How COVID-19 forces us to rethink comms
I recently had the opportunity to moderate a roundtable for our client FreeAgent on the future of AI and accounting. There were some outstanding panelists who shared their views, including the CEOs of Mettle, FCSA and FreeAgent. Needless to say, a great part of the debate focused on how the industry was going to look post-COVID in the new economic and social world order.
A few areas of particular interest, which have a direct impact on how companies should think about their comms strategy during this unprecedented time, included:
It’s clear that COVID has significantly changed mindsets for two reasons. Firstly, because of the unprecedented impact on the economy and society which has made people realise that more needs to be done to protect our society so this doesn’t happen again – or at least that we are better prepared for the next big event. Secondly, because many of us have had more time than ever to reflect on and analyse the goals and vision that a company stands for. In many cases, it has been a catalyst for realising the purpose-driven business: the fact that a company stands for something more than just selling stuff.
The second trend is that COVID has re-enforced the importance of the collective and that bigger things can only be achieved through collaboration rather than the individual. Whether it’s tackling crime, protecting entrepreneurs or solving the climate crisis, we are likely to see new forms of collaborations – potentially even more coopetition with rivals working together.
The third observation is that the adoption of some technologies will be fast-tracked and more influential post-COVID mainly due to two trends. Firstly, having to adapt to a 24/7 virtual environment has meant that we’ll be using more collaborative and visual technologies. The likes of Zoom is the obvious one but many people have also re-discovered AR and VR to give a real-life feel to events and products. Secondly, the removal from the physical world and the pressure to deliver on a much tighter time scale means that automation and AI are being used increasingly to save people time and enable them to re-engineer their businesses and adapt to the world that COVID has thrown them in.
The future of the office
The final observation is the work environment and the role of the office once people return to their jobs. Most people have adapted to remote working (it’s not like they had another choice) and some have even thrived on it. Once the office doors open again, remote working will become a natural place of ‘world of work 3.0.’ Both companies and people have seen that the days of 9–5, 24/7 at your desk belong to the past. Governments’ potential introduction of staggered work times will further shape the new flexible working structure.
So what does this outlook mean for comms? There are three areas that are key to consider:
1. Tone of voice
As part of the COVID self-reflection, all companies need to look at the tone of how they communicate. It needs to be in tune with the new world order mentality that organisations have a greater societal responsibility – perhaps more than they thought they had. Anything that lacks purpose and objectivity will be short-lived.
2. Collaborative mindset
As the industry is getting more collaborative, every organisation needs to think about where it fits into the ecosystem, how it can expand it and what new partnerships it should consider. Starting to communicate with partners – existing and new – should happen sooner rather than later.
In the new world of work, remote and flexible working will take a central role. Getting the infrastructure, guidelines and policies in place will be the easy part. The biggest challenge will be to have the right foundation of trust between employers and employees. Knowing that each member of the organisation has the responsibility to make it work is key and that’s a strategy and philosophy that needs to be built and communicated now.
Once we emerge from COVID, much will have changed. No doubt that many people and organisations will go back to old habits but it would be a shame not to have learned the important lessons this painful period has taught us.