6 Takeaways from Bloomberg’s “The Year Ahead”

December 4, 2018

I was lucky enough to recently attend Bloomberg’s “The Year Ahead” conference and was excited to view the knowledge shared from some of the country’s most prominent business and academic leaders through a communications lens. For me, it validated that we are placing our bets in the right areas and helped hone some new insights for a few of our industry leaders.

Here are six key takeaways…

bloomberg the year ahead

1. Influencers will help you get closer to consumer engagement, and investors are looking at corporate usage.
It was great to see that investors, such as Jim Coulter of TPG, understood the importance of influencers in the marketing mix today. From CAA using rich data to match their clients with brands to comments about the most cost-effective rates of engagement, it was clear that influencer relations is a growth category to watch.

2. War rooms for environmental disasters are tapping advanced technology and communications.
Listening to Lynn Good, CEO of Duke Energy, sounded a bit like a Hollywood movie set with drone cameras, helicopters and AI modeling on storm patterns that inform communications and storm response teams. Corporations are investing in technology that enables “always on” listening and response teams for day-to-day coverage and crisis work. They are also enhancing content design to be more effective and engaging.

3. Data and technology will transform the future of preventative health. The question is, how do we communicate the longer-term benefits to change behavior now?
The discussion around how to shift away from focusing on treating health issues to discussing effective prevention was steeped in data. The Dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, Lloyd Minor, discussed the progress made with the introduction of electronic medical records in the United States (work we support via the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and how we need to unleash the records in the electronic filing cabinet to make information interoperable. Eric Lefkofsky of Tempus Labs described his goal to fix the underlying data infrastructure in cancer to help predict and customize the best treatment for each patient. The reality is that the data will get us there, but obstacles include data security, investment in preventative diagnostics without reimbursements, and consumers embracing changing habits.

4. Purpose is the key to brand authenticity and trust.
To build on preventative health, our client Mindy Grossman of WW discussed the concept of the return on human equity and corporations’ role in purpose. WW has created a strong filter to help them decide who to partner with, what products to create and how to attract talent that aligns with the company’s values. This made me wonder if most of our clients have clear, focused filters on what they want to stand for, filters that leaders can use to make better-informed decisions across their organizations.

5. The worry on many executives’ minds is the competition for talent ahead.
Jonathan Gray, president and COO of Blackstone, said CEOs have more positive outlooks about business than the markets are showing, but most are concerned about the scarcity and cost of labor. As we work with executives on enhancing their LinkedIn strategies to be magnet leaders and corporations to attract talent, I could not help but think that talent is an area for deeper focus. Our change management firm Daggerwing Group also focuses on how to create a culture that attracts and retains talent. In this tight employee market, the winners will have a greater investment in talent and culture.

6. Are we at the tipping point where private label brands may become the new “hot” brands?
I keep hearing retailers talk about their increased emphasis on private label, and Frans Muller from Ahold Delhaize underscored the importance of investing in both technology and private label. Store brands today are becoming more sophisticated in packaging, pricing, marketing, and positioning. As they rise to represent a greater percentage of sales, I believe we will see an increase in the marketing spent behind them.

It is always great to get some outside-in perspective and spend a day absorbing and translating information from leaders in various fields. I hope these thoughts are helpful as you prepare for 2019 and beyond.

Barri Rafferty is CEO of Ketchum, one of the world’s top communication firms, with offices and affiliates in 130 markets in more than 70 countries.

Outside of Ketchum, she participates in a number of groups including the sustainability task-force for the World Economic Forum and is a member of Arthur W. Page Society Page Up program. Rafferty sits on the board of StepUp, an organization with the mission of empowering girls from under-resourced communities to become confident, college-bound, and career focused and she is also a member of the governing body of OmniWomen, Omnicom’s Leading Women’s Network, for which she holds quarterly panel discussions featuring prominent women. She is the recipient of the Plank Center Milestones in Mentoring Award.

Barri is a graduate of Boston University (M.A) and Tulane University and enjoys watching soccer, volleyball, and dance – especially when her son and daughter are involved! Connect with her on Twitter: @barrirafferty