Public relations and marketing have long been the communications channels for financial firms to connect with key stakeholders. However, the landscape, as well as the definition of "influencers" has changed, requiring companies to actively utilize new channels of communication to keep pace. Information is no longer disseminated solely through traditional means, and firms must understand the expectations of the influencers within the digital and social mediums of information. Now is the time for financial companies to incorporate social, digital and visual communications into their overall strategy.

Traditional media isn't going anywhere, but it is moving in the digital direction, with a greater emphasis on visual and "shareable" content. This is where the power of digital communications lies. With a click of a button, a single reader can share a blog post or video with hundreds, or even thousands, of other potential influencers within their social networks.  In the digital landscape, content is king, and financial firms need to utilize a holistic approach to communications to develop content for each channel.  With the ultimate goal of getting your message across to a broad range of audiences, it's imperative to mesh the traditional tactics of press releases and byline articles with unique and engaging video content.

We are not at the dawning of the video age, it's already here.  Look only as far as YouTube, which is now the second most popular search engine behind Google. We are also increasingly living in an app-driven world, where users flock to those apps that seamlessly integrate video into their customized news content.  

A perfect example of this is Flipboard. As one of the must-have iPad apps, Flipboard's growth has been exponential.  Earlier this year they tripled the number of "flips," or page views, to 9 million per day, rivaling the traffic of the most popular blogs and media outlets. The popularity and growth of the app is driven the user's ability to create a custom digital magazine based on the content they want to view, and the seamless integration of news, blogs, social networks and videos into the pages.  

Marshall McLuhan's iconic statement, "The medium is the message," has never been more relevant for companies to reach their audiences.  The very nature of video can bring complex topics to life by incorporating animation, illustration and other graphics to quickly convey trends, changes and complex ideas.  In times of crisis, video is increasingly the first channel financial companies utilize to reach media and other stakeholders to quickly respond to false or inaccurate information.

As the role of reporters at traditional media outlets has expanded into the digital realm, so has the need for greater and more diverse content. For financial firms, video communications will be a key strategic pillar of integrated marketing and public relations campaigns in 2012. While compliance concerns have made some companies hesitant to engage in the medium, a communications partner who understands the regulations surrounding the industry, with the technical and creative capabilities to rework compliance-approved materials into compelling videos, is crucial.

The timing for financial companies to build a digital presence has never been better.  Years from now, the communications landscape will look completely different, and firms that fail to see the significance and impact of video now, as this powerful medium continues to expand its scope and accessibility, will be forced to catch up to those who realize its crucial role in a comprehensive communications strategy.