Communications Takeaways for 2021

As we conclude the most challenging year that we have ever known, it’s a good time to reflect on communications priorities for 2021.

  1. Be prepared – crises will happen

If we didn’t know it before we do now. Fate is unpredictable and so are the comms challenges we face. The Grenfell Inquiry throws up technical lessons for the industry, but what about PR processes?  Whether it’s a fire, or a global pandemic – the only certainty is that we don’t know when, where or how the next crisis will come.

So, start 2021 with a plan in place. Are managers media trained and spokespeople identified? Are there clear protocols for media/stakeholder management? Is the balance of internal and external comms support, right? Are you prepared for the social media war and able to respond and control messaging across all channels? Reputations are shaped not so much by crises as how we respond to them.

  1. Go digital – the future is now

Village hall exhibitions, long commutes to meetings, and watching hours drift by at Council committees or public inquiries, all seem from another age. 2020 has proved that PINs, Councils and developers, can all deliver effective online consultations, and that key inquiries and meetings can be fully accessible to all.

Digital is not just a temporary alternative, it is a new paradigm-shift transforming communications. Social Media in every aspect of our lives, is reshaping stakeholder communications. All of this points to a more complex communications environment and Companies need a strategy to monitor, respond and campaign on digital platforms.

  1. Be ESG savvy – culture counts

The morphing of CSR into Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is not just a shift of jargon but demonstrates how businesses increasingly need to communicate around values. The social activism of Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter signpost contemporary ‘culture wars’ where social, political and environmental issues have a huge impact on commercial positioning and reputational challenges.

Social Value was ignored by the Planning White paper, but as the new Infrastructure Levy is developed, considerations of how developments deliver social benefits or respond to environmental challenges will be central to planning considerations.

Whilst ESG policies and practices can impact a company’s financial performance, they can also shift the internal culture to attract and retain diverse talent. The lockdown shift towards home working, focussing on employee wellness and mental health issues, the importance of diversity and equality in the workplace – all mean there has never been a more sensitive time for both internal and external corporate communications.

There has never been a better time to review crisis comms and digital engagement strategies and put in place those ESG and internal communications plans that reflect what is a fast-changing commercial environment.

 

This article first appeared in Housebuilder Magazine’s December 2020/January 2021 edition. You can view it here.