Surekha Ragavan
Jan 12, 2022

What will define corporate PR in 2022?

Experts in the region express what communicators and corporate leaders should prioritise this year amid an increasingly fractured business and social environment.

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

The last couple of years have shone a light on the importance of ESG, accountability and transparency, and merging creativity with data. We also witnessed the dangers of purpose-washing amid increased cynicism of consumers (and sometimes employees). We ask corporate PR experts about what to look out for in 2022 as communicators and business leaders continue to grapple with a new iteration of the pandemic, a talent crunch, changing stakeholder demands, and intensified scrutiny on organisations. 

Solving immense problems in a changing world
Margaret Key, chief executive officer, MSL APAC and MEA

I believe 2022 will be similar to what we saw last year but with a strong focus on solutions. The pressure on corporations to navigate and make sense of a changed, charged world—health concerns with the ongoing pandemic, continued office-home working dynamics, global supply chains, technology and the metaverse, ESG, climate change—has exponentially increased.

And as such, the role of communications and PR is front and centre. Yet, the problem for most corporations is how to properly structure communications so that it is optimised across old and new issues as well as demanding stakeholders. I don’t think there has ever been a time like now in which corporations must keep business intact while also rethinking business models and ultimately, their raison d'etre. And with the latter, this is how corporate PR and only corporate PR will make a difference.

Hunting for ‘non-traditional’ talent
Lee Nugent, EVP and regional director, Archetype

2022 is all about the battle for talent as The Great Resignation becomes The Great Reprioritisation for comms and business leaders. The resource crunch we face today means comms pros will finally start hunting seriously for talent in more ‘non-traditional’ places, while focusing increased effort on nurturing those we employ today. I hope we’ll all benefit from the diversity of thought this will bring us in the coming years.

And similarly, for corporate comms, we’ll see a continuation of people-centric and employee-focused programmes built around wellbeing and care, addressing issues such as mental health, personal development and societal purpose. Employees, customers and other stakeholders will be looking for demonstrable empathetic leadership from the C-suite, and not just lip service. 

Stakeholder capitalism is a given
Adeline Goh, general manager, Singapore, Allison+Partners

Never has the business community faced so many pressures on such a fundamental level than in recent times. Corporate leaders not only need to deliver results and drive the bottom line, they are also being judged on their beliefs and actions on wider economic and societal challenges.

The notion of ‘stakeholder capitalism’ where companies value all stakeholders including the wider community and society is no longer seen as an ideal but a reality in the current global climate and as we prepare for the post-pandemic future. Corporate leaders will need to act with purpose, empathy, and honesty—and it is our job to help them succeed as communicators.

Navigating disruption in a bold way
Adam Harper, founder and managing director, Ashbury Communications

How well companies respond to a new wave of disruptive forces will define the success of their corporate communications in 2022. Most companies have adapted well to the pandemic. This year, they will have to reckon with increasing stakeholder activism on environmental and social factors, the challenge of adapting their business models to Web 3 and the metaverse, and an increasingly adversarial geopolitical environment, among other things.

But while corporate leaders should definitely be preparing for their worst nightmares in this volatile environment, they should also be bold in articulating their dreams for a better future. Over the next few years, technology and sustainability have the potential to transform economies and businesses. The communications challenge is getting that positive vision across in a tired, angry and divided world—but my sense is that audiences are hungry for insights into a better future that are grounded in changes already underway, like those involving sustainable finance and digitalisation.

Communicators as ‘change agents’
Simon Murphy, head of corporate innovation, Edelman APAC

Today's corporate leaders must navigate a lingering pandemic, growing geopolitical tensions, technological disruption and an accelerating climate crisis while creating resilient companies that thrive regardless. For corporate communications teams who must help their leaders navigate changing internal and external stakeholder expectations while advancing their business interests, this is an exciting time.

But while the importance of the communications function is increasing, resources to deliver are lacking. To succeed in this environment, communicators will increasingly act as change agents, enabling ongoing transformation by advancing from a transactional cost centre to being an indispensable partner that is agile, multidisciplinary, and insights-driven.

Communicating locally and with empathy
Selena Sheikh, head of national PR services, H+K Singapore 

This year, corporate leaders need to rebuild trust and engagement with their teams, stakeholders and customers. To be impactful, leaders must engage and communicate more consistently, authentically and with empathy. The Great Resignation has shown that people demand to be treated with more sensitivity and inclusivity so that they will continue to perform at their best.

Looking ahead, companies need to demonstrate how they are engaging with local communities and be aligned with national efforts to be taken more seriously. Integrated communications with more nuanced messaging and bite-sized content across traditional and social channels will be the way forward, while data and analytics will continue to inform decisions and choices.

Attracting younger talent is key
Edwin Yeo, general manager, SPRG Singapore

One of the biggest challenges is The Great Resignation, which has led to corporations struggling to implement new projects and innovate. Given the challenges, corporations would likely focus on employer branding and employee communications. Attracting younger talent today is also somewhat challenging, but ultimately healthy for corporations. The Gen Z workforce is motivated by working for an organisation that is purpose-led and not just solely for profit, though it is also paramount that the company can make money while fulfilling its purpose. Many start-ups nail this positioning and it’s something more traditional outfits can learn from. 

Another trend would be profiling talent beyond just the usual C-suites and key appointments. The validation of a corporation’s capabilities is very much dependent on the talent they have, and we may see a trend where corporations profile their key talents more aggressively. 

Stakeholders need more, more, more
Denise Ching, head of corporate PR, The EON Group

With the continued challenge of building and strengthening relationships with our stakeholders in this remote setup, we always go back to our purpose which is to build trust between them. We make sure that our communication strategies for our clients are not only based on truth, but also culturally resonant, making it rise above the noise and disinformation.

Corporate leaders should prepare for the unexpected by being data-informed, flexible and agile. They should constantly review and update plans for relevance. 2022 trends include a focus on a company's responsibility to their stakeholders, such as topics on employer branding, CSR, and ESG, and the constant use of data to create meaningful strategies.

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