One of the key success drivers for corporate online communication in a VUCA world is companies’ ability to quickly adapt to change and have the resources – directly or through a network – to create communication that works.
In an era of constant change described as the VUCA world, communication needs to be capable in coping with VUCA - Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Companies are, step by step, adapting to these new conditions to reach their stakeholders. The ability to identify new needs in the communication landscape is crucial to gain access to stakeholders and to attract their attention.
Staffan Lindgren, CEO at Comprend, strongly believes that the organisations that will succeed are the ones with the power to change their communication set up, whether if it is to change channel, message, target group or story. Change of communication set up needs to be executed at a fast pace.
Those with the ability to adapt to new directions quickly will be the ones that get their communication to work the way it was intended.
- Staffan Lindgren, CEO, Comprend
All changes in society, be them technical, regulatory or based on user behaviour, have effects that we cannot foresee. Keeping a good communication strategy is essential. By doing so, companies are able to adapt to upcoming needs, build and equip teams with core skill sets, and create communication artefacts that are usually required.
So, every communications director should ask themselves: How do I deal with constant change? What can I do to be prepared in different areas of communication: technical, user behaviour and legal requirements?
For a long time it has been important to keep track of technical changes and communication, and IT departments that establish tight co-operation are the ones that are most successful. The agile approach has become an obvious choice to do recurrent technical changes to web platforms. Today you need to be able to launch often and cannot afford to wait for a release window in the next quarter. Weekly or monthly updates of platforms instead of four times a year. The shorter gaps between launches are often a consequence of new features being in higher demand and the constant mode of meeting internal stakeholder and user demands.
Today it can be fairly cheap and easy to build a website. But, to maintain and keep the website alive and with fulfilling content and adequate features is getting more and more expensive.
Areas that companies are either preparing to implement or already implementing are, for example cloud solutions and better handling of personal integrity and security. One obvious example of security issues is to have an SSL certificate that proves the company’s identity (check that you have this by ensuring that the URL starts with https). Another way to present a secure and trustworthy website is to add an extended validation (EV) certificate. SSL provides encryption of the traffic to and from the server, whereas EV certificates provides information about WHO is operating the website. SSL is a matter of trust and Google will in July 2018 mark your website as “not secure” in Chrome if you do not have a valid certificate installed.
Loading time of web pages are also becoming crucial for the user experience on your digital channels, or as we like to call them - touchpoints. Page speed is both a technical matter and a question of optimising your content to load as quick as possible. Read more on security and speed.
There are also impacts on the technical aspect of digital communication coming from new legal requirements like GDPR and how data on user behaviour in general is fetched and stored. As GDPR is not fully live until May 2018 companies have not yet seen all the effects from this regulation.
When making changes to meet technical and legal aspects, remember to keep an eye on the impact on the user experience by reviewing it from all perspectives – technical, user and regulations.
Source: W3 Techs
There is a trend towards more focus on design and UX (user experience) on rather than just the tech. It is not only a shift from tech to design, but also where design will move towards nicer looking and adapted design. Companies need to find a balance between “page by page design” and the use of templates.
Recipe for successful design: Find your VIP users and their needs + locate your VIP pages -> design VIP pages one-by-one and only create templates for other, ordinary pages. Design these VIP pages by hand - not using templates as you might miss important opportunities to communicate more effectively! By identifying VIP actors, companies can tune in to what voice and tone to use in different channels. Actors are visitors grouped together according to their needs and purpose of visit which is usually defined during Impact mapping, a method used in web projects to get to know more about user requirements.
We are used to seeing technical aspects taking up a large part of budgets and focus but there is a shift towards adapted design, moving away from tech. A “page by design” is becoming more popular, with the balance moving away from template based solutions (a few ready-made templates serving many different communication needs), towards touchpoints with custom made design for specific occasions or target groups. In this way, messages can be presented in a design that supports the story being told, rather than squeezing text into a template that is counterproductive to the purpose of the page.
To learn more about creating content to serve a purpose and how to get to know your audience read this article on corporate storytelling and how you move towards content that is interesting to your audience. In this year’s Web Management Survey, we see that the communication department will focus more on building skills inhouse in for example publishing, content production and analytics.
The change in user behaviour is leaning towards more mobile use, that is nothing new, but also that users are clustering in sub-cultures online.
When online, people want to socialise with others interested in the same topic. Scattered digital geography occurs, with users clustered into sub-cultures, for example Reddit for web editors, then GitHub and Stack Overflow for developers. As an effect of this, companies will not just find their target groups on the usual platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook and, therefore, need to learn more on where users interact online.
