In the beginning…

Baker Baird Communications LogoWhat is this 'communications business'? Why is it here? What can it do? Well, there are three things you need to know.

1) It's about the content: There is no such thing as the newspaper industry. Neither are there digital media businesses. Both are the same: Content businesses. Papers, magazines and websites are nothing without high quality content produced by people who understand audiences.

2) It's about your audience having time: Successful communication isn't just about the media: Back in 2004 I interviewed John Kelly, then CEO of Gala Group, the Nottingham-based gaming business. Who were his rivals, I asked, confidently expecting he'd name other bingo-to-casino firms. He didn't: "If you see competition coming merely from inside your own industry then that’s a blinkered view of life. The lottery is a competitor to me, television is a competitor to me, the web is a competitor to me. Anybody who takes up people's time is a competitor to me." 

3) It's about you demonstrating value: Finally, it's about the value you get out of the communication you spend time consuming. The writing had been on the wall a few years earlier when a magazine company I was managing editor of did some research into what the audience liked reading about most. "People like me", was the headline conclusion. The audience was business people. And it wanted to read about what other business people did, said and thought. It was less interested in the views of journalists because they'd never run businesses. They wanted content that had value. The value would come from other business people who knew how to express themselves.

Some are naturals. Others realise it's a craft. Which is why we've launched BakerBaird Communications.

Knowing you've got something you need to say is fine. Knowing how to say it, when to say it and who to say it to is something different. And it's complicated today.

Print media has shrunk in both circulation and resources. But established publications retain a unique authority (especially if they serve a niche). The web can be a firestorm, one where short-term commercial goals have confused audience focus (and audience numbers - just how many of those 'uniques' are regulars you'd like to reach?). So who do you trust?

Broadcast media faces similar challenges. On-demand and plug-and-play have knocked a hole in traditional channels which broadcast to a schedule. So the consumption habits its audience used to have - hinted at by John Kelly - have changed for good. Fewer families sit down together and watch the evening news anymore. In the age of the mobile media device it would be amazing if they're even in the same room.

Then there is social media. Rapid, responsive, always on, occasionally judgemental. And potentially unrepresentative in terms of audience demographics.

So it isn't just about having something to say anymore. It's about knowing how to get a valuable message across succinctly, picking the right way to transmit it, and treating what you say as part of an ongoing conversation. All in a splintered, noisy media universe.

This conversation won't just be with customers, either. Smarter businesses and organisations know that they need to talk to stakeholders (the people and groups with an interest in your sector or the communities you operate in) their own people, and people with skills they'd like to attract. They all need to be part of your journey.

That journey could be visible in the language you use in a chat with your people, the phrases you employ in an email. It could be in the timing and placing of a media release, the relationships you nurture, the way you bring people together. It could be in a single, smart Tweet, an authoritative opinion, or the foundations provided by a comprehensive communications strategy.

More media, more noise, less time, less trust. What do you say, who do you choose? That's what this communications business is about.

RICHARD BAKER