2020 corporate communication predictions
By Rowena Crowley
The start of a new year always sparks discussions with clients and colleagues about corporate communications trends. It's human nature to want to know what lies ahead, and in an ever-changing and uncertain world, businesses will naturally want to know where they should focus their energy and budget.
As a digital corporate communications agency, we are privy to the challenges and plans of international listed companies working across a wide range of industries. So, rather than resorting to crystal balls or tea leaves, we're basing our 2020 predictions on what our clients are telling us – we find this approach is slightly more accurate!
Below are the top five trends we predict for 2020:
1) An increasing focus on ESG content
Corporate behaviour is under scrutiny like never before and stakeholders are demanding ever-greater levels of corporate transparency and disclosure. We predict that communicating your environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance will become an even bigger priority in 2020.
As the capital market is starting to recognise that climate risk is an investment risk, ESG criteria are becoming a more mainstream method for investors to evaluate companies, right alongside financial and strategic information. While the requirements for full ESG disclosure have yet to be agreed on a national or international level, companies will move towards demonstrating their ESG credentials by providing information on how they:
- Will benefit from, manage or mitigate risks associated with ESG trends
- Incorporate ESG into their strategy, business model, risk management and governance
- Interact with environmental issues, such as climate change and water scarcity (E)
- Manage relationships with stakeholders e.g. employees, customers, suppliers and communities (S)
- Deal with leadership, board diversity, shareholder rights, executive pay and audits (G)
2) Fine-tuning digital communication for robots
We predict that the primary audience for digital investor communications is no longer just investors and analysts - it's also robots. Trading is increasingly done by algorithms, and robots are influencing the market by buying and selling shares. At the same time, the European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) is a catalyst for a bigger move towards digital reporting, which is in turn is prompting companies to consider how their online investor communications may be interpreted by robots.
Machine learning and automated sentiment analysis can react positively or negatively to a company's tone and use of language and can identify positive or negative opinions in text. Corporate communications teams will adjust their investor communications to perform well with the robot audience, and this will include avoiding the use of evasive or overly negative language.
3) Jumping on the podcast bandwagon
Podcasting has been steadily growing in importance in recent years and we anticipate that more and more corporate communications teams will invest in podcasts this year. Creating and promoting podcasts is an area where clients are increasingly looking for support and it is incredibly likely that this content format will experience the same momentum blogs went through a decade ago.
Two of the key audience groups for podcasts include financial audiences, who want access to the thought leadership of business leaders, and career seekers, who want to learn more about a company's culture. The companies that will succeed with corporate podcasts in 2020 will be the ones that create relevant, topical, and insightful recordings for their audiences. Here’s where we've seen podcasts go wrong:
- Companies that create a podcast channel without having a clear communication strategy or editorial plan, resulting in infrequent podcasts that don't support the company narrative
- Unengaging hosts – just because someone is the head of a corporate communications team does not mean they will be the best person to host their company's podcasts!
- Podcasts that are aimed at too many audiences e.g. employees, career seekers, investors, and the general public – it's best to focus on a core audience to make the topics and tone stay as relevant as possible
- No SEO or Voice SEO (VSEO) strategy – Google recently announced that they will include podcasts in the search results so users can listen to or save podcasts directly from their browsers.
4) Enhancing UX with micro interactions
As consumer digital experiences continue to improve, audiences are increasingly expecting a similar user experience (UX) from corporate websites. While not a new trend, micro-interactions are growing in importance and will play a significant role in 2020 and beyond for corporate websites and apps.
The term refers to the small moments where the user and design interact, such as page transitions, animated banners or visual feedback that indicate a user has made a mistake. When they’re well designed, micro interactions:
- Enhance the user’s experience and direct their attention
- Increase brand awareness of and personality for your brand
- Encourage users to engage with your content
- Make a website experience more memorable and rewarding
5) Employees take centre stage
As public trust in businesses declines, communications teams are having to work hard to accurately and authentically tell their story to corporate audiences. We predict that companies will focus more heavily on employee content to help rebuild trust, including employee stories and imagery (i.e. not stock imagery), upskilling teams to identify content opportunities, and creating brand advocacy programmes.
Social media will be a key channel for this type of content, as companies can have 40 times greater social reach and 8 times greater engagement when employees share content compared to when the same content is posted on company channels. This type of employee content and advocacy will be critical to attract potential talent, but it can also influence audiences such as investors, who look for evidence of a strong corporate culture. Internal communications will be instrumental for this trend, as it can ensure employees are aligned with the corporate strategy and engaged with the business.
Each new year heralds new buzzwords and trends, but feedback from our clients indicates that corporate communications will not see any dramatic changes in 2020. In reality, communications teams often have too few resources, feel like they can barely keep up with audience expectations, and find it hard to cut through the digital noise. This is why we believe companies will focus their efforts on creating high value strategic content and improving digital experiences for their audiences rather than jumping on the latest digital gimmick.
If you would like to get in touch to discuss any of these trends and how you could apply them to your corporate communications, please get in touch!