Five corporate communications trends to watch next year

AECOM's Paul Gennaro describes the top corporate communications trends he'll keep an eye on in 2013.

Five corporate communications trends to watch next year
When PRWeek invited me to write an article focused on 2013 predictions for corporate communications, I hesitated. My abilities as a prognosticator are best summed up by the fact that each year I am absolutely convinced that it is “the year” for the professional football team that I support, yet they have not won a championship in my lifetime and their record this season is 4-10 as I write this article.

However, even a broken clock is right twice a day. So, I'll take a shot.

There are four trends that I believe are highly likely to continue in 2013 and one emerging trend that I think will gain significant momentum. All five impact the work that we do in corporate communications.

First, I believe the global economy will continue to be a mixed bag of positives and negatives – with uncertainty as the only sure thing. This will require all of us – internal, external, financial communications, etc. – to be very agile as situations evolve.

Second, there is nothing to suggest that there will be a change in the partisan legislative mood in the United States. This is the prediction that I would most like to be wrong about, but I fear that DC in 2013 will be the sequel to DC in 2012. The potential fiscal cliff, debt-ceiling debates, and the impacts of new laws and regulations should make for lots of work for corporate communications professionals of all disciplines.

Third, I believe the overall results of the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer might level off after alarming declines last year for trust in government, business, and NGOs. That said, leveling off at a low trust level is less than optimal. Internal communication strategies that foster ethical business cultures and engage staff, along with external communication programs that emphasize ethics as a differentiating brand attribute, could help rebuild trust. Look for more communications counsel from the Ethisphere Institute, which annually ranks the World's Most Ethical Companies – and has just established a Communications Advisory Board – in 2013.

Fourth, I think that the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) will continue to grow as a brand differentiator. The results of the 13th Annual Harris Poll Reputation Quotient study last February noted the increasing influence of the social responsibility dimension. While definitions for CSR tend to vary by company or industry, sustainability, volunteerism, and philanthropy are all differentiators that we can leverage in building our brands, internally and externally.

Fifth, I believe that we will see continued momentum around the New Model for Corporate Communications that was introduced by the Arthur W. Page Society this year. If we accept that the four trends noted above are likely to continue in 2013, the “New Model” – which emphasizes areas such as “belief,” “character,” and “trust” – would seem like a logical path forward for corporate communications professionals.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and safe new year.

Paul Gennaro is SVP of corporate communications and CCO at AECOM.

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