Survey shows communication professionals will be at the epicentre of organisational strategy over the next 12 months

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A survey of communication professionals across 21 industries has shown businesses are making changes to the way they operate post-COVID.

As someone who works in communications, this comes as no surprise.

It seems COVID-19 has shone the spotlight on the need for communications strategy improvements, with enhanced connections with both employees and customers at the forefront of many businesses’ minds.

The report, produced by media and data company Isentia and the International Association of Business Communicators for the Asia/Pacific Region (IABC APAC), looked at industries across the Asia-Pacific region with 30% of respondents hailing from Australia.

The highest number of respondents came from the marketing and communications industry (19%), followed by government (13%), healthcare and lifesciences (9%) and then financial and professional services (8% and 7% respectively). Communications professionals from the technology, telecommunications and media, and transport and logistics industries were also surveyed. 

COVID changing the way we operate

The global pandemic has shown how important it is to communicate in a way that is compassionate when so many people are struggling.

Communications professionals reported that as industries shifted to the ‘new normal’, which included increased outsourcing and remote working, there would be a need for enhanced communications.

These communications will be frequently targeted towards a diverse audience across multiple channels with a focus on empathy and clarity.

It’s evident that concise and compassionate customer communications during these times have enabled companies to make a deeper connection to their client base than those businesses that have carried on as normal. 

As the world changes, businesses need to adapt in order to keep up, and if they can communicate clearly, while also maintaining their creativity to encourage customer engagement, they will weather the storm.

Communications vital for customer experience, marketing and strategy

The report showed communications professionals would be in high demand over the coming 12 months, with many organisations saying they will be the glue behind marketing and customer experience collaborations.

The coronavirus also put crisis resolution and community engagement in the spotlight, and communications teams will continue to improve on these processes while working closely with IT departments to improve digital processes. 

Survey participants also noted the need for digital transformation, perhaps brought on by the increased use of technology during COVID lockdowns. 

A business’s brand is only as good as its reputation

The survey also showed brand reputation is a top communication priority for the next 12 months. 

The challenges thrown at businesses throughout 2020 have proved companies with consistent communication and high stakeholder engagement are faring better through the pandemic than those that haven’t focused on these areas.

The industries surveyed say they plan to enhance and maintain brand reputation, so customers continue to feel satisfied with their products and services.

The report showed that while brand reputation was the top communication priority for businesses, elements like content strategy, employee engagement, leadership communication and internal communications followed close behind. 

Understanding the importance of employer-employee relationships

Employer-employee relationship building also seemed to be at the forefront of many businesses’ minds as they look at enhancing their company reputation and culture in a post-COVID world.

It seems that with the rise in remote working, companies have realised how important it is to maintain team building exercises and strong employee relationships when staff aren’t necessarily seeing their colleagues face-to-face each day.

Communications professionals surveyed said they would be focusing on technology to improve the relationships with both their employees and their customers over the next 12 months.

The businesses also recognised the need to enhance employer-employee relationships in order to improve company customer and brand behaviour. 

Ways to improve employee engagement

So how do these companies increase their employee engagement? In my experience, there are some simple measures that can enhance internal engagement quickly and effectively. 

Firstly, it’s important to understand what it is your employees need. 

A simple process for this is an anonymous survey to glean how your staff are feeling. Following this information, targeted eDMs can be crafted to communicate consistently with your team while delivering them the tools to boost morale. 

If used well, intranets are also a great way to allow employees to stay on top of everything they need. It gives staff a space to easily share information, congratulate each other for a job well done, and swiftly collaborate while sharing feedback on projects.

Most importantly, it makes larger organisations feel a lot smaller, giving them a ‘community vibe’ even when staff may number in the thousands.

Fun can be injected into reaching company milestones as well. A little gamification tied to KPIs can go a long way towards team building. Hosting monthly contests where team members who reach certain targets are placed at the top of a leaderboard can create healthy competition within teams and improve company results.

Strong focus on company-run media channels

As brand strengthening exercises are implemented, it becomes evident that many companies need to focus on their own media channels. 

This was reflected in the survey, where communications professionals said social media will be their biggest focus when it comes to media channels, followed by their own websites and then news and press channels. 

The emphasis on company-owned channels shows businesses are stepping away from more traditional media routes and instead putting their energy into places where they can completely control the narrative they communicate to their audience. 

This move also reflects the current economic climate where many businesses are operating with tighter marketing budgets.

Communication is the key to surviving the pandemic

The survey showed that many industries are realising how important planned communications are when it comes to surviving difficult times. 

By communicating clearly and empathetically throughout the pandemic, companies will not only be able to continue to survive but they can also thrive.

Brand reputation can only be enhanced when both a business’s customers and its employees feel informed and acknowledged throughout the journey, no matter how challenging it might be.

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