Blurred business people meeting in modern office building conference room, Generative AI

Corporate communication trends for 2024

2023 was a critical year in the evolution of the corporate communication industry. Practitioners continued to work increasingly closely with C-suite teams in order to help organisations manage complex, business-critical challenges, mitigate reputational risks and capitalise on opportunities for growth. We shine a spotlight on the trends set to impact the industry in 2024.

More alignment between internal and external communications teams

My feeling is that 2024 will bring external and internal communications teams much closer together, particularly as businesses navigate scrutiny from all stakeholders on issues relating to commercial performance, politics, supply chain, economic climate and ESG. These macro topics will be concerning all stakeholder groups, and the sooner businesses start evolving their position on them the better.

Not every business will be comfortable publicly talking about some of the hot button issues of 2024. However, it’s critical that businesses work out their stance, which starts with internal reflection.

Employees will be pushing for clarity – if not full transparency – on their employers’ response to macro issues affecting their lives and futures, from net zero targets through to the cost of living. An HBR study showed 71% employees say employee engagement is very important to organisational success – with organisations where employees class comms as ‘transparent’ having a proven higher profit margin.

Against this backdrop, external and internal comms teams could and should be a powerhouse combination in assessing the risks, opportunities and getting a sense of position. They can work more closely together to build messaging and narratives on the relevant topics in a compelling and authentic way. Perhaps this is then delivered internally first, so employees feel engaged and informed. As key stakeholders in a business, employees’ feedback and questions can also be invaluable for planning for the years ahead – not just from an employer brand perspective, but also in assessing broad perception of a business values and actions. This then provides a foundation for more proactive, authentic communication externally through owned and earned media – where the stakes can sometimes feel higher.

Silence is not an option, and when the communication relates to themes or issues that are outside the workplace – climate, economy, politics – then there must be a united and consistent approach from internal and external communicators.

Evolving climate communications

As COP28 draws to a close in one of the world’s richest oil nations, there is criticism of the failure for world leaders to agree specific wording about “phasing out” fossil fuels – although ‘transition’ has been agreed.

As we live through what’s set to be hottest year ever on record, the climate emergency is an unavoidable operational and material risk for business. It’s also a transformative moment for communications on the topic.

‘Deeds not words’ was the slogan of the WPSU, founded in 1903 in Manchester. Today, we need both to engage and transform in response to climate threats. Activism is an alienating term and approach for many in the corporate world, hence why messaging on the tangible and practical action a business can and can’t take must be carefully thought through. That can begin with media mapping and landscape scanning, but must end in public-facing messaging that is honest, authentic, practical and proven: there is no longer time for businesses to make claims and promises they can’t keep.

Strategic planning in times of uncertainty

Recent years have offered up a seemingly unending menu of material uncertainties for business. From political upheaval to once-in-a-generation pandemics and escalating geopolitical conflict; the uncertainties businesses have had to navigate have been as varied as they have been unpredictable.

We can expect this trend to continue into 2024. To borrow a phrase, the year ahead will bring businesses “known knowns” – a general election and likely a new Labour government – and “known unknowns” in the form of an unclear but generally ominous economic picture and questions about whether stagnation will tip over into recession. And of course, there is always the potential for “unknown unknowns”- those significant, unpredictable events that spring from nowhere.

The challenge that businesses will have to grapple with in the year ahead is delivering effective strategic communications to their audiences amid (and despite) this uncertainty.

Most importantly, strategic communications needs to be precisely that – strategic. Businesses that want to maximise opportunities and minimise risks in 2024 would do well to ensure that they have a clearly defined communications strategy in place at the outset of the year. The strategy should simply, candidly and coherently set out a decisive plan of action for the year that amplifies the business’ strengths and solves issues for the long term.

Once the strategic direction is set, maintaining focus and campaigning mindset will be key. Comms activity – the audiences a business targets and the messages it seeks to convey – must be consistent with and complimentary to overarching strategy.

But businesses will also need to be flexible in their approach and willing to leverage reactive opportunities as they arise. A clearly defined Mission, Purpose and set of Values can be an invaluable ‘north star’ to guide comms activity both with external audiences and the internal team.

An uncertain landscape ultimately presents opportunity for businesses that can traverse it safely.

Investor communications needs to up it’s game

As higher interest rates continue to bite and broader economic uncertainty persists into 2024, businesses looking to either private or public markets for fresh investment will be operating in a tough, competitive landscape.

With stiff competition for capital, communications can play a critical role in supporting fundraising efforts and should be an important part of executive teams’ strategic considerations and planning.

First, thorough preparation and training for presenting to investor audiences is fundamental. When pitching new investors, executives have a relatively brief window of opportunity to state their case in a presentation potentially worth millions. So, it’s critical that they have the ability to connect with their audience effectively and tell their story on their own terms.

It will also be important for businesses to consider other creative ways to reach their investor audiences. Devoting time and energy to shaping a powerful narrative around your business through traditional media activity will pay dividends in the long run, but businesses shouldn’t discount other opportunities, from sharp multimedia and social media content to smart creative activations.

Creative and multimedia content formats – from animation and video to data modelling and audio – will also help bring a business’ narrative, projections and financial data to life. To catch attention quickly, and hold it, think outside the page.

If you’d like to discuss your 2024 corporate communications strategy get in touch with the team today.

Get in touch with the team