A lot is made of the way the role of business communications has changed in recent years. While not every change has been critical, it cannot be ignored that major global factors are now at play and have developed to influence the way in which companies and organisations are doing business – and consequently having to adapt to remain successful.
These changes in turn affect our roles as senior communicators. The economic, technological and social and cultural forces which have come together are creating a more complex and uncertain global business environment.
Add to this is the increasing scrutiny which companies come under from a reputational and ethical standpoint and we begin to see the fairly seismic shift communicators have had to contend with in the 21st century.
Research undertaken by a number of organisations shows that trust in governments is at an all-time low.
However, one piece of good news is that the public see companies making strong improvements in how they operate and believe that they have a legitimate role to play in the formulation of regulation, working in conjunction with governments.
Another global force affecting business is the social and cultural changes that are sweeping the world.
We are all acutely aware of many of these in our day to day work. The rise of social media, our 24/7 ‘always on’ culture, and the emergence of generation ‘Y’ as consumers have had a huge effect on the way society now communicates and consumes information, both in private and business circles.
Allied to the social and cultural changes are the rapid advances in technology which individuals struggle to keep pace with, either personally or in a professional capacity.
Geo-location and the identification of real world devices such as mobile phones, the phenomenon of wearable technology such as Google Glass and the huge rise in mobile (which now has 93 per cent worldwide penetration) are all prominent examples of how the emergence of technology has affected the speed and manner in which we process information.
Additionally, with technology becoming ever more pervasive, we now face a myriad of personal privacy and data security issues which in times gone by seemed to only crop up in futuristic sci-fi movies.
Lastly, reputational risk and ethical behaviour also has a major influence on business communications.
The world is now our organisation’s potential audience – not just those we target. Stakeholders pushing back and mobilising resources, investors with less tolerance, NGO’s better organised, more professional and more ruthless; these are all examples of how our audience has evolved – and that’s without customers.
Customers want more for less. And they certainly don’t want horse meat in their convenience meals when they shop at large supermarkets. Dealing with such complicated fallouts means segmenting your audience; dealing with each party individually and ensuring that you practice holistic stakeholder management.
It is clear we as communicators still have plenty of challenges ahead.