" The most important thing in communication is hearing what is not said ” Peter F. Drucker
5 min read
Communicating the Future: The Opinion of the Experts
Updated: Apr 29
One day in March 2020, humanity woke up in a different universe. Geopolitical tensions were already at worrying levels before the pandemic, but instead of uniting the world against this common enemy, the coronavirus crisis demonstrated the fragility of our societies.
For centuries, epidemics have tested faith, friendships and society. With the corona crisis, we are facing the largest global disaster of our generation. The coronavirus will change many things in our lives.
It will not only change global politics in profound ways. It is almost certain that a large recession will hit the whole planet. The IMF sees global economy suffering its worst recession since the 1920s.
What will the world look like once this crisis is under control? What will change on our planet, and what will remain the same?
It will take years for the significance to be fully understood. I strongly believe that this crisis is a global turning point. There is a great deal of emotional, physical and financial pain in the immediate future. However, a crisis of this scale will never be truly resolved until many of the fundamentals of our social and economic life have been changed.
Many organisations are re-thinking their marketing & communications strategies.
I asked an open question to a group of communication professionals:
How would communications look like in the post-Corona era? What will stay and what will change ?
This is what they had to say:
Sergio Cecchini, Director Communication & Fundraising, Médecins Sans Frontières, Belgium
In the not for profit sector, we were used to communicating about crisis occurring abroad and western audiences were called to act for the others, to support them facing ‘their’ Ebola outbreak, ‘their’ earthquake or famine. In the 80s, “We are the world” was written in support of Ethiopians facing a huge nutritional crisis, today Lady Gaga’s “One world: together at home” live stream concert was organized to praise "all of the medical workers that are putting their lives at risk for us." A new sense of proximity and collective responsibility will require a paradigm shift to expand the “together at home” concept in ways to respond to people's need to feel reassured by their protective domestic environment and the need to continue being a social animal.
Jane Morrice, Former Vice President European Economic & Social Committee (EESC), responsible for communications, EU
In the brave new post corona world everything will change. It is up to us to ensure that change is for the better. It can only be positive if ‘equality’ is at the heart and soul of the transformation. That means placing social, environmental and economic policy on an equal footing.It’s called the theory of SOC/EN/OMICS and it means putting health before wealth, conservation before consumption and community before cost. Above all, it means communicating a new message that everyone can understand and enjoy.
Michael Dabbs, Senior Communications Officer, The Gill Foundation, US
For decades, messaging and communication tactics, aided by technological advances, have continually lurched from the collective to the personal. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has exposed and reminded us of our shared responsibilities and future. It’s difficult not to notice in public opinion research that concerns for public health and the economy at-large are outranking concerns for personal health and finance. I believe this is less a departure from individualist thinking, but rather a heightened sense of how our individual decisions and their consequences affect others. How long this reorientation will last is yet to be seen, but communicators should note and plan for it.
The communications function will have an absolutely vital role to play during and after the pandemic on 4 fronts: (a) Keeping the organisation and its ecosystem cohesive and engaged during prolonged periods of remote working (b) Shaping the narrative of the company during a period of intense change (c) Ensuring that the product and service portfolio of the company remains relevant to the current and changes needs of clients and (d) Building up new capabilities (e.g. ability to do virtual events, stronger content play through social media, digital channels) to ensure the company’s brand, reputation and relationships keep strengthening rather than weakening during this period. Just like fire departments prove their importance in times of arson, communications teams come alive during crises. Those that can help their companies and CEOs negotiate this crisis, by reinventing themselves and adding value at every stage of the lockdown and reopening, will find themselves becoming more core and important in the scheme of things to their businesses and leadership teams.
Fuencisla Cid Rodríguez, Communication Director EOSA, Spain
Economy and consumers will change. But communication will not. For me, the keyword is "acceleration", not “change”. The Internet has profoundly changed communication: new channels… new rules. But Covid-19 will accelerate the communication trends well known to communicators. We will see brands that are more authentic, that play a social role, transparent and closer to the real interests of their stakeholders (workers first!) in digital ways. Not just storytelling, but story-doing. And, above all, more agile and flexible in their strategy and action. One headline: "Accelerate your communication from values and purpose. Contribute, be digital, stay agile".
Alba Perez Grandi, Communications Team Leader, European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA), EU
I believe communications post-corona crisis would evolve, transform and change as organisations and employees had to adjust to new teleworking environments and social distancing measures during these very difficult times. The world will be even more hyper-connected, virtual communications and video calls will increase, maximising the communications exchange among individuals and business. Also, new fact checking organisations and jobs in the disinformation field will arise to monitor, validate and contrast the validity and veracity of information published on digital media and social media platforms. However, one-to-one communication will prevail.
Manuela Toteva, Account Manager, Global Marketing, SAP, Germany
The volume of news we perceive during the pandemic already exceeds a million times every other crisis event in our present-day life. This has proven that communicators' capacity to have even more advanced digital instruments to manage and analyse data remains a core subject in our profession and we will furthermore be discovering the outcomes. I believe the influence of social media in our daily life and fake news generated to support political and private interests will increase. Furthermore this trends will gain dangerous dimensions. In the new era after the virus, my faith is in the young generation, their professional values and qualities to run for an ethically informed society.
Yannis Freris, Corporate Communication & Sustainable Development, GEFYRA SA, Greece
I always believed that “A communicator is a hope creator”. So, if there’s a thing for which I remain certain, this one is that the creation of hope will remain the mainspring of communication. We have clearly seen this during the sanitary crisis and we will always swim on the stream of hope, whatever the waves will be. It seems however, that for the near future communication will be more centered to the ethics of personal and common responsibility.
The coronavirus pandemic has made us realise how heavily we depend on digital connectivity. Public is far more engaged and has greater and higher expectations. This is an opportunity for companies to reinforce the public trust and their reputation, respond faster, and adjust their message.
Our world post-Covid will be characterised by new human behaviors, industry shifts and economic disruptions. It will be more digital and will offer many opportunities for marketing and communications to become even more relevant. The globe will experience a maximalisation of communication exchange between individuals and businesses.