Trends pieces. From November onwards, they're everywhere. Everyone with strong opinions, an active pulse and the ability to use a keyboard is looking at the year that was and using that, with tweaks, to predict what's coming.
We all do it. I've done it for ages. And I'm usually spot-on in my predictions because I take care not to forecast anything I could be wrong about.
Well, not this year folks. This year, I'm writing the anti-trends. In short, eight things we won't see in 2014, if we're really lucky*.
- Small errors, writ large, on billboards
I used to think that, somewhere in the process of write-the-copy-lay-it-out-sign-it-off-print-the-billboard-erect-the-billboard, someone would spot an obvious typo, spelling error, missing punctuation mark or switched-around word. In fact, I used to think, in my innocence, that there were people in agencies whose actual job this was.
But in 2013 I saw so many disastrous billboard errors that I stopped taking them personally (although I didn't stop bitchily tweeting pics of them).
In 2014, I predict that fewer mistakes will get through. Not least because of the scary beast that is social media and how dreadful it is to have your careless phrasing splashed all over the internet to public ridicule and sniggers from your competitors.
- Meeting places without Wi-Fi/plug points
There's a portmanteau I like. It combines 'hungry' with 'angry' to describe the special kind of rage that only a grumbling stomach can induce: hangry. Mix in the sense of fury caused by being without Wi-Fi or power for your device, and you get whangry.
Hotels, bars, coffee shops, restaurants - listen up. If we're going to patronise your establishment with our clients, colleagues or fun solo personality; order a meal or two, with multiple pricey coffees; and demand little more attention from the waitron than the occasional check-in, we expect a Wi-Fi password on entry. Not 'AlwaysOn'. Not a rubbish 15-minute window. And not paid access. Got it? Oh, and plug points. Lots.
P.S You will get many, many extra points for offering a diverse array of adaptors.
- Lame mission, vision and value statements
Until very, very recently, all of my clients wanted mission, vision and value copy included somewhere in the About Us section of their websites. Thank heavens this is changing because - [pause for effect] - no-one reads it. It is boring.
In 2014 I predict that these fluffy expressions of triteness will be relegated to a sentence or two on corporate culture or maybe a paragraph on philosophy. Well, they certainly will when I'm involved. Can you carry this banner for me too? Please?
- Long, clunky, keyword-stuffed web copy
"Well, I've consulted my domain host and he's said that we actually need 500 words per page on our site, with two to three keywords per paragraph, repeated frequently. Also, can you write the copy so that we rank highly for the words 'unique' and 'value'?"
Luckily the number of clueless hosts and developers out there is diminishing, so 2014 will probably yield less keyword stuffing, more reader-savvy writing and long copy only when it is required for technicality, clarity or conviction. It's all about the reader's intent, and if we can satisfy this in our copy, we're 90% of the way there.
The challenge for us, the writers, will be educating clients. But that's the fun part.
- Self-proclaimed gurus
I used to be a member of a very small, very snarky group that was highly attuned to this. Today, however, it is increasingly unacceptable to punt yourself as a maven.
In Madiba-less 2014, the year when we learn to live without one of the humblest men the world has ever known, I predict greater humility (even if it's faux humility) - especially among the early adopters. Confidence is one thing; arrogance another.
- Instant coffee offered to office visitors
This is just a disgrace. No exceptions. Unless you're a non-profit (where even I, the Coffee Nazi, have been known to welcome Ricoffy with a smile), you cannot fairly expect people to visit your premises and drink murky coffee-flavoured water.
If you're a serious business and you have clients or contacts coming in to see you, invest in a coffee machine of some kind. Please. It's a tax deduction. Or, if times are tough, spend a bit less and buy a plunger. But don't, don't, don't offer instant. Blech.
This one, thankfully, is already a-changing. Which is why I now go to more meetings.
- Corporate Twitter accounts run by morons
Without even closing my eyes I can imagine this conversation unfolding in the boardrooms of many medium-sized companies in 2013:
"Oh, and one last thing, who've we got that's young?"
"He must be tech-savvy. I bet he tweeters all day. Let's make him head of social."
Please, world. In 2014, kindly ensure that you only give your precious social media passwords, and the associated mandates for managing these, to people who:
This isn't a choose-one thingy, by the way. The person must tick all of the boxes.
- know your business, its units and its people inside out;
- enjoy the autonomy and authority to make big decisions;
- have mastered (or can learn) the eccentricities of social;
- are champions of customer service; and
- can write - really, really, really, really, well.
- Top 10 lists
This was initially a top 10. The brief said a top 10. I promised Bizcommunity.com a top 10. Until I got to #7 and realised that a) I didn't have anything more to say and b) I begrudge random items, shovelled in to make a neat 10... So, here's hoping that in 2014 we see less content for the sake of content, and more functional value.
Also, I'm done now, so I'm going to stop. There. Done. Thank you for reading.*Disclaimer: This may be an anti-trends piece. But it's still a trends piece. So unless a) my husband's right and the zombies descend, heralding Armageddon or b) I'm put in charge of everything and finally made ruler of the Whole Wide World & Web, we'll probably see almost all of the above in 2014 in the same quantities we did in 2013.