2022: No Toolkit, just hard learnings!

Socrates, the famous Greek philosopher, once aptly said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”.

A deafening roar of breaking information, theories, facts, figures – culminating into panic, debate, opinion, reinforcements & assurances – was life in a nutshell, amongst this world catastrophe called COVID 19. Biblical reference to BC (before Corona) earmarking this watershed event that continues to exist in different undertones – redefining life, existence, human interaction, engagement, and eventually the secret sauce that will ultimately help ‘cross over’! Through the mayhem – what’s just kept it all together in this hyper-informed/aware world of ours was and is effective communication. Alarming, prudent, empathetic, heartfelt, evidence-based it was essential to be mindful & sensitive on the ‘what & how’ and more importantly, what not to put out there – while we persevered, withstanding human frailty of mind and body.

Overcoming everyday challenges, we adapted with great agility. Staying compassionately connected & engaged with your internal and external ecosystems was oxygen – communicating real-time, was vital spoke in keeping the wheel moving forward, humanitarianly, and business-wise, as pausing long wasn’t an option – it never is.

Life happened or ‘unhappened’ as we were busy planning our ‘way-forward’. Key learning: be prepared, for every eventuality the best you can. Develop long-term road maps while being attentive in monitoring the short-term KPIs, and what’s required to achieve them – as goalposts constantly move. Stay nimble and anticipate potential scenarios as hard forecasts will remain fluid.

A summation of all that is working and will be valuable to keep in mind, in the year ahead:

A. Keep it credible & be diligent: Storytelling backed by authentic data

Smart organisations are investing in sharing their own story which helps strengthen relationships, trust, and ability to adapt all of which are critical to business.  Data is becoming more democratised and metadata abilities are enabling automated storytelling which is poised to dominate in coming years. The future of communications is certainly about ‘storytelling with data’ – an effective, engaging, compelling, and influencing communications tool.

Additionally, with the advent of a dynamic 24 hours news cycle and dominance of fake and sensational news, the role of credible word-of-mouth communication has gained tremendous importance. Customers will rely more on community-led storytelling and views of trusted opinion leaders vis-à-vis brand communication to build authentic communication channels.

B. Humanising Technology: It’s all about customising and being specific

The pandemic has brought with it a paradigm shift in the way both businesses and consumers communicate. The events of the last two years have only accelerated the adoption of new and emerging channels of communication. Technology by itself is changing the face of business communication. Consumers expect empathetic, friendly, personalised, and timely communication. It is critical to understand the customer journey to understand the challenge faced at each step as they progress and accordingly design communication to help them navigate to the next stage. AI can help in building a stakeholder persona based on their web searches, purchase history, etc. identify the demographic set. The unravelling of this potent data can help in curating customized messages to the audience. Applications of AI in communications are enormous, and new uses are being discovered all the time as tech continues to advance and evolve.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to disrupt the way we approach marcomms today.  Amidst the pandemic, it is imperative for businesses to deliver a consistent message to both external and internal audiences especially in an increasingly dispersed, remote workforce. In these tumultuous times, strategic employee communications have emerged as a priority business challenge for CXOs across industries. Leaders need to reassure, inform, motivate, mobilize, and galvanize the entire organization to work towards achieving specific goals. Employees are the brand ambassadors of the organization embodying the organisation’s ethos and values. A well-calibrated employee advocacy campaign not only reinforces brand loyalty but also strengthens the brand’s voice making it credible, stronger, and differentiated.  Employees must be empowered to punctuate the virtues of the brand during interactions with other stakeholders.

C. Be seen & heard only where relevant: Embrace and adopt platforms that are necessary

We are all constantly overloaded with information, which eventually clutters the way we think and act. The audience is ‘desensitised’ to the content thereby hampering recall. To break this clutter, one must disrupt to grab attention – be unique. One of the simplest tools which are not used to their full potential yet is the science of storytelling in business. Storytelling delivers a  ‘lean-in’ approach and draws the audience to listen to what the company’s narrative must share. The way audiences consume content in the ‘physical’ world will give rise to novel ways of engagement. While physical relationships have become difficult, organisations are bringing their audience virtually closer to them to sustain their existing relationships, while creating new ones. Newer formats such as metaverse are surely going to evolve to create immersive connections and experiences with consumers going forward.

With disruptive tech, dynamic business models, and hybrid, the communications domain will need to remain nimble and adapt to new-age platforms. Communication experts need to adopt the methodology of blended channels to effectively communicate with their stakeholders. Organisations stare at an increased reputation risk owing to the challenging business environment and fake narratives spreading like wildfire thereby necessitating a proactive approach for reputation management.

Piyal Banerjee
With over seventeen years of brand and corporate communications experience across top Asian markets including India China, Malaysia, and Singapore, Piyal Banerjee currently leads external communications for IPM India Wholesale Trading Pvt Ltd (A country affiliate of Philip Morris International).

In her previous role, she lead the Consumer Technology vertical for Genesis BCW, managing a varied portfolio of some of the biggest brands across multiple sectors like FMCG, Technology, Corporate & Start-Ups. In addition to this, she was also heading - "Step Up" - a unique offering focused on start-ups in India.

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