Are you a Chief Culture Officer?

transmediale: Forms of Cultural Organisation
This is a post by Alison Kenney, PR columnist.

As PR pros we want our communications to resonate resoundingly, our brands to be strong and our communities to be vital. To achieve these goals, we hold brainstorming sessions, conduct marketplace research and surveys, monitor our industries and competitors and undertake SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analyses. But how many among us regularly incorporate cultural trends in our vision and PR planning?

In his book, Chief Culture Officer, Grant McCracken argues that every organization needs to thoroughly understand culture in order to succeed in the modern marketplace.  Microsoft, for one (and not an insignificant one at that) is buying into McCracken’s premise: Dr. Mark Drapeau, Microsoft’s Director of U.S. Public Sector Social Engagement, agrees with McCracken that it’s important to have a “broad awareness of slow-paced cultural evolutions that can affect companies, and how to monitor them and incorporate them into planning.”

How do we develop that awareness of “slow-paced cultural evolutions”?

First, by monitoring cultural developments and identifying trends. Culture is driven by a very wide array of factors ranging from art, advertising, fashion and media to geopolitical factors, socio-economics, and global business issues to education, demographic and generation shifts, gender issues and much more. Take a look at this fascinating program for the WorldFuture 2010 conference that took place this past July in Boston to get a sense of the various cultural trends under watch.

Next, by considering how cultural trends could affect your brand. As an exercise, pick any cultural trend, e.g. Generation Y reaching adulthood or the ‘Going Green’ movement, and think of all the ways it could impact your job, your work, your company. What could your brand do to capitalize on the opportunities this trend presents? provides some excellent tips for tracking and applying trends.

Lastly, develop your own vision. This isn’t so much about having a crystal ball that can spot the “next big thing” but more of a sense of where the marketplace is heading – based on the values that are being revealed through cultural trends – and understanding how to capitalize on those trends. As 2010 rolls into its final months, it was fun to look back at this piece predicting food trends for this year.

Fortunately, there are as many sources for trend watching as there are trends to watch. So, get going, get watching and don’t forget to share your observations!

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.

Image credit: Fraulein Schiller

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