What Are the Hottest Communications Topics for 2017?

Every year I develop an editorial calendar for my own research projects. The intent is to provide thought-provoking material that is useful to my clients, and to do so in a variety of formats. To set the 2017 calendar, I polled a small number of trusted colleagues, asking them for their input on topics that would be of greatest interest as well as the most effective delivery formats.


Why do I share this peek under the tent with you? I have the pleasure of frequently hearing great ideas from lots of really smart professionals. It strikes me as selfish to keep it to myself. The more knowledge I can share with my clients—and with others (yes, some of whom are prospective clients), the better off we all are.

The feedback was remarkable. My thanks to the 58 experts who took time to share their thoughts. This represents a high percentage of those asked—a most gratifying result.

And the Winners Are . . .

Which topics polled highest? I admit to being surprised by the highest score: “Techniques for leveraging your presentations to support your media efforts and vice-versa.” I’ve long thought this to be a linchpin of a coordinated communications effort, yet have not witnessed any widespread interest in it. Its popularity in the survey leads me to rethink that stance.

Another collection of topics was clumped close together. It included:

  • Impact of social media on 21st Century media relations
  • How to keep improving as a speaker
  • Presentation preparation advice (a subject that always polls well)
  • How assessing feedback makes you a better communicator over time (one of my favorite topics to emphasize with my clients that few others hammer home)

I also asked an open-ended question soliciting other ideas. Given that this is being written shortly before inauguration day 2017, lots of interest swirled around that issue (spoiler alert: My first position paper of 2017, already in progress, sheds light on how to communicate with the new administration). Among other notions:

  • How to communicate with Capitol Hill in the new 2017 environment. I’ve done some writing on this (see “Five Minutes with Your Member of Congress: Navigating Your Next Washington Fly-in”). In addition, some of the most thorough research has been conducted by Brad Fitch at the Congressional Management Foundation. I suggest checking out those
  • Crisis communications (the subject of a previous tip sheet).
  • When not to respond to an issue.
  • The return on investment (ROI) provided by communications training services. This one intrigues me as it often proves difficult to demonstrate ROI from communications initiatives to those who are fixated on numbers alone.

Read? Hear? Watch? Participate?

I also asked my colleagues about the delivery format of my materials. Over many years I’ve written research reports, position papers, and tip sheets, and recorded videos on subjects of interest. Among the alternative ideas suggested:

  • Serving as a guest on others’ podcasts (send me an invitation; I’m there!).
  • Contributing writer to various publications (what recommendations do you have?).
  • Roundtable discussions. This one also intrigues me. I’ve tried this format before with limited success. Maybe it’s time to re-energize it.
  • List the top issues and upcoming events of the quarter or month.
  • Two respondents argued against PowerPoints. It looks like a lot of people are weary of this format.
  • LinkedIn posts were mentioned several times. This is an area in which I’ve started to become more active. More proof that great minds think alike, I suppose.

Which of the findings was most surprising? Number one without question was the fact that video failed to claim the number one spot for most popular distribution format. This is curious since everyone seems to be shouting from the rooftops about the need to produce video. Yet video crossed the finish line in a not-all-that-close third place. Maybe it’s not as effective as advertised? Or maybe this admittedly non-scientific survey was somehow skewed. Still, the respondents are quite savvy, so it’s food for thought.

The most preferred format? One-page tip sheets by quite a healthy margin, followed by an e-newsletter. I’m considering launching the latter. Attempts several years ago just didn’t prove fruitful from a business point of view. I’m curious; would you subscribe now?

Another response I found unfortunate was the lack of interest in Congressional testimony and Capitol Hill fly-in visits. I chalk this up to the fact that fewer people are involved in public policy than in communications, and that relatively few people—even high profile executives—ever have the opportunity to testify before Congress. This is a part of my service offerings where I see relatively few competitors, so it will remain a priority.

The 2017 Road Map

What happens to all this valuable input? Rest assured, it will not go to waste. Granted, there is not sufficient time, energy, or brainpower to examine all of these issues in 2017. Still, I’ll get to some of the top choices. And I’ll claim editor’s privilege by no doubt choosing some themes for my editorial calendar that may not be on this list or that may have polled on the low side.

The aforementioned paper about how to persuade the new White House is the first item out of the chute, scheduled for a January release. Its focus is on how to communicate with officials of the new administration by reassessing your organizational messaging. I am confident the information will remain timely after inauguration as appointments will still be forthcoming for some time.

The tip sheets, videos, research reports, papers, and more will be rolled out as the year unfolds, so stay tuned to The Media Training Blog. I’ll also be posting updates on Twitter, so follow me there, too.

Here’s another offer for you: Do you see an issue that hits your sweet spot? Perhaps we can collaborate on researching and reporting on it. I encourage you to get in touch with me to discuss this offer.

I Need Your Advice

You may be curious how you can have input, too. It’s easy. In the comments section on this page, post your answers to these questions:

  • Are you already a subscriber to this vehicle—The Media Training Blog (hint: Just hit the “Follow” button and you’re in!)?
  • What topics not mentioned here would you suggest including in my 2017 editorial calendar?
  • What other delivery formats do you suggest?
  • Would you subscribe to an e-newsletter about communications strategy if I decided to publish one? If so, how often should it be published?
  • What podcasts would you suggest for guest interviews where I can make an appearance?
  • What publications might be looking for articles I can write?
  • If you are in the Washington, D.C., area, would you participate in a roundtable discussion on issues like those included here?

Stay tuned. There’s lots to come in 2017. Let’s take the journey together.



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