Autumn is a time for renewal and hibernation. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we need to take the time to allow for this to be true now more than ever before.
As PR and comms leaders we have a duty of care, not only to our industry but to the wider audiences we serve, to communicate change effectively and sensitively. One of the problems we may face is a lack of public and cultural sensitivity in our language; this is particularly true for those of us who work with consumer-facing clients.
The brands that have managed to maintain a trusted reputation during this time are those that have been paying attention to their consumer base and undertaken active social listening. We are in an era of heightened consumer consciousness – we have seen this through the increased energy surrounding civil and social rights for Black communities around the world. Consumers are paying more attention to social justice issues and the true impact of the ESG activities brands have said they have in place because, for the most part, many of them have been at home during lockdown.
With more confined time to pay attention to these issues, consumers are picking up on the language used by corporations, institutions and brands, and it’s up to us to take note of how we represent the clients and companies we work with.
A good example of this is terms like “the new normal” (I discussed this not so long ago on the What Now? podcast). With so much media attention on going back to work, are we enabling this sense of pressure in the midst of confusing messaging from the Government?
How can we make sure that our clients communicate compassionately to their customers in a way that is enlightening and informative, as well as ensuring that the messages are backed up internally?
We have seen what happens when brands and corporations focus on external communications but are not upholding internally the values they present to their customers.
Employees must be part of the communications flow, too, during this season, especially since more and more are ready to speak openly about their experiences of working in organisations that say one thing and do another.
There is also a risk of relying too heavily on only one way of communicating. We have seen, for example, that Zoom fatigue is real – stakeholders were already getting tired of using videoconferencing. As lockdown eases, though, we need to find a way to maintain creative communication channels without feeling the need to lose lessons we’ve learnt from this era and simply rush back to boardrooms.
But one of the most exciting things to look forward to in this season is an openness and willingness to work with new and dynamic thinkers and doers. Autumn is a time to renew and shake off habits that no longer serve us, maintain the status quo and restrict the industry from being bolder.
Ronke Lawal is the founder of Ariatu PR