David Wilson, Chairman of Bell Pottinger PR says that despite a world of turbulence, commuicators must stay cool

How should PR communicators handle so much global change? With enjoyment, says David Wilson, chairman of Bell Pottinger PR.

Don’t panic! Changing times and communications might take some getting used to, but this is a challenge, not a disaster for PROs, claims Bell Pottinger’s chairman David Wilson. 

Communication challenges facing us in this new decade: repercussions of a global financial crisis; a UK general election (Tory government, Labour clinging to power, or Lib-Dem empowerment in a hung government?); strengthening European powers; corporates being (un)socially responsible; oh …and an empowered public challenging the clients and brands we seek to protect.

As we began charting a course into 2010, we heard warnings that companies must re-chart their strategies and the way they communicate, inside and outside their organisations.

The world has reshaped! Nothing will ever be the same again.

But is this really the case?

Organisations are indeed faced with greater communication challenges. The golden hour has almost become the golden second as citizen journalists cast a global story via twitter, wiki or YouTube video.

The volume of media has never been greater.

Print media that I’ve grown old(er) with has remained intact, but spread its presence through online web copy, video and oral comment. E-debates and viral communities have added real-time focus groups and research communities.

A CBI report, The Shape of Business – the Next 10 Years, suggests that we’ll see fundamental change for UK businesses and their actions will “significantly shape the UK economy“. There will be far more rigour in identifying investment and innovation projects requiring funding. Good!

And workforces will need to be more flexