When the date changed at midnight and the year 2021 began, even with all our cynicism and weariness from the year gone by, a frisson of hope moved through many of us. A hope that 2021 will be different, better, than 2020. With the promise of the vaccine, the worst possibly behind us, and the economy showing glimmers of recovery, the hope was well-founded. However, there is a lot of work to be done to bring that hope alive. For us communicators, it is going to be doubly so, as we support not just our own industry but our clients’ as well, as they navigate this year and the expectations that it brings. So what will be the focus areas? How do we maximise the promise of recovery? What will be the communications imperatives this year?
Digital at the forefront
This year, we will continue to build on the leaps we took in digital. Within digital, while the thrust on video storytelling will continue, audio will be especially under the spotlight, with podcasts and platforms like Clubhouse emerging as the new favourites. At a deeper level, while technologies like AI, AR/VR have been buzzwords for a long time, they are now becoming part of the communicator’s repertoire.
The biggest shift that has happened, however, is that we—clients and consultancies both—are all thinking digital first. Partly that was also because there has been massive digitisation on the media front. The churn that happened last year led many publications to go into a digital-only mode. And of course, because of all this consumption patterns have changed for good. From news to education, entertainment to interaction, shopping to business—everything has gone through the digital wringer. This shift is, therefore, here to stay.
Authentic and purposeful communication
One of the few welcome outcomes of the pandemic has been that we are finally beginning to move away from the ‘fake news era’ to the ‘authenticity era’. Consumers gravitated towards brands that focused on doing rather than selling. Whether it was Sleepwell helping set up the beds in the largest Covid facility in India or Gillette supporting barbers through the lockdown, brands that aligned with their purpose garnered more respect than those merely talking, or worse, were tone-deaf. Purpose-led creativity—where brands communicate with a big idea based on human insight and aligned to their purpose—is set to replace purpose-washing.
Taming the many-headed dragon called crisis
When the pandemic began, not just one or two but many of our clients faced crises on many fronts. From supply issues to employees contracting COVID, to issues with lockdown regulations, and more. Those that were prepared—even if it wasn’t for a pandemic—were able to resolve the crisis faster. They had protocols in place for managing crises in general, which they could quickly adapt to deal with whatever came their way. But there were many who hadn’t prepared for any crisis. This year, even as businesses prepare for recovery, it will also be important to fill the gaps in crisis preparedness.
Engaging with the most important stakeholder
The importance of their own people has never been more pronounced for businesses. Employees have had to overnight move to remote work, in some cases reduced salaries, exceedingly long hours in the face of anxiety, uncertainty, and fear for their own and their family members’ health. It has been an exhausting time for them. But things haven’t gone back to normal. With businesses trying to work towards recovery, the pressure is on the employees to perform. Also, with offices reopening, many businesses are moving towards hybrid work models—employees working partly from home and partly from office. This will mean a different kind of engagement model from either an all-work-from-home or all-office situation. Employee communication will, therefore, continue to be a focus area.
Nurturing an innovation and growth mindset
If we have to achieve all that we are setting out to do, there are two mental switches we have to flick—an ability to think innovatively and a growth mindset. As organisations, we must create an environment that is open and accepting of curiosity, new thinking, and a will to challenge the status quo. Some of our services like Step Up (startup-focused communication) were created because of that approach. Focus on learning, mentoring, and encouraging an open, positive and engaging culture will be important.
There is no doubt in my mind that 2021 is going to be as tough as, if not tougher than 2020. We have our work cut out for us in getting things back on track, for ourselves and our clients. Some structural shifts have happened and some more are in the process. What will help us through this is agility, collaboration and creativity.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com
Authored by Deepshikha Dharmaraj, Genesis BCW.
First published on exchange4media.com. You can read the article here.