10 trends that should change how communicators work in 2019

This year will be critical for communication executives and the C-suite. Companies are under extreme scrutiny, both internally and externally, as social media encourage impassioned employees and socially conscious consumers to use their voices to hold organizations more accountable than ever. That said, professionals who are aware of the social and technological trends that affect communication have a tremendous opportunity to apply this knowledge in positive ways that enable their companies to move forward and grow.

Here are 10 ways to address recent communication trends in your work in 2019.

1. Culture is at the top of the CEO’s list. Culture is getting more focus from the C-suite, especially CEOs who recognize that a healthy workplace culture is closely tied to positive business results. Communicators can aid leadership in engaging with employees in authentic ways that reaffirm the organization’s mission, vision and values.

2. Respond positively to employee activism. Employees are not only speaking up about working conditions and pay, but are also outspoken about broader social issues. This is a new environment for many executives. Communication should work with leaders and prepare them to not only engage in open communication about sensitive issues, but to anticipate potential trigger issues that could become areas of protest and be proactive about influencing company policies and behaviors accordingly.

3. Push the envelope on taking a stand. Consumers today are not only looking to support brands that produce quality products, but also those that contribute to the well-being of society. Patagonia’s donation of federal tax cuts to environmental groups and Dick’s Sporting Goods’ ban on assault weapon sales are examples of what is likely more to come in 2019. Communication teams can help their leadership recognize the importance of taking stands in the market and driving home messages that connect those causes to the business. However, leadership must also be prepared and ready to implement crisis communication, as taking a stand may cause potential backlash and alienate certain portions of the market.

4. Be an enabler for diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion in the workplace strengthen a company’s message of positive culture and social purpose. Communicators can enhance their companies’ ability to have honest conversations about unconscious bias and other behaviors that block the promotion of women and underrepresented minorities. Encourage leaders to knock down barriers by doing more to make the right leadership and communication coaching easily accessible.

5. Apply social media creatively. The ubiquity of mobile technology, advances in AI, chatbots and digital assistants are transforming how companies communicate. Once-traditional B2C, B2B and external-internal boundaries on social media are now less defined. Communicators need to get creative with social media to stay effective. Recognize that external social media channels are sometimes better employee communication vehicles than internal platforms and look beyond traditional channels like LinkedIn to promote B2B services.

6. Corporations go high when politics go low. The Trump administration’s hostile relationship with the media, marked by claims of fake news and heated press conferences, actually creates opportunities for corporations and their leaders to become voices of trust and leadership. There’s no better time for corporate communicators to stand out in a positive way. Develop strong, positive, two-way relationships with the public and media. Move beyond scripted videos and formal Q&As and build trust by answering questions in open, authentic ways, backed by clear facts and statistics.

7. Embrace transparency 3.0. Corporations and public figures are under more public scrutiny than ever as social media and employee empowerment drives toward greater transparency. In the age of televised Oval Office negotiations, non-stop news, and Twitter feed-and-response cycles that make peoples’ heads spin, corporate communication must adapt. Communicators can embrace transparency 3.0: Apply clear and candid approaches to communication.

8. Put an end to initiative overload. New projects are often launched in response to new trends in technology and can drum up enthusiasm for exciting things to come. But this type of activity often has the opposite effect, as overwhelmed leaders and employees get lost in too many objectives at the same time in an attempt to stay competitive. Leaders need to recognize that sometimes simpler is better, as employees are more willing to adopt streamlined approaches to new endeavors. Focus on fewer imperatives and support existing campaigns with robust communication and measurement in order to deliver better results.

9. Make decisions without being too dependent on data. Leaders can make better decisions when they possess better data. And although we can pull metrics on views and engagement or insights on purchasing habits and lifestyle preferences, excessive reliance on data can cause blind spots elsewhere. Leaders should take a step back from raw metrics to allow space for creativity and risk-taking. For example, who can say exactly why a video or story goes viral? Companies that are too data-dependent run the risk of not taking a chance on the next big thing.

10. Communicate efforts to fight climate change. Despite growing awareness of and concern about climate change, the Trump administration has mostly responded with political inaction and even rollbacks on past environmental regulations. The stage is set for companies to take the lead on efforts to curb global warming. From eliminating plastic to creative recycling to reducing emissions and ramping up solar and wind production, some of the corporate world’s best and brightest are tackling big problems with creative solutions and partnerships. Communication is crucial to engage every employee in the effort and to help tell the story to external audiences.

Clare DeNicola and Valerie Di Maria

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