By Angela Howarth

As 2021 ends, and the festive virtual fun continues, I’m starting to think about themes for our communications research in 2022.  The EACD collaborates with the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) on the annual European Communications Monitor. This annual Europe wide research delves into the big current challenges of strategic communications.

The 2021 survey explored CommTech and digital infrastructure, video-conferencing for stakeholder communications, future roles for communication professionals, strategic issues, and characteristics of excellent communication departments.

These themes are still relevant today.  But there are many challenges we in the profession are facing, such as the constant cycle of recruitment, more emphasis on inclusivity and continued working from home.  Our reliance on digital infrastructure is increasing.  Teams must be ever more creative in campaigns to grab attention and find ways to drown out digital noise. Here are three themes I’ve been thinking about for 2022.

Theme: digital infrastructure

Having started a new role at the beginning of the pandemic, over the last 20 months, like many of my colleagues at home and across Europe I’ve been mainly working from my kitchen table.  Finally, this month, I was able to get the right people in a room together for a PR strategy planning workshop. The conversation was much more fluid, it was a productive session as the team bounced ideas off each other and there were no digital interruptions.  The time flew by, and we achieved our goal.

Alas, as the pandemic continues the chances of regularly getting the right people in the room are slim.   Our profession demands technology to facilitate collaboration with work patterns transformed into a mixture of home/office/on-the go.  The immediate future looks set to be a combination of virtual calls, working from home with a hint of office.  Therefore our digital infrastructure must facilitate team collaboration and connection.

Theme: video conferencing for stakeholder communications

One of my big 2021 highlights was attending the biggest environment event in the calendar, COP26 in Glasgow.  Despite pandemic restrictions, over 40,000 people from across the world got to network, enjoy the Scottish hospitality, and witness Greta Thunberg’s frustration.   Initially, it was overwhelming to be with so many people.  An assault on the senses.  I met with colleagues for the first time, although we’d been collaborating online for months.  Our events at COP were in a small space with a 20/30 strong audience in the room, plus over 100 people online.

The audience for events can be amplified through a combination of virtual and in person.  There’s a place for both and the combination puts even more emphasis on a slick facilitator, to ensure everyone has enough airtime and one voice doesn’t dominate.  It’s also about coaching speakers to be comfortable and use the technology to demonstrate their points or invite engagement.

Virtual events have removed geographical barriers, as long as the technology is in place – we at the EACD ran a whole series of online events open to all our members and we’ll continue to do the same for 2022.  Video conferencing is here to stay for stakeholder communications, and we have the technology, when it works!

Theme: making our people feel valued

Keeping staff engaged and growing in their roles is a challenge as the pandemic has contributed to a growth in the job market. Job seekers are now demanding their wish lists and companies are in a constant cycle of recruitment.  Being digitally literate is also crucial.  I’ve found myself being coach and counsellor to all sorts of colleagues and stakeholders throughout the last 20 months – as well as doing my day job. Sometimes colleagues just need an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on or a giggle to lighten the mood.

That fine line between work and our own personal lives has blurred so much.  Work life balance can be hard to strike.  Company purpose and culture can contribute to keeping employees engaged.  Making employees feel valued and recognising their contribution is evermore an ongoing theme as we strive to develop the future communications leaders.

What are your hot topics for strategic communications in 2022? 

The themes for the 2022 European communications monitor are currently being developed and the survey will launch soon.  What are the hot topics you are facing?  What themes would you like to see the EACD cover in our events and conversations?  Get in touch

 


Angela Howarth is Group Director of marketing Communications at Energy Saving Trust whose mission is to address the climate emergency.  Angela is based in London & a member of the EACD board.