When it comes to content we know that everything we publish online needs to have a purpose and a reason for existing. No one will read or look at content that is not interesting or fulfilling a need. To be able to create content that attracts stakeholders we need to get to know what they are interested in, which we do by tracking their behaviour and asking them what they are looking for.
Three ways of smart content creation:
1. Data driven: The process of creating content should be data driven so you can get to know your users and what content works.
2. Automation: By borrowing tricks from marketing you can create processes for communication automation. For example, one can also use an omnichannel strategy for corporate communication as well as in marketing. To reuse and work smart in content production also goes for corporate communications.
3. Live (human) interaction: Open up channels for live interaction for when users want to talk. Chatbots can be one way to interact but, in some instances, companies also will need real human interaction. If using chatbots, the perception for the user must be of live interaction.
One-way communication is still most common among communication departments in European companies. Sending out press releases is a high priority channel for organisations according to the respondents in the Web Management Survey 2018. However, it is getting important for stakeholders to be able to talk to the company directly and get answers quickly. This can be done in an automated way (such as chatbots) but you also need to use live and human interaction in this online communication. The important thing is that users feel that the communication is personal and relevant otherwise they might lose interest, regardless if the communication is with an automated chatbot or a real person.
... of the respondents prioritise press releases as a way to reach corporate target groups.
In the Web Management Survey 2018, respondents said that the mega trend that they think will impact on their communication work the most is digitalisation (75 %) followed by GDPR (55 %). MIFID II was the trend that European companies said that they think would least impact on their communication work during 2018.
As a direct effect of new regulations like MIFID II, Investor Relation Departments will have more to handle, analysts will demand more contact, and inquiries will increase from analysts following the company. This means that corporate websites will increase in importance, and therefore require more information embedded, with a clear and fluid structure; as analysts will have less access to each company.
There has been a lot of discussions on GDPR and for example Econsultancy has many articles on the topic.
The recipe to conquer, and the right strategic place to be, is to prepare for the chain of tasks from identification to completion. If you see an opportunity to talk to your actors: short start-up time is your path to success. Building trust with users and keeping a good relationship with them is important, companies who can answer questions on new topics will be successful. News on platforms such as Facebook and Cambridge Analytica affect companies’ trustworthiness as users are protective of their integrity and the question “who knows what about me” gets more important. One example is Glassdoor which has become a tool often used for people who are searching for new jobs to get to know ‘everything’ about a company before accepting a job opening.
Your hygiene factors to create trust/credibility:
Updated privacy and data processing consent form
Our company has appointed data protection officer
Information on how to react to potential data breaches
Source: Comprend's Web Management Survey 2018
Back to the question: “How do I deal with constant change?” What can communication departments do to be prepared in different areas of communication. One way of being prepared is to make sure you have the skills, technology and processes in place, i.e. build your communications stack (comms stack) in the same way as marketing departments build their MarTech stack.
Companies' capabilities are the most important, which means your access to competence either is inside your company or outside. An open network and access to competence on tap is equally important to having a strong team inhouse.
Companies with capacity inside the organisation, and with access to a network with the right knowledge, will be more successful. Think of how you can build skills in-house to have a team that is prepared and equipped to meet constant change and ultimately have the ability to produce the content and work in a productive way to help maintain pace. In a VUCA world, companies needs be prepared to identify new topics and communication opportunities. One way to prepare yourself is to be data driven and know the users through monitoring their performance.
How can you keep up to speed with changes, and act in the most valuable way on opportunities and changes outside of your control? By getting your team with you and secure that you have the right skills and capacity that you need to meet the future. Why is this shift from tech to messaging and design evolving now you might wonder? The answer is in the speed of everything today. In a VUCA world we need to have speed and simplicity in all communication and the capacity to adapt and change along the way. As companies have previously focused on building their Tech stack for successful technical platforms, they now start focusing on the communication stack. Are you prepared and have the right tools and the right competence to do the work needed yourself in-house?
In short, make sure you have access to the right skills and that you work in a way that allows you to quickly change and adapt. Create an organisation that is prepared to identify and use new opportunities. The best thing that you can do is be prepared to see that you and your organisation is fast to adapt to new changes. A successful company will have their ears to the ground, to pick up on changes in behaviour from target audiences, and think smart on how to utilise present resources.
By Viktoria Enmark