Deepshikha Dharmaraj, Chief Executive Officer, Genesis BCW
As the annus horribilis draws to a close, everyone is looking forward to 2021 as the year the world will recover, heal and get back to ‘normal’—whatever normal might come to mean. In the communications industry, it has been a hectic year. Given its multi-stakeholder approach, public relations and communications has been the discipline of choice for many companies wanting to keep their diverse target audiences engaged through this challenging period. It has also been, as WPP CEO Mark Read mentioned, a time when decades of innovation have had to be crunched into a few months.
For us, there have been many take-aways and things to be thankful for—the fact that we could work-from-home seamlessly and could swiftly move towards helping our clients to adapt to a world of virtual communications, the fact that our teams went above and beyond in terms of hard work, effort, ingenuity and creativity in their work, and the fact that we had each other as well as our global teams to count on for everything, from ideas to expertise, emotional support to learning and development, and more.
In the coming year, things are already looking up. Hope brought in by the vaccine success, learnings from this year and imperatives for growth have helped us identify our focus areas for 2021.
Pushing the pedal on digital acceleration
One of the biggest shifts that has happened is, of course, in the use of technology and digital. This shift is here to stay. From data-led insights to online reputation and social media management to emerging technologies like AI, AR, VR, etc, to creative content to measurement—technology will be the enabler. A by-product of that is an increase in the demand for audio-visual storytelling that can be consumed digitally, given that several newspapers were hit. Currently, digital is the only way to connect with multiple stakeholders, but even when things get better, this will have been an irreversible change. There will continue to be clients that will prefer a mix of digital and traditional, of course, and we will need to be agile to address that. Investment in digital transformation (DX) will be critical. Upskilling and training in new areas like the ones just mentioned is also something we should be ready to put our resources in.
There definitely continues to be a learning curve in the area of digital. So an upskilling in that is necessary. In our case, upskilling is a continuous way of life under our Genesis BCW School of Learning. We have also been collaborating closely with our colleagues in BCW and WPP for best practices and learnings from across the world and across disciplines.
Purpose and creativity at the core
Another thing that the pandemic has taught us—which was certainly relevant before, but somehow used to get lost in the race for immediate goals—is applying purpose-led creativity in our communications. In the coming year, this is going to be even more important. We will have to base our ideas on an actual human insight that aligns with the brand’s purpose. Consumers are not going to be swayed by just clever, click-bait ideas. If you want the brand connect to be sustainable and convert into brand love, you have to find the right insight to connect with and focus more on doing rather than saying.
Harnessing employee power
For us as well as for our clients, the primary concern was clearly on ensuring employee well-being, motivation and productivity. For us, on an internal front, this meant all aspects of our people’s work and life—from enabling them to quickly switch to work from home, to ensuring consistent communication to ongoing support on a day to day basis on all aspects of employee experiences, and ultimately to really being there for them when they went through mental or physical lows. On the external front, that meant amping up our employee communications service offering to support our clients in engaging better with their people. As organizations look to recover their revenues and growth trajectory, they will need the support of their teams more than ever. That can only happen if they feel pride and an alignment with the organization’s vision.
Preparing for future crises
This was one of the most important services that kicked in very early for us. We had to quickly get into action and predict scenarios and prepare mitigation plans with them. Learnings from this year will fuel the scenarios and trainings for the coming year. Companies will need to ensure their preparedness is updated so that they are never caught off-guard again.
No growth without a growth mindset
Above all, there has to be a growth mindset—curious, constructive, creative and canny. For innovation to happen we need to be open to change, curious about what is possible, constructive and creative in our approach and canny about the developments around us so that we can adapt quickly. And if innovation happens, can growth be far behind?
It is very natural to dismiss 2020 for all the negatives it brought us. What I would want to take into 2021 is the way it has made us think differently, collaboratively, inventively and empathetically. We can do with a lot more of that.
First published on medianews4u.com. You can read it here.