While the need for a sophisticated communication function has never been greater, the role of corporate communications has changed exponentially in recent times. So, how is the corporate communication function changing? Although this is a complex question – it is crucial – given the impact of corporate reputation on organisational success across a range of sectors and industries.
Communications leaders have often found their activities and budgets in competition with other functions, like marketing or HR, while their departmental resources are further challenged and stretched. All while staying abreast of and agile to adapt to the ever-changing political, media, and digital environment.
With this in mind, what do key changes in corporate communications look like?
The media landscape
Where traditional media was once king, social and digital platforms are now customers’ go-to for media and information consumption. Today, the 24-hour news cycle means organisations no longer have control of pace and content. Corporate communications professionals must be ready on the front foot at all times, and ready to respond quickly to any potential crisis.
Organisations are increasingly recognising the value that corporate communications professionals and functions bring. The role of a communications leader has been elevated and many often play the role of the CEO’s information custodian and support the executive team with understanding and responding to communication issues.
Scope for brand and strategy
While the communications team may have primarily entailed media relations in the past, in today’s world, their scope of work has expanded to include a multi-stakeholder approach that includes brand narrative building and reputation management. There has also been a clear shift from a tactical focused function to more sophisticated, strategy-led communications activities that play a critical role in delivering on an organisation’s strategic objectives.
Creating trust and transparency
The demand is now greater than ever for companies to be ‘authentic’ - doing what they say they will. In contrast to a decade ago, consumers today connect and engage with brands rather than products. For brands to gain trust, they need to communicate what they stand for, what their mission is, and how they keep their promises; it’s more than a web page or a corporate document. The job of the communications team is to relay these key messages consistently and companies must then live up to these promises or risk alienating their customers. Therefore, the key task of corporate comms in today’s world is building and protecting brand trust and building strong relationships with stakeholders.
With the increase in big data and data-driven communications, there has been a clear shift toward different metrics that assess online engagement. Although this has provided a greater indication of communication effectiveness, there are many different metrics that can be used to indicate the performance of communications which only provide insights into the impact they have on brand perception.
The rise of employee advocacy
Organisations are increasingly recognising the importance of employee communications, and the role employees play as advocates and embroiders of their brand. Companies continue to increase their investment in employee communication and engagement and elevate the importance of recruiting employees who connect with their values and purpose. With the spread of more sophisticated digital platforms, it is increasingly easier to have two-way communication with your employee population. This has paved the way for more open conversations that can drive positive change, create more conducive working environments, and increase employee satisfaction.
What does the communications professional of the future look like?
For the new generation adjusting to the disrupted landscape, you must keep abreast of worldly issues and current affairs. Understanding how an economic, cultural, or societal issue can impact a business is a necessity in today’s world.
Related to this skill is the need for communicators to write well (no brainer, right?). Communications professionals need to be able to deconstruct complex and technical information into messages that are simple, clear, and compelling. Alongside this, communication professionals must possess a degree of agility and cultural understanding in order to better navigate cross-cultural sensitivities.
Communications teams need to be adept in multiple aspects of the business and need to be able to embrace numbers and data. In a data-driven world, an appreciation for insights and analytics is key. Insights gathered from data are now a necessary part of creating more targeted messaging and refining audience segmentation. The use of data in communication needs to be combined with a deep understanding of business needs and societal trends so that teams can adapt and grow.