Five predictions for communications in 2021

Members of Sefiani’s leadership team, Director, Nick Owens; Brand Practice Lead, Nicole Schulz; and Creative Director, Nicole Thurston share their predictions on the biggest trends that will impact communications in 2021.

The rise of the post-Covid ‘rebound’ narrative

With Australia’s vaccination program now underway and vaccination in many countries overseas well advanced, there are signs the Covid public health crisis is beginning to lift. Australian business is now looking past Covid with growing optimism. The ASX – a barometer of expectations of future profitability – has ground its way back to levels approaching March 2020. Companies are reporting lower impact from Covid than expected and record levels of cash. Some are even returning JobKeeper funds in light of profits recorded. Get ready for a rebound narrative to settle in as businesses gear for growth, with a strong uptick in investment and employment, M&A activity and new ASX listings.

Credible communication wins in the age of digital misinformation

The prevalence of digital misinformation and disinformation has surged and the implications of this are increasingly impacting our lives in the real world. The danger of this was front and centre during the “infodemic”, as labelled by the World Health Organisation, that we experienced throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Research in 2020 found that 48 per cent of Australians rely on online news or social media as their main source of news, but 64 per cent of Australians remain concerned about what is real or fake on the internet. The recent move by Facebook to ban Australian news sites prior to its agreement with the Australian government, caused a rising wave of concern about how this action would fuel the rise of misinformation online. Thankfully, this has been averted.

For organisations and brands, two things are very clear. Firstly, trust matters. As the UN encourages the public to cast “information cynicism” over everything they read online, the value of a strong reputation and brand trust that positions your organisation as a credible voice of authority, cannot be underestimated. Secondly, the ability to communicate with your audiences directly is more important than ever.

Prepare for a hyper-local future

“Thinking local” is a trend which has gained prominence in recent years as people act to limit their carbon footprint and support local businesses. This accelerated during Covid-19 with lockdowns and many people working from home. We see this continuing as consumers’ shifting interests, combined with ongoing remote working opportunities, signal a sustained change in the amount of time we spend in our own neighbourhoods.

What does this mean for us? Global Webindex predicts the demand for local solutions will reach an all-time high, with the implications stretching beyond just retail and physical presence. Engaging at a national level – or marketing to city clusters – will become more of a challenge for organisations and the need for locally-tailored messaging and activity will grow in importance and become crucial to reaching audiences and stakeholders in a meaningful way.

Australian business will “lean in” to net-zero pledge

The change of Administration in the US has brought fresh impetus to the push for co-ordinated global action on climate change. More and more countries have committed publicly to net-zero emissions by 2050 and pressure is building (again) on the Australian Government to do the same. This time the pressure looks irresistible. Though constrained by internal tensions on climate, the Federal Government has signalled it is inching toward the global consensus as it becomes clear the alternative is international isolation. But as has been the case for many years on this issue, Government action lags well behind public, business and investor sentiment. Under pressure from investors and employees, watch for increasing numbers of businesses to announce their own roadmaps to a net-zero emissions footprint by 2050.

In a glass box, employees are Number 1.

According to Trendwatching, organisations have experienced a radical transformation over the past few years which has seen them move from operating inside a black box, to operating inside a glass box. Previously, external perceptions were carefully controlled, but now, in an age of digital transparency, everything about an organisation is visible to the outside world. In a time where employees have the power to both propel but also destroy brand reputation, compassionate leadership is no longer a buzz word, it’s a business imperative. Your internal culture IS your brand. When people look inside your glass box, will they like what they see?

As Australian businesses settle into new ways of working in 2021, whether it be remotely, in the office or a hybrid model, leaders will need to carefully consider company culture and how transparency, honesty and human connection can be up-held regardless of the physical working environment. Remember, your employees are not only keeping your business moving forward, they also have the potential to be the greatest advocates for your brand.