The past two years have been nerve-racking, to say the least. While Covid-19 threatened to—and nearly did—throw us off-track, we managed to stay the course with ingenuity and innovation, as the entire business came together to adapt to new ways of working.
Global consultancy heads surveyed for ICCO and PRovoke Media’s World PR Report were overwhelmingly optimistic about the sector’s growth in 2022, with expectations for a more profitable year rising by almost 50% compared to the previous year’s report. This buoyancy was further evidenced by an astonishing 95% of respondents expecting an increase in client income.
So we defied the worst, but will our resilience and creativity be enough to thrive in this fast-moving and fractured world?
We know from our our latest Brands in Motion report, “The Bravery Mandate,” that the expectation that brands provide stability is rising, but perceived impact remains flat. Audiences want brands to help but aren’t convinced that they’re delivering. And for communicators, the work starts now. The road ahead calls for more inclusive work policies, a deeper commitment to sustainability and greater adoption of technology.
Build strength from within
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is the importance of human vulnerability and the need to invest more in the human aspects of work. According to “The Bravery Mandate,” employee well-being is the most important issue that needs to be addressed by employers. Employees are tired. They demand more autonomy and flexibility at work. Others want a renewed sense of purpose, and many crave interpersonal connections with their colleagues. In short, they want to feel valued by their organisations.
Unless we champion the welfare of our workforce and appreciate the value of their contribution, we stand to lose what lies at the very heart of our work—our people.
Double down on ESG goals
At the same time, businesses must act to ensure that environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals are more than just a buzzword. “The Bravery Mandate” found that 71% of respondents felt that brands have an obligation to engage with global issues such as climate change.
Brands that “walk the talk” have an opportunity to showcase their authenticity and impact. As their strategic partners, it will be a key communication priority to help brands create an authentic purpose legacy by building on their core promise and making deep and sustained investments in the issues their stakeholders care about most.
Own the technology space
Technology is going to become bigger and take on a greater role in communication strategies. AI, Robotic Process Automation and advanced analytics are already creating ripples across the entire value chain. Roles such as ‘Consumer Insights Analyst’, ‘Social Engagement Manager’, ‘Data Evangelists’ will become mainstream. In the future, communications functions must build their core around technology, and not remain limited to being a support function.
That said, we must never forget that PR is fundamentally about human relationships and our ability to tell a human story. The art of storytelling with emotions will remain core to PR, and technological advancements can’t replace that.
Difficult issues will keep arising. Today it is COVID-19, tomorrow it could be something else. The way forward is to operate not with fear but curiosity and openness to change. The PR profession not only has a powerful voice, but it also has the means to amplify it. Now is the time to operate with boldness, show up with honesty, and act on our values and convictions over the long term.
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.
This article was first published in the PRAXIS 2022 special edition print magazine of Reputation Today.