbourhood. The ‘rise of the tribe’ and community engagement will become even more prevalent as society fragments into groupings or ‘tribes’ based on shared beliefs and values, socio economic groups and location, creating an ‘echo chamber’ of opinions and sources.

We are likely to see new voices and conversations in the public space shaping community sentiment, as they dominate traditional, digital and social media forums.

The popularity of online communities and the power of the echo chamber will continue to grow with people looking to these forums for an unfiltered view on day to day life that is relatable and relevant.

Engagement in this space is increasingly important and should be a priority for businesses. Businesses and governments need to tailor their messaging to the audience, using the right tone of voice, compelling content and relevant channels to connect well with these online communities. Any engagement needs to be done early and continuously to build relationships that achieve positive outcomes.

Noting the influence of new technologies

As people seek an emotional response or connection to their world, so too are we seeing the boom of virtual reality creating immediate, real-life experiences in and out of this world, shaping audiences’ perceptions and bringing impossible ideas to life.

These powerful technologies have the ability to change the way we live in more exciting and impactful ways.

Be warned though, as businesses we need to be able to see beyond the hype of new gadgets and assess where this technology can add to and enhance experiences for our audience, rather than create a world of imposed social isolation.

We also need to understand the impact of combining biometric data and computer power. When big data systems know individuals well, power shifts to algorithms – they will identify what makes you laugh / sad / angry and can target you relentlessly (without forgetting anything). 

Unprecedented data processing power will soon have the potential to understand humans better than we understand ourselves. That creates many opportunities and challenges.

Communicators also have an opportunity to change attitudes and behaviours through bringing a concept or a cause to life through virtual technology that helps people identify with experiences.

Out-of-home media (such as digital and traditional billboards, wall displays, and signage) is also another significant growth technology, and is predicted to become more interactive and intelligent in 2017.

Out-of-home media will become an increasingly sensory experience, and the displays more intelligent. We expect to see it play more of a role in further enhancing our cities with its significant reach to consumers, not only targeting consumers with products but sharing information and building connectedness.

2017 promises to be another exciting and challenging instalment in an ever-evolving world. Communications will play a major part in this evolution. Our successful leaders and businesses should not lose sight of the importance of staying relevant, maintaining transparency, and building up their trust bank.

To discuss how SenateSHJ can assist you with your communication needs this year, please contact us.

Neil Green

+ 64 4 471 5370

Australia New Zealand
Darren Behar Julien Leys
+ 61 3 8643 7900 + 64 9 353 6620
Craig Badings Raphael Hilbron
+ 61 2 9256 9700 + 64 4 471 5371





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