By Paul Williams, Head of Planning and Production, Speak Media.
Comms leaders need to refocus their teams’ work on internal audiences to deal with the critical post-Covid challenge of keeping colleagues connected and engaged, even if they are located remotely or anxious about the future.
Perfect storm of challenges
Communicators point to a perfect storm with concerns around cuts to comms budgets (64%); changing media consumption habits due to declining print news sales (58%); and the challenge of keeping employees engaged with brands as the landscape shifts (54%).
Indeed, when asked about the impact this will have on comms teams, the single biggest change expected by respondents is that internal comms will become all important (63%), followed by 39% of those surveyed predicting the halting of planned activities due to uncertainty.
One comms leader at a financial services company commented: “Employees make up any business, so have to be the number one priority, closely followed by existing customers. With the shift of working from home more, and fewer face to face interactions, brands will need to work even harder to connect with both sub-groups.”
New opportunities for corporate comms
However, despite this challenging outlook, 92% believe that the ‘new normal’ will bring new opportunities for corporates. 79% are seeking to become more relevant by adapting to the shifting needs of their customer base.
Meanwhile, 75% expect that organisations will be able to serve society better and use their business as a platform for positive change. 69% believe that they will be able to create deeper and more meaningful connections with different stakeholder groups.
Corporate comms leaders are preparing for a rocky few months of slashed budgets, cut campaigns and a challenging media environment. As many corporates face concerns about bringing their employees along with them, internal comms with be prioritised.
But there is also a sense that many teams see an opportunity to change what their organisation stands for, in light of the huge global issues of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter.
Many comms leaders are considering changes to how their organisations are positioned, with an awareness that their stakeholders now give a great deal more kudos to good citizenship and to contributions towards positive change.
Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA, added: “Organisations will need to be aware that their employees’ lived experience over the last few months will be diverse. Leaders will need to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and be in-tune with how their teams feel about a range of issues. A flexible approach to safeguard the physical and mental wellbeing of employees is essential.
“Recovery is clearly underway in our industry, and the underlying strengths of the PR industry hopefully mean organisations are finding new ways to prove its value.”
Every single respondent (100%) agreed that it is more important than ever for there to be an integrated approach across brand, media, marketing, public relations and public affairs, to ensure a consistent message.
Customers were ranked as the most important stakeholder group, in terms of how much work will be needed to communicate with them effectively in a post-Covid world.
Theresa Knight, PR Manager, MHA, said: “Customers need to be given clear and easily understandable information they can trust – likewise investors. Prospective customers need to have confidence in a brand and its reputation.
“Communications plays an important role in that with its tone of voice.”