The pandemic has kept people away from their workplaces and put a squeeze on both the formal and informal interactions they have with colleagues. The change has increased the importance of corporate communications and the essential role they play in protecting and enhancing company cultures and identities. These themes were discussed in depth in our latest webinar, "Internal Digital Transformation: The 2022 Trends Powering Corporate Communications & HR."
Digital corporate messaging has had to do much of the heavy lifting during the pandemic and the switch to remote and hybrid ways of working means its elevated importance is here to stay.
This is true for both internal and external corporate communications and the topic was the subject of our latest webinar—Internal Digital Transformation: The 2022 Trends Powering Corporate Communications and HR.
Catherine Chilton, Senior Product Manager at Brightspot was on hand to share insights about how clients are evolving their communications, while Parker Ramsdell, VP, People, Mission & Culture at Brightspot, lifted the lid on what's going on in our own business.
There are people that we have onboarded over a year ago that we’ve never shaken hands with or met in person. We’ve never had a face-to-face conversation with them.
Looking back on how corporate communications have evolved with the pandemic
So, what are the standout features of the past 18 months? Well, perhaps the overriding feature is the speed and scale of the change that has taken place in digital corporate communications.
It’s also true that the physical impact of the pandemic on our working lives has lasted longer than many expected and so maintaining the energy around remote ways of working has been difficult.
"Early in the pandemic, everyone was keen to prove that this could work, that we could all work remotely," says Parker Ramsdell.
"But some of the energy has faded away," he adds, "And we have realized that it’s more of a challenge than we thought it would be."
Be open to trying new initiatives—some are going to fail, but others will be huge successes. If you keep an open mind and try things out, I think your employees will appreciate the effort you’re making to create a culture and environment that aims to make their jobs and their time at the company a little more special.
Video meetings, cloud-based work platforms and online resources all mean we can do our jobs, but without regular in-person contact and collaboration things can fall through the cracks.
Parker says: "There’s a little more vigilance required in terms of how we communicate, how frequently we communicate and how interactively we communicate, if we want to make sure we meet our goals and objectives."
This vigilance will become more important the longer companies operate from physically dispersed models and rely on digital communication.
At the same time, many companies have taken advantage of remote working practices to recruit from a larger geographical territory. They're less reliant on their local area, where people have an idea of who they are, what they do and how they do it.
It’s great that companies can target bigger talent pools, but it also means they’re trying to attract candidates who are less likely to know much about their business.
"I think hybrid and fully remote working have opened the door for a lot of companies to hire top talent who live further away from their offices and to attract people who may not be as familiar with their company," says Catherine Chilton. "That makes digital communication and corporate storytelling more important than ever."
The effect of hybrid work on workplace culture and corporate communications
To maintain a cohesive company culture in a hybrid working environment, the frequency and variety of digital corporate communications have increased significantly.
When employees can hear what a company is talking about and how they communicate it demonstrates what we value and what we’re prioritizing and how we want them to execute and work within that culture.
Detailing the situation at Brightspot, Parker says: "We’ve gotten into a pretty good rhythm over the past 20-odd months of weekly email updates, which are just short little updates from different departments, so people know what’s going on.
“We’ve also had monthly town halls since March 2020, led by our CEO, to give a more in-depth view, ranging from financial updates to shout-outs to employees and answering specific questions that people have."
Catherine says her clients have adopted similar approaches and feels they’re also putting a lot of effort into letting potential employees know what they’re about.
She says: "A lot of clients are revamping and revitalizing their 'About Us' content to highlight more clearly their mission and culture, so people on the outside can see it very clearly," she says.
"Companies are creating blogs so that people can express things like 'a day in the life' and really let people see what’s going on," Catherine continues.
"It’s about showing themselves not just through the large corporate communications lens but trying to narrow it down and be more personal. It's about letting people know what their life and experience would be like if they were to work for the company."
The impact of technology on corporate communications
While the past 18 months have, arguably, seen more people try more different digital communication platforms than ever before, the most important corporate development has been the focus on intranets.
They might not be new, but they’ve been unloved for a long time. In the past 18 months, companies have found a new affection for their intranets.
Parker makes the point simply when he notes, "We’ve had more intranet content go up every week this year than in entire years previously."
Clients across the board have also been working hard to revitalize their intranets and have relied on Brightspot to achieve their goals.
Catherine says: "They’ve been using it for setting out everything from current policies on remote working to what kind of information specific managers need to know, and this can be restricted as appropriate."
I’d expect to see a really big push for external-focused storytelling and there being more time and money invested in enabling people to create that content. We’re seeing a lot of time spent on intranets and growing that as well as time invested in recruiting.
Reinventing corporate communications and looking to the future
During their discussion, Parker and Catherine talked through the various ways in which communications have changed and what to look out for in the months ahead.
"One of the biggest things I’ve taken away over the past year is that internal communications are not just from the top down," says Parker. "We’ve had this strong realization that it’s from every direction."
"Last January we did our annual employee survey and one of the biggest pieces of feedback was that people felt their contributions and work were kind of getting lost." he remembers. "So, we initiated a bi-monthly Lunch & Learn series that empowered and gave people an opportunity to talk about what they’re doing."
Catherine highlights another change in the market and she says: "Recruiting is really taking a bigger role in corporate communications."
Companies know they have to fight hard to attract the best people and they’re casting their net far and wide to do so. But that also means they have to be able to sell themselves online and make sure candidates see their best side. As businesses get better and better at doing this, those who ignore it will get left behind.
And so, to the future. Wrapping up the webinar and giving a piece of advice for the year ahead, Parker says: "Be open to trying new initiatives—some are going to fail, but others will be huge successes.
“If you keep an open mind and try things out, I think your employees will appreciate the effort you’re making to create a culture and environment that aims to make their jobs and their time at the company a little more special."
To see how your company could make its communications more special, watch the webinar.