The world has been locked up in their homes since quite a few months now. The COVID-19 pandemic has upturned businesses, causing widespread panic triggered by misinformation, the stress of physical distancing and lockdowns, fear of job loss, and uncertainty around business continuity.
Communication has not only kept the show going but also presented many opportunities for the post-COVID world. The future of the industry, set amidst the backdrop of this one-of-a-kind medical emergency, lies in the hands of the communicators.
Varghese M. Thomas, Vice President & Global Head – Corporate Communication, TVS Motor Company pointed out that a situation of this magnitude would require communication teams to put their best foot forward to create clear guidelines tailored for their relevant audience. He added, “It is crucial that regular practices such as brand-building and organizational milestones must take a backseat and the focus should shift to the well-being of customers, employees and public safety.”
Explaining the role of communicators in the post-COVID world, Bratin Roy, Associate Director-Communications, South Asia at AB InBev threw light on the threefold role of communication professionals.
According to Roy, “The primary role would be to guide companies and brands on how they can help communities through social impact programs or campaigns; second would be to enable clear communication channels with their internal and external stakeholders – employee engagement and purpose-led consumer communication that creates community impact and third would be to build and protect company and brand reputation through powerful corporate and brand communications.”
The term “digital” has been reverberating in talks about the future of communications. This has created a demand for firms to upscale their digital game. Communicators, thereby, will help raise the digital bar.
Rachana Chowdhary, Founder at MediaValueWorks (MVW) agreed to the statement. She said, “Since only digital would be able to minutely target and deliver segmented messaging, digital communications would thrive upon all other formats of media.”
Video conferencing applications like Zoom have emerged as wild cards in the system. Zoom has not only leveraged the digital landscape but has also struck the purpose chord of the moment. Sameer Raje, India Head – Zoom Video Communications said, “At the end of December last year, the maximum number of daily meeting participants, both free and paid, conducted on Zoom was approximately 10 million. In March this year, we reached more than 300 million daily meeting participants, both free and paid.”
“Zoom leverages a robust global network to support our users, both free and paid, natively routing traffic through the meeting zone that will provide the best performance. While recent changes provide additional optionality for Zoom’s paid customers, free users will continue to be supported by data centers within their default geographic region where their account is provisioned, with additional geofencing best practices still enforced”, he added.
With the digital appetite rising amongst people, brands too will aim at establishing a connection with their audience via digital mode. “The one thing everyone is craving at the moment is connection – especially those who are isolated. Brands have a great opportunity to be more interactive and creative in their connection with consumers with more relatable content on digital platforms”, explained Varghese M. Thomas.
To become a digitally strong brand or an agency, the prerequisite is to make sound advancements in technology too. This information age, driven by cloud and AI, should be nurtured to form a backbone for the future.
“Business communication will gradually begin leaning on Cloud, big data, analytics, and AI applications to continue staying relevant”, acknowledged Varghese.
Chowdhary too affirmed that while we are already dependent on tech-enabled solutions more from a personal-use point of view, the future will have a wider acceptance of sophisticated technology-enabled solutions from a societal point of view.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will metamorphose and present a surfeit of opportunities in the field of storytelling to brands and communicators.
Harjiv Singh, Founder & CEO at Gutenberg seamlessly mingled with the thought. He said, “AI in its current form doesn’t understand emotion; it understands the logic of computer code and has the ability to process vast amounts of information. This can certainly aid storytellers to find interesting patterns and find new ones and for the foreseeable future. AI can be a good tool to help storytellers in their creative works.”
To sum up the discussion, Aseem Sood, CEO, Impact Research & Measurement Pvt. Ltd. and Director, AMEC asserted three important points for communicators in the post-COVID scenario: “Firstly, with all communication happening virtually, ‘Messaging’ will become much more important for every company and therefore a more sought after capability/ skill.
Clients’ messages will have to be extremely concise and focused to deliver the desired impact.
Second, available budgets will shrink and every communicator will need help prioritizing where s/he should put their time, energy, and money. Lastly, most will turn to insights using data and research to help them plan their future activities.”