City and corporate comms: Predictions for 2018

It's time to move beyond 'Brexit mode' to focus on proactive reputation management, brand behaviour and millennials as rounded people.

It is just as impossible in January 2018 to ignore Brexit as it was in January 2017 and even 2016, although God knows many of us might like to. Likewise, global markets remain jittery and, for the UK, economic predictions are all gloomy. Corporate comms professionals can safely expect the nervousness this set of issues brings to businesses and executives to continue as we crash through the one-year-to-Brexit barrier in March before careening off into, well, who knows what.

All this political, economic and social uncertainty has been in play for two years and promises to continue. What matters now is to move beyond defensive planning, war-gaming and impact assessments to get back wholeheartedly to proactive reputation management with a clear view of the longer term.

It may feel like much of the corporate world is remaking itself or being remade, but much of it isn’t. Those latter parts now need much more attention.

From performance to behaviour

While the temptation will be to focus on the external environment, comms teams ignore the internal one at their peril. Over the past few years, scrutiny has shifted and now rightly includes behaviour as much as it does performance. The end is not in sight, and that means asking harder, more probing questions about culture, how an organisation operates from the inside, and how that affects the promises brands make to customers, shareholders and other stakeholders.

Meanwhile, even simplified – and most are not – supply chains still house all kinds of risk. Add to that data breaches, hacking, or workforce restructuring and the list of issues corporate comms professionals are facing can rarely have been so daunting, nor the need to tackle them so pressing.

Start treating millennials seriously

Millennial may be the most overused word in the media over the past five years. To read about them you would think this is a group composed solely of self-involved hipsters who can’t concentrate and spend all their money on craft beer and street food.

This needs to stop. In the US, five out of six babies are now born to millennial mothers. Even Parliament has a couple of dozen millennials on its green benches. Those in their late thirties now hold positions of serious influence in marketing, comms and operational roles right into the C-suite.

Corporate affairs must give more serious thought to communicating with this group. That means rethinking content formats and digital distribution and adapting practice radically.

If it challenges regulators and other entrenched interests: good.

Final thought: everyone who becomes an adult in 2018 will have been born in the year 2000. Now there’s an audience to worry about understanding.

Matt Bright is managing director of financial and professional at Hill+Knowlton Strategies UK

Thumbnail image ©ThinkstockPhotos

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