A global reflection on the transformation of Communication

By Silvia Arto, Vice President of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, Chair of the European Regional Council.

How is our profession transforming? I’m not going to draw you a picture of the current situation: pandemic, war, inflation, purchasing power and climate issues. This affects governments, organisations, companies, and of course, the communication industry. What are the main trends impacting our profession and how can we adapt to them? We need to stay knowledgeable about the transformation of communication.

At the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communications Management, the biggest professional organisation representing more than 350 000 practitioners in 126 countries, we have launched global surveys, reflections and studies to analyze the challenges impacting us and how to address them. We have observed that, no matter where you are in the world, our sector faces the same issues. I will share 5 of them with you and I invite you to think about them:

1. The new tech world

The positive thing about Covid is that it pushed all organisations to accelerate digitalisation. We needed to adapt quickly. But in terms of communications we have still much to do in order to master these new digital technologies. For example, digital events. Of course, they allow us to reach much larger audiences easier than with physical ones. But our challenge is not only to keep people’s full attention in front of the screen, but until the end of our events. Also, we need to look at how to develop collaboration, friendliness and networking in a digital framework as efficiently as in real life. I think that the answer is related to interactivity, dynamism and innovation with new shorter formats which are not a copy-paste from on-site events.

Another aspect of our new tech world is the Metaverse. This meta-universe or virtual world will certainly have a real impact on science, education, culture and entertainment. What has been done so far is not as impactful as expected, but even if it is impossible to predict the future of the metaverse, some brands have already started to sell their products and services in this virtual e-space. The challenge here is to create an integrated, immersive and playful shopping experience where the virtual and real worlds merge into a single reality for the benefit of the client and the organisation.

Finally, I will mention Artificial Intelligence and the multimedia synthesis techniques which have been developed as new ways of conveying our messages.

The communication industry needs experts who know how all this new tech can help companies maximise the impact of our messages and better connect with our audiences. This will be part of the transformation of communication.

2. Data

Data is the new fuel for companies, key to reduce costs and increase operational efficiency. It has become essential for their innovation and competitiveness.

I’m speaking here about the compilation of data, including the quality, management and analysis of that data. This is necessary to launch relevant and personalised offers, automated services and to make accurate measurements. The implementation of accurate KPIs to measure the impact of advertising and social media campaigns is quite generalized in our industry but when it comes to Internal Communications, it’s not that democratized yet. Comm professionals need to understand Data and master how to use it to prove the impact of their work. Using data more skillfuly will be integral to the transformation of communication.

4. Ethics

I’m speaking about ethics in general but Social Media in particular. The beauty of Social Networks is that they allow a globalization of exchange, connection with our audiences and remain a great source of information. But it’s also a counter-power. It has the power to do or undo reputation in one single click. This is true in times of political elections, crises, war… where disinformation, manipulation and propaganda are common place in web networks. We have clearly seen this in the current Russia/Ukraine conflict.

There are different examples of non-ethical communication techniques like fake news, deepfakes, racist and sexist chatbots brought about by the discriminatory biases in algorithms created by humans. And Astroturfing, this increasing phenomenon where fake crowd effects are created technologically in order to guide public opinion.

It has become key to know how to spot, analyze and counter-attack these non-ethical techniques to maintain trust and reputation on a long-term basis. Trust and Reputation are strategic issues for companies. Ethics must always be at the heart of our actions: integrity, objectivity, honesty. Make these central to the transformation of communication.

4. New ways of consuming and working

In terms of new ways of consuming, you know all about the current trends: social shopping, sharing, second hand, circular market, responsible and authentic purchases … these new needs of clients must be understood and addressed by Comms people.

But I would like to highlight the impact of remote working and the increasing distance it has created between companies and employees. A major current stake for companies nowadays concerns office attractiveness and employee retention. How do we maintain collaboration, motivation and a sense of belonging when people are at home most of the time? According to a prestigious French economic newspaper, 1 young professional out of 2 refuses long term commitment to a company. Young employees search for a balanced professional and personal life, the sense and utility of their action, sharing and collaborating with a team, being connected digitally or in cosy e-spaces. Actually, I am certain that this concerns not only young people but everyone in a company. As managers and HR leaders, we need to transform ourselves with authenticity and adapt our organisations to address these new employee needs.

5. Positive impact

I’m highly convinced that companies have a key role to play in contributing to the fight against global warming and social issues. This is not only on a government level, as clients and employees now also prefer to buy products from, and work with, responsible companies. This is why communication is key to promote the positive action and commitment of organisations. It is all about purpose and responsible leadership to achieve the transformation of communication

According to these 5 challenges, what is the evolution of the Comms profession?

From my point of view, the answer is preparation and experience. Communication is a function held by well-prepared and experienced professionals who create value for companies and are at the core of their strategies.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

(You can read Silvia Alto’s original article for the Global Alliance here: “A global reflection on the transformation of Communication“.)

Silvia Alto’s impressive credentials
  • BNP Paribas,  France econd largest bank in Europe with 190,000 employees in 2022 and revenue of 46 billion Euros reported in 2021. Looks like the bank recognizes the vital role of communication in every operational area.]

Further thoughts

Let us not forget the importance of the human factor in all this. You can read my view on this topic in my article: “Real human connections remain the most important at work“.

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