This is likely to be an even tougher year for corporate communicators than 2018. Two factors will dictate the environment in which we operate: Brexit and purpose.
The impact of Brexit will affect us in a two distinct ways. First, the ongoing unpredictability of politics makes it incredibly difficult for businesses to plan their comms.
By the time you read this – and depending on your point of view – we could be dealing with any number of new factors: a Conservative leadership challenge, a potential new Prime Minister; a vote of no confidence in the government; another referendum; a national government or an early general election.
Apart from the political implications of all this uncertainty, it eats up media space and attention and means that much of our corporate narrative is seen through the Brexit prism. Com- ing to a clear internal view on where your business will sit within that maelstrom will be critical to how you prepare.
Second, the economic impact, whichever scenario plays out, will affect every business in the UK.
If you have shareholders or stakeholders, communicating the bottom-line impact with extreme care will be vital.
It will be all too easy for individual companies to become the poster child or whipping boy for the success or catastrophe of Brexit. Again, a clear internal view about the tone and content of your comms, and planning accordingly, will be vital.
The uncertainty around politics and the markets’ reaction to Brexit will make purpose all the more resonant for consumers who feel anxious or turned off by politics. Discussion of what purpose means for consumers and companies is not new.
We’ve all been grappling with what the DNA of our clients and businesses is, and how we communicate that in meaningful ways that cut through to audiences who are cynical and demanding at the same time.
I suspect we’ll all be trying to be more Iceland this year. Its campaign with Greenpeace on palm oil was boosted by the Christmas ‘viral’ campaign – 5.4 million YouTube views (80 per cent of Iceland’s video content gets fewer than 10,000); 16 million Facebook views, with 36,000 comments and 687,000 shares; 92,000 retweets; and 100,000 original posts on Twitter, with the video getting 18 million views after a retweet by James Corden. And that’s before you factor in acres of newsprint, and an approving tweet from Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
As well as demonstrating Iceland’s commitment to the issue with follow-up advertising of its palm-oil-free products, the campaign hit its corporate business objectives, too. It grabbed the Christmas ad coverage ahead of its retail colleagues and put the brand on the radar of middle-class, concerned shoppers.
For the rest of us, identifying the thing that sits at the core of our client’s or our business’ purpose, communicating it with flair and creativity, driving reputation and the bottom line, will be 2019’s orangutan-shaped goal.
Michelle Di Leo is managing director of corporate affairs at Newington Communications