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Businesses to prioritise employee engagement, brand reputation and corporate strategy post COVID

Businesses will prioritise employee engagement, brand reputation and corporate strategy, according to new research from Isentia.

The research, from Isentia and International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) APAC, uncovers insights into the future of corporate affairs in a post-pandemic world. 

Comms Agenda 2021 reports on the top priorities for communications professionals across Asia-Pacific, including New Zealand, for the next 12 months, and how they are looking to tackle business challenges.

The study reveals how communications professionals will innovate the way companies engage with employees and consumers, amid tightened budgets. 

Almost a quarter (24%) say new priorities, such as employee engagement and brand reputation, will lead them to review their communications channels and market approach with one in six (17%) focusing on owned media.

For many organisations, COVID-19 has elevated strategic communication to the board agenda as communications professionals are increasingly seen as trusted advisors, critical to the success of an effective response.

While countries across APAC are at various stages of dealing with the pandemic, a pressing need for nimble, strategic and resilient communication remains constant. According to the research, 25% of APAC communication teams will be closely involved with strategy, while 14% will prioritise brand reputation and 14% will seek to leverage technology to make a greater impact on employee engagement over the next 12 months.

"While many organisations are looking to cut costs wherever they can during these uncertain times, it's interesting to see that 66% of organisations will not reduce the size of their communications teams," says Ngaire Crawford, Insights Director ANZ at Isentia.

"This alone speaks volumes about the growing importance of comms professionals," she says. 

"Building a bank of knowledge of good strategies, tools and ideas is crucial to ensuring that communicators can capitalise on their work, continuing to build and grow understanding and audience connection."

Crawford says the study will "hopefully be used as a playbook for comms teams over the next 12 months as they continue to act as the first line of defence in helping organisations build effective pandemic preparedness and response communications strategies."

Key findings

Strategy will take centre-stage
24% of communication professionals surveyed stated that they plan to review their communication channels and focus their efforts on owned media, while 17% will rethink their message to market approach. Communications professionals will rethink their approach to strategy, focusing on new priorities such as employee engagement and brand reputation. The next 12 months will also see them strive to strike the right balance between internal and external communications for more effective collaboration across functions; 25% of communications professionals will work more closely with strategy teams leading to the outsourcing of more hands-on tasks such as design & creative (17%), social media (15%), and PR (14%).

Managing and enhancing brand reputation will be the top priority
When asked about the top communications priorities over the next 12 months, respondents have indicated the need for a consistent brand presence that can stand the test of time and crisis. As such, brand reputation is the leading focus for professional communicators (14%), underpinned by a mix of employee engagement (10%), leadership communications (10%) and content strategy (12%) all of which have a direct correlation with enhancing overall corporate reputation.

Finding consensus on the right data to enable decision-making will present an opportunity
It's clear that there is a desire for good research and data to support communications strategy, but there is little consensus on what type of data would be most effective. Measurement in a post-pandemic world will be critical. With the increasing pressure to deliver strong ROI, communication teams will rely heavily on data and measurement tools to have a holistic view of the key reporting dimensions of stakeholder surveys (15%), employee engagement (11%) and reputation analysis (9%). The Comms Agenda 2021 study reveals survey metrics as the main data point to inform communication strategies over the next 12 months.

Leveraging technology to strengthen employer-employee relationship
Communications professionals will turn to technology to make a bigger impact on the lifeblood of their organisations over the next 12 months, with 15% wanting to focus on employees and 13% on customers. Communication teams will also adopt more tech and automation tools to enhance their brand communications (12%) and crisis management strategies (12%).