Confronting the challenge

Most corporate and public communications specialists, as well as the media, struggle to find footing amid the shifting landscape of digital communications. The challenge is four-fold:
 
1. Find a new foundation for corporate communications, quality reporting and investigation at time staffing cuts have decimated the talent pool and measures of success blur as analytics strive to keep pace with changing communications channels.

2. Strengthen and diversify communications approaches with compelling combinations of direct messages, media connections, and storytelling tools such as narrative, video, databases, graphics, audio and images.
 
3. Successfully package and deliver information for those shifting communications channels for platforms ranging from print to smartphone, tablet to full website.
 
4. Skillfully engage audiences as partners in news discovery, review and analysis.  
 
A second chance
Traditional media companies stumbled at the dawn of the Internet Age, with calcified thinking and old business models slowing their adoption of web strategies while smarter, nimbler competitors embraced the opportunities afforded by the new media
Today, the media agencies that survived compete aggressively on the Internet, fighting for market share at a time when brand distinctions are rarely factors when consumers seek out news. The speed with which communications platforms are being developed provide all communicators with new opportunities to establish their brand. Smartphones, tablets and the customized delivery of information and services through applications is helping to restore brand identity. 
 
This is the first step toward finding that firmer footing. New corporate models, including non-profit investigative agencies, are also rising -- a promising step toward the goal of ensuring the survival of the Fourth Estate. Corporate/public communications teams, if anything, find greater opportunities to directly communicate with targeted audiences, but it's a challenge that requires greater investment to ensure meaningful connections.
 
What emerges will not resemble traditional media -- that ship has long since sailed. But the new paradigm presents clear benefits in the variety of voices and volume of information available. In short, the cultural evolution can bring benefits to all partners in the communications cycle so long as communicators continue to be nimble and creative in meeting audience needs.
 
University communications departments must play a key role in working with professional media and communications specialists to develop this paradigm. The strengths of academia should be focused on researching the changing needs of audiences, developing tools to meet those needs and training students in the skills necessary to deliver content in effective formats.