I ply my trade in the marketing and public relations world, which, I can assure you, has experienced more change in the last five years than in the previous 100.

In an attempt to help entrepreneurs prepare for the communications world of the next five years, I've listed eight tips and asked my firm's president, Ted Birkhahn, to tack on two more. Here goes:

1. Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter will vanish from the face of the earth. Change nowadays is so constant that it's almost inevitable that someone will devise a faster, cooler experience than the best known channels of today. The best way to prepare? Immerse yourself in the online world. It's the only way to keep pace.

2. You'll need to create an online experience to complement your marketing and PR efforts. And thanks to near universal A.D.D. and the ever-increasing information and technology tsunami, your experience can't take more than 10 seconds. It'll also most likely be visual, since even-shorter attention spans will favor images over words.

3. You'll either speak the customer's language or lose. Entrepreneurs will need to forget about all the sales speak in 2020. Target audiences will only want to do business with organizations that think the way they do. So start taking an outside-in approach to your marketing communications now.

4. More organizations will recruit untraditional hires. I believe many entrepreneurial companies will take a page out of the ad agency playbook and hire such diverse professionals as ethnographers, anthropologists, customer service experts, and academics. Why? Because each will provide new and richer insights into your customer base.

5. Telecommuting employees will dominate the ranks of entrepreneurial companies. And diversity will be key. Smart entrepreneurs should begin thinking now how best to communicate with a highly diverse talent pool of virtual workers.

6. A whole new breed of consultant will emerge, specializing in face-to-face communications. As mobile device-happy Millennials begin wielding more and more power, it will be essential to wean them from their virtual world and teach them how to win face-to-face conversations.

7. 24/7 crisis preparedness will be a must. I believe most entrepreneurs will have a tested crisis plan in place to respond to negative or incorrect news in a nanosecond.

8. Traditional media-relations tactics will change. The press release, case study, and bylined article will only be published if they're short, highly tailored, and speak to a credible audience need.

Those are my eight predictions. Here are two more from Ted Birkhahn:

9. Marketing will be the battleground where the war for customers will be fought. By 2020, the marketing department (or person) will require the lion's share of a small-business owner's time (and money). Why? Because small businesses will be forced to provide real-time marketing that is tailored to different demographics as well as superior customer experiences in both the physical and virtual worlds.

10. Mainstream media will vanish. The rise of citizen journalism and brand publishing will bring an end to the oligarchy that is our current-day mainstream media. In 2020, your audiences will digest content (and news) from multiple sources through aggregators delivered to mobile devices when, where, and how they want it. Great content, regardless of its source, will rise to the top. So you must grasp content marketing and excel at it.

Take our predictions for what they're worth. One thing that won't change over the next five years is this: The game will still belong to the swiftest and smartest small-business owners.

Published on: Apr 16, 2015