As the baseball coach Yogi Berra said: ”‘it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” However at this time of year the temptation is too great to resist. So, here are three key themes for corporate and brand communicators which have begun to emerge and seem likely to gather pace in the year ahead.
- The greenwashing crackdown continues
There is an increasing expectation on brands to not only share where they stand on specific public issues, but to drive meaningful change. Equally, the reputational risk of failing to uphold these standards will become much greater.
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), for example, is set to crack down further on ‘hot air’ greenwashing environmental claims made in ads amid increasing consumer confusion about terms such as ‘net zero’ and ‘carbon neutral’. We’ve already seen the ASA hold HSBC to account, ruling that any future ad campaigns on climate-friendly initiatives must disclose the bank’s contribution to the climate crisis. According to our client Stewarts, the rise of corporate legal disputes over ESG messaging seems almost inevitable.
As such, communicators in this space need to be more than good storytellers – we need to ensure our clients’ sustainability claims are reliable, credible and trustworthy.
- Employees – your number one stakeholder
Over the past two years, we’ve had the Great Resignation and ‘quiet quitting’, amongst other workplace trends. Set against a backdrop of ongoing labour disputes and a looming recession, we can expect a continued focus on how businesses treat their employees. The interface between internal and external communications will become more blurred as businesses attempt to navigate these ever-present challenges.
- To tweet or not to tweet. (That’s not the only question)
The furore over Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover is arguably overshadowing significant technological innovations which could transform how businesses communicate. Our client Alibaba, for example, is tapping into hyper-realistic ‘virtual influencers’, which enable brands to venture into the metaverse and attract China’s digitally native consumers. As more companies and brands begin to explore these technologies, uniting the physical and virtual worlds, the opportunities for customised content and community engagement will increase.
So, 2023 is set to be a challenging but exciting year for corporate and brand communicators and remember, as Abraham Lincoln said: ‘The best way to predict the future is to create it.’