“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” ~ Peter Drucker
When considering the constant change taking place across our industry today, the notion of creating the future – in a broad sense – has never been more timely, necessary and appealing.
So here goes:
I’m thrilled to introduce Context Strategies, LLC, a new type of strategic communications consultancy built around the idea that context is the fundamental element of any corporate, advocacy or non-profit communications program. It’s traditional, it’s digital, it’s heavily reliant on data, with overall importance increasing by the day. This is particularly the case in the three sectors that drive the most societal change (health care, energy/environment and technology), which will be the firm’s initial focus areas.
We’re constantly reminded that news cycles are now measured in minutes to seconds. Social networks illustrate a brand or individual’s identity, interests and reputation. The Internet is flooded with content – both good and bad – leading to a content pollution challenge that all communicators and marketers will have to overcome. The art and science that comprise strategic communications are changing along with each of these trends.
From a social media standpoint, context often implies location. While this will be a part of my new venture, it’s only one factor in a much broader sphere of collaboration and influence. As nearly every communicator has witnessed over the past few years, the building blocks of context are much broader.
Understanding and Navigating Context Helps Clients Reach “Why” Faster
The single most important question in communications today is “why?” The “how, who, where and when” help inform an effective communications plan, but understanding specifically why we advise clients to pursue one strategy vs. another, implement a specific set of tactics and/or sit idle until the storm has passed is key to success. Once we help clients grasp the full context – whether it be for a public policy debate, a corporate reputation initiative or a crisis situation – we are far better positioned to achieve a stated objective compared to what might have worked in a previous campaign or before the context changed.
Context is Both Qualitative and Quantitative
The availability of data – big and small – has made it significantly easier to tell simple, visual and compelling stories, breaking down complex topics into one or two headline-worthy statistics to drive a narrative. New explanatory news sites like Vox.com and FiveThirtyEight are taking this concept to a whole new level.
Fortunately, every communicator now has the ability to tell stories in qualitative and quantitative terms. More often than not, the most effective brands are the ones that take full advantage of this and recognize their ability to stay relevant in the conversation by replacing complexity with a story, anecdote or argument that core audiences will want to share.
Context Is Rooted in Collaboration
Originally past participle of contexere, the Latin origin meaning of context is, “to weave together, to make.”
The ether that informs decision-making in business, government and non-profit environments – influencers, analysts, reporters and consumers, just to name a few – is constantly adding to broad conversations that span digital and traditional media. Similar to the new news cycle, the weaving is never ending. One medium, narrative or event isn’t likely to be a game changer, but will be woven into the context that changes and influences minds.
As I launch my new venture, I couldn’t be more excited that my first strategic partnership is with The Herald Group, a firm that I’ve called home for the past five years. In addition to working closely together on existing clients (I will be “Of Counsel” to THG), we will be developing joint capabilities and sharing resources on an ongoing basis. More to come soon, but expect to see a regular presence among my colleagues on this blog and in future Context Strategies’ client engagements.
By all accounts, the fundamentals that have always defined achievement for clients will never change – meticulous planning, a sound strategy, a compelling narrative, smart engagement and an honest assessment of what did and didn’t work throughout. However, the pace of today’s context requires that we constantly and carefully evolve the models that we depend on to achieve results.
We can’t always predict the future, but we can work together to create it.
For contact purposes, my new e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter remains @seandonahue. I look forward to connecting soon.