Good corporate communications is essential for keeping everyone involved with a company engaged, be they internal or external stakeholders. As part of Comprend's Web Management Survey 2020, we’ve asked communications professionals to consider their main challenges and how they see these evolving, as well as the extent to which they are prepared to face an increasingly uncertain future.
This year's Web Management Survey by Comprend revealed much about what those managing corporate websites believe to be their biggest challenges in the years to come. A significant trend was the inherent uncertainty of the future, which relates heavily to the concept of a VUCA world – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. A significant number of communication professionals were keen to discuss their struggle to keep up with the changing face of digital corporate communications in this increasingly unpredictable world.
“Our main challenge is keeping up with the ever-changing digital landscape”
- Head of Digital Communications, survey respondent
The important question to attempt to answer is how can you prepare for the unknown? Key here is learning how to embrace a VUCA world. As uncertainty is a central challenge for companies, they should therefore invest in collecting information and internal knowledge-sharing. A shift towards an agile mindset and working environment – embracing collaboration, seeing setbacks as learning opportunities, and focusing on delivering value – would give companies the greatest capacity to build up a picture of the future and the best chance to handle whatever might be thrown their way!
“How to still be relevant and visible in an increasing information overload”
- Web Manager, survey respondent
Ever since the industrial revolution in the UK in the 1850’s, the rapid pace at which technology develops has leads to a continuous state of information overload. This makes it hard to decipher whether information is valuable or not without a significant resource investment. In order to be relevant, it is essential to understand precisely what your stakeholders' needs are so you can fully satisfy them.
Comprend’s Web Management Survey shows that most companies investigate the needs of their target groups on an annual basis. However, in a constantly evolving world, these should be evaluated as often as there is capacity to do so. Interestingly, a 2016 study conducted by Pew Research Center observed that fewer adults feel affected by information overload than a decade ago, which could mean that there is a disconnect between the perception of this issue by companies, specifically web managers, and their customers’ experiences.
“The industry is changing quickly, and there will probably be new channels in the future. The challenge is to be alert and using those channels first”
- Communications Specialist, survey respondent
Once the appropriate information is provided, it must also be efficiently communicated to stakeholders. The main channels web managers use to reach target groups are:
The main challenge for communicators is to be aware of how these channels will change. The survey has also revealed that companies are placing more importance on annual reports as a way of communicating information. They can be produced as both physical and online documents, but being digital first in a digital world means that the focus should fall on implementing annual reports online, through the corporate website.
Communication professionals have expressed a need for more information on sustainability. The value placed on this content category has increased from 2019, rising from a 3.2 average score (out of 5) to 4.3 in 2020 – a clear indication that companies should include more detail on their corporate websites. This rise is due to the increasing emphasis placed on climate change by companies, as they are both trying to understand its potential impact and react to the changing habits of their investors. Communication teams should therefore invest more time and effort into communicating corporate efforts to reduce climate change, as this will massively help them convey the right company image.
“Have the courage to use the new possibilities created by Digitalisation”
- Web Manager, survey respondent
Moreover, digitalisation, the integration of digital technologies into business operations, is the megatrend that respondents indicated would have the greatest impact on their communications work. It is becoming increasingly difficult to resist this, but also hard to know how and when to use the new opportunities it provides.
Digitalisation allows for smarter, more efficient working systems, such as the concept of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC): technology and software being brought together and made accessible through a single interface. This leads to greater productivity, as there is now a central point of reference that everyone in a company can use. Microsoft Office 365 is an example of this, as it centralises six applications and means that workers will only need to understand a singular system. The coming years will see a continuous shift towards corporate communications that employ these systems, projected to grow at a rate of 8% annually, and this will drastically improve collaboration for everyone – not just internally, but also between companies.
There is undoubtedly much that will occur in the not-so-distant future that can massively influence the landscape of corporate communications, but what exactly will happen is purely speculative. What is certain, however, is that those companies that can quickly react to these changes will be at the forefront of corporate communications.