2020 has been a wild ride – with twists and turns that make it impossible to see where this journey will end. As a communicator, I can’t think of a more interesting and terrifying time in my career. What role will communicators play in supporting our economic recovery? Of all the changes we’ve made during the pandemic, which ones will stick? To learn more, Argyle surveyed the communicators in our networks on the questions that will shape our future. Here are the top three things we learned:
In crisis, employee communication is key
It’s no surprise that employee communication has been a priority during the pandemic – it’s key to an organization’s response during any crisis and at Argyle, has been critical to our ability to stay engaged with our colleagues across the country. In our survey, 85% of respondents report that communication has become more important in maintaining relationships with employees during the pandemic.
And the messenger might be just as important as the message. Communicators told us that leadership voices are crucial in driving employee engagement with 80% reporting that the frequency of executive comms was very important, especially when compared to pre-pandemic practice. The pressure is on to get it right. In fact, 67% of respondents indicated that the effectiveness of employee communication has become more important.
Why does this matter? Employee engagement has changed, and perhaps for good. The importance, frequency and authenticity of executive communications is the glue keeping organizations together while they are physically apart, and corporate communicators are needed more than ever to provide advice and support.
Communication will matter more in recovery. Employees, customers and stakeholders expect organizations to invest more in communicating with them – and communicators believe organizations will make those investments.
Communication will matter more in recovery
Communication will play a heightened strategic role in many organizations in the post-pandemic environment, as we continue to adapt to uncertain social, work and economic conditions. Our survey found that employees, customers and stakeholders expect organizations to invest more in communicating with them – and communicators believe the organizations will make those investments.
So where will communicators be focusing their efforts to build reputation? The top priorities include employee engagement; executive thought leadership; brand communication; and issues & crisis management.
Why does this matter? Employees aren’t the only audiences with higher expectations for communications. All eyes are on organizations from how they treat their clients, customers and stakeholders to the contributions they are making to their communities. And the world is scrutinizing how organizations act more intensely than ever before. Communicators who help their leaders strengthen these relationships are contributing to the real currency of recovery – reputation.
But there’s risk. Not all communicators have been involved – or are prepared
We were surprised to find that just 42% of communicators have been at the leadership table, involved in planning for reopening and economic recovery – and 24.5% not involved at all. This is a gap, that in our view, poses significant reputational risk to organizations. Just as communication has been a lifeline for organizations throughout the pandemic, clear, frequent and transparent communication will be an essential part of ensuring their publics have confidence in the transition to recovery.
Further, only 30% of respondents feel very prepared to meet the expectations for communication in supporting their organization’s reopening and recovery plan.
Why does this matter? While reputation is an intangible business asset, it has tangible value. And reputation can be risked when communicators, whose job it is to understand the needs of stakeholders and how to engage them credibly, are not involved in business strategic planning or are inadequately prepared to deliver on those plans.
The pandemic caught many organizations by surprise – especially the duration of the lock-down, and its economic fall-out. Our survey raises important questions for communicators, and for the organizations we serve. What is the role of communication in the recovery? How must we shift the strategic function of communications to ensure we deliver value at the leadership table? And how can organizations focus and invest in communications, so they not only survive, but thrive?
Over the next few months, we will be speaking with communications leaders to dig into these questions, understand what they’ve learned and how they’ve adapted on this journey, and discuss what lies ahead for their organizations.
About the Author:
Roanne Argyle leads the Corporate and Public Affairs Practice (CPA) at Argyle. An award-winning communicator, her work intersects the disciplines of public engagement and corporate communications. Under her leadership, Argyle’s CPA team helps clients listen, learn, communicate, and engage in dialogue through multiple channels – resulting in better decision-making, more reputable businesses, and stronger trust between organizations and their stakeholders.
The Reopening to Revival online survey was conducted during the month of June 2020. It is based on the feedback from 128 respondents representing both Agency and In-house communicators. The findings are qualitative and not-statistically accurate.