As 2021 comes to a close, we are looking ahead to 2022 with cautious optimism. While no one can predict what’s ahead after this tumultuous year, we can prepare for the new year given what we are seeing now.
Below, we have identified some trends in communications that we expect to see more of in the coming months.
An increasingly strong link between communications and HR
Under new hybrid and remote work structures, we expect the responsibilities of human resources and communications departments to continue growing. The HR function will have a more prominent seat at the table because retaining employees will be a challenge and priority on the heels of the great resignation. Employers must communicate with an empowered workforce in mind, with the understanding that communication will be a two-way street. However, engagement is not to be feared, it is to be prized, because employees expect it and not engaging them is to risk losing them. To work effectively, HR and communications must collaborate to understand, acknowledge and prioritize employee concerns and respond quickly to major concerns.
ESG becomes essential
On the heels of COP26 and more climate change-related developments around the world, we believe that organizations in all industries must engage in responsible and sustainable business practices. Environmental, social, and corporate governance must be elevated within external and internal communications to assure employees and key stakeholders that the organization is invested in a better future. Dialogue about cultural and social issues, such as the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements, will continue to influence how corporate actions and brands are viewed. In addition, ESG messages must continue to be proactively pushed out as part of regular messaging, marketing and brand identity.
Collaboration with new digital tools
We have seen several large global organizations transition to indefinite remote work and acknowledge that being in the office is not the prerequisite to productivity that it once may have been. Remote work and flexibility will continue to be valued by employees, putting a premium on creative remote collaboration and virtual experiences. As a result, communications teams will have to work closely with IT departments as they continuously experiment with and implement new digital tools to communicate, collaborate and encourage the creative process. Socializing these tools may be half the battle to adoption, and communications will be central to the success of this process.
Content and community will reign supreme
Earned media opportunities will ebb and flow with 24/7 news cycles, forcing marketing teams to invest more in content for paid, shared and owned channels. Companies will increasingly find that authentic, useful and engaging content targeting specific audiences will be key to building stronger brands and cultivating communities. Meaningful, longer-form content can resonate more with consumers who are prepared to spend more time with the content that is relevant to them. Brand managers will strive for building communities that take on engaging lives of their own, while reflecting the company’s culture and mission.
Evolving roles of agencies
While PR agencies have traditionally worked separately from business consultants, and product-development and strategy specialists, many organizations that hire PR agencies have blurred those lines in 2021. As a result, additional agencies, including iQ 360, have begun offering business strategy and management consulting on top of their traditional PR services. We expect to see agencies continue to add new capabilities for their clients in 2022.
Communications teams will find greater opportunities and ways to apply their expertise in the year ahead as the pandemic continues, hybrid and remote work options remain in place and companies respond to ESG concerns. Whether it’s advising the C-suite, or teaming with HR or other functions, communicating with and engaging stakeholders will be more critical than ever as companies adapt and transform themselves in this rapidly changing environment.