Adam Honeysett-Watts, Principal Director at Conservatives in Communications, spoke to Matt Honeycombe-Foster at POLITICO about the future of the industry. The image below includes the comments that were used for his article, otherwise you’ll find the full transcript as a blog post.
Do you predict public affairs/comms industry will carry on with bits of the ‘new normal’ even as Covid comes under control?
Much of what’s taken place over the past nine months has been in the works for a while e.g., living healthier, working remotely, shopping online, leveraging technology and thinking digital.
What’s happened is the pandemic has accelerated the rate at which governments, organisations and individuals alike were already adapting to new expectations.
You could argue that there’s been – apologies in advance to all PRs and journalists – a turning point, sea change or paradigm shift.
Even now that we have vaccines, I doubt we’ll return to our old ways of working and living; a lot has happened. We’ve become accustomed to new habits and norms and become more resilient.
That aside, we’re a people industry – our successes are built on networking and relationships; we absolutely need that face-to-face time. That’s certainly true for new start-ups like do Different.
I cannot wait to be able to host in-person events for the PRCA Corporate Group and Conservatives in Communications again soon. Zoom fatigue has certainly crept in.
What were the big lessons of 2020 that are likely to stick?
1) Trust in your people and partners and ignore all talk of presenteeism.
The key to making remote working work is for managers to trust their colleagues. In turn, all colleagues must deliver – at home and in the office. It’s really that simple. Get it right and the benefits can be a-plenty.
And, I believe people have got it right. They have risen to the challenges posed by the country’s response to the pandemic.
2) Corporate reputation remains king.
While some functions in communications rise and fall in terms of where they are in the pecking order, corporate reputation management consistently remains among, if not at, the top of the league when it comes to what businesses should prioritise in terms of PR.
Yes, digital and internal communications played a critical role throughout the year – and will continue to do so into 2021 – however, it is reputation – the overall perception of an organisation that is held by is external and internal stakeholders (based on its past and current actions as well as its future behaviour) – where the bulk of investment should be targeted.
What are the main political and policy battles you’re watching out for in 2021?
If you thought 2020 was going to be a wild ride wait until 2021.
The fight against coronavirus will continue, the impact of Brexit – either with or without a deal – will follow closely behind, the new US administration will push a whole different agenda, the Scottish, local and mayoral elections could be quite challenging for many, the Nationalists will continue to push for another independence referendum and all this while unemployment and debt soars.
Senior leaders need public affairs partners to help promote and defend their business interests, but also PR support to build their brands, earn trust, protect reputation and generate new leads. Advocacy and communications have never been more important. Thankfully, practitioners have demonstrated their value.
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