If these unprecedented times have taught us anything, it’s the importance of authentic, humane communication. Adapting to different communication channels as the ‘new normal’ set in, has evolved into a new pattern. It poses one very relevant question – to what extent will this period influence how brands interact and communicate, going forward?
The pandemic has revolutionised, or to be precise, ‘virtualised’ the way we communicate. With remote work, distance learning and virtual socialising, Covid-19 led to increased use of digital or virtual communications, which has opened up new possibilities and opportunities – of interaction (both at work and in our personal lives).One thing is clear – you should prioritise communication as a key business goal – in order to the retain trust and maintain the relationships, you’ve built over time.
Today, when brands are finding one way or the other to cope, a great, planned Public Relations (PR) approach could definitely be the need of the hour for businesses and organisations.
“It’s definitely complex,” commented Brad Staples, CEO of APCO Worldwide as he waxed eloquent on “How Public Affairs will look like in the New Normal”. There’s disparity and distortion for we are finding ourselves inundated by billionaires, he explained; plus recession is upon us and global growth will descend as every week economists are downgrading their expectations. We need to address these challenges, as inflation will be 8.3% this year. In this context, he noted that India is well placed today but will face challenges too.
Countries are dragging their feet as far as climate change goes and there is a ‘disconnect’ as people don’t feel, plus you can see the anger that is troubling the globe. “You feel a distorted reality on social media,” he remarked.Covid has broken and remade trade relations. And alternatively, in India, he pointed out that there is great progress.
Redefining the future is key
Businesses are looking at ways to “redefine their future”. The relationship between employers and employees have been reset and a totally mobile workforce has come up. “Things are changing and evolving,” he observed and added that “global politics and business are intertwined in a way we never thought would happen!”
International trade and business have become “weaponised”. CEOs and business leaders are used as tools, as proxy for decision makers to get what they want in a global context. Referring to Nancy Pelosi’s (Speaker of the US House of Representatives) Taiwan visit he said – “Western business and American business will bear the brunt for this political move”. Highlighting leadership engagement at this time of unexpected challenges, he felt that leaders find themselves in no-win situations and this is manifest in US, UK and even in India. So, he shed light on the social and geopolitical complexities of today, and the glaring need for CEOs to be equipped to respond to changes and challenges.
Navigate without running aground
Public Affairs (that’s fundamental to business), will be pulled apart as a primary tool to manage business, was the insight he shared. So, where is a company going to make a difference? Have keen access to information and present it smartly; bring senior leaders in regular contact with publics, and also stretch out to build alliances and partnerships. “This is a great moment to relook at corporate values and ESG activities. We have to navigate very narrow channels on issues without running aground. This is the new normal,” was his viewpoint.
As Ramya Rajagopalan, Head of Communications & Diversity, Siemens India, interacted with Brad, she stated that if there’s a time to be in Public Affairs it is now. So, if anyone wants to shift to Public Affairs, what is needed? The biggest challenge is to build confidence and to give advice, and also do active listening to give insights in a smart way, was his quick repartee.
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