Corporations Must Meet This Moment

May 08, 2024
By iQ Staff

Dave Samson, fresh off his role as global vice chairman, corporate affairs at Edelman, recently joined iQ 360 as our chief corporate affairs counsel. We sat down with him to ask the following question.

 

Global tensions are high, climate change is real, a fraught U.S. presidential election is looming and AI is coming for our jobs. How are corporations adapting to thrive, engage and lead against the backdrop of a dynamic and volatile new world order?

 

Dave:  Corporations must meet this moment. The ones that are doing it successfully have many elements in common. Primarily, they lead with transparent stakeholder communications; they engage in continuous stakeholder dialogue; and they use data and analytics to inform their communications and help enable favorable business outcomes.

Take AI; no company can afford to ignore the potential effect it will have on their business. For example, as AI transforms industries, corporations need to address the potential impact on employment and operations. If there is going to be a workforce transformation, there needs to be a plan for this, and it needs to be clearly articulated. Re-skilling programs, and ethical AI use can help mitigate fears and demonstrate leadership and responsibility.

I have always believed this, and its truer today than ever before: culture is king. Corporations need to lead with their core values and purpose beyond profitability and do this consistently. We have moved from an era of commitments and proclamations to an era of accountability and consequences. This applies to climate change, world events and issues that impact regional communities. Especially in turbulent times, communication is critical to earning and maintaining a company’s license to operate.

 

"We have moved from an era of commitments and proclamations to an era of accountability and consequences."

 

I would also add that the norms inside corporations are changing. Corporate functions are now being called on to think and act more strategically and in close coordination with other functions. The technology function used to be called to fix your computer; now it is a key determinant of the enterprise’s success. For in-house communicators, the relationship with IT can no longer be transactional. These functions must work in partnership to advance the interests of the company. HR used to be all about compensation and benefits, now it is tasked with shaping culture and the workforce of the future — and it’s often doing so in partnership with the communications team.

And communications used to issue press releases and publish the employee newsletters. Today it must develop a corporate narrative that can withstand disinformation on a range of media platforms, use data to derive key insights, navigate the pressures of corporate activism and facilitate changes such as remote work, DE&I, AI disruption and much more.

Those functions need to come together — with corporate strategy and other departments — to figure out the long-term effects of what stakeholders are driving for and how this relates to what’s happening in other major sectors — technology, energy, finance, healthcare, manufacturing and so on. They must identify both imminent and future regulatory challenges, then determine the solutions that will best address them. They must understand how our workforce is changing in terms of its composition, values, behaviors and capabilities.

As we discussed earlier, no sector is untouched by AI. Companies must change because AI-based disruptors are here. These disruptors assume they’ll disintermediate current market leaders and capture their customers. Corporate leaders and staff functions must understand this and work together to develop new strategies and implement changes that will keep them competitive. This will drive the need for a corporate affairs approach internally and engagement of smart, agile counselors from the outside.

 

Stay tuned to the iQ 360 blog to hear more from Dave on communicators’ roles in a dynamic world.