This article is not about media trends or forecasts for 2021, as I’m sure there will be countless prediction pieces written on that. It’s about something of far greater importance: our position and our purpose as people within the media industry.
It’s a topic rarely discussed in annual reports, but a critical component of our next steps into 2021.
Last year was undoubtedly different, we are all well aware of that, but what made it profoundwas the silence that submerged society. Billboards projected to empty highways, newspapers were left untouched shelf upon shelf, coffee machines in once-crowded cafés collected dust, and shopping centres had not one pair of feet amble through their aisles to pop a product in a trolley.
Habitual nature stopped.
And for the first time in years, we were present, as the silence awakened loud thoughts and reflections. You might think that people – or as we like to call them, consumers – have thoughts all the time, but this was different. Consumption was replaced by contemplation, which became a catalyst.
It was this collective awareness and the mindfulness of these thoughts that shook the world harder than any pandemic ever could.
These thoughts traversed the globe through media, and then became actions – actions that shape-shifted social structures and will be recorded in history books for generations to come. Our world was in clear need of mass change on multiple fronts and this is where the media industry stepped up, in full force.
This is what blew me away last year!
One example, which affected all African nations, was the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It questioned and reset social conversations, opinions and behaviour surrounding deeply embedded social constructs. This affected hundreds of millions of people today, as well as their futures and the futures of the next generations to come.
The movement reflected a similar pattern to that of the #MeToo movement, which collectively empowered women, their bodies and their rights.
The same applies to the various micro-movements that developed during Covid-19 that promoted care for all, especially the vulnerable and the weak with #StaySafeStayHome and #FlattenTheCurve, which encouraged love for thy neighbour, shifting from a local to national and then international scale.
These movements developed in a matter of days and created ripples that will last lifetimes. That is the power of media!
With great power…
You, reading this article right now, work in an industry that is the agent for the change we so critically need in the world. This is how we need to approach 2021 – with knowledge of the influence, power and responsibility we hold in our hands.
What if we used the same media channels and communication strategies currently being used to convince people to exchange their hard-earned income for a soda to also convince millions of people to buy and plant one tree seedling? What if we used the same media channels and communication strategies currently being used to make certain brands social status symbols to also make single-use plastic and littering socially taboo?
There are many issues that need to be solved, some so widespread that it seems almost impossible, but we have found the power to create such large shifts before, so it only makes sense that we continue to find the power to shift them in a positive direction in the future. If we choose to create collective change as strategically as we launch a new beer, then we could be in for an astounding new reality.
And if we do not proactively act on this position of great potential in a way that moves our world forward, our upcoming consumers, the Generation Zs of the world, are well aware of our position and will soon hold enough purchasing power to demand it. If anything, that in itself is one of my forecasts for the near future.
Media, the most influential platform on earth, can and should be used for so much more than selling products and posting selfies. It has the potential to be the biggest catalyst for human connection and change, and we know it.
It’s a platform we have perfected and chosen as our profession, so how now can it contribute towards our individual and industry purposes? It’s a very big thought, but we are very big by nature, and as the voice of the largest brands in the world we now need our own voice, hopefully one that can add significant value.
So, as we look to revive, recalibrate and refresh our industry post this pandemic, let’s do so in a manner that makes the next movement #MediaThatMatters, shall we?
Roxanne Boyes is a media strategist who has spent time studying the faculties of economics, environmental and behavioural sciences and marketing. She is based in Kenya, and splits her time between her first love – strategy – and spearheading Vizeum’s SME incubator within East Africa. Since the very start of her journey, she has set her focus on the African continent as a strategist working across 27 different regions.
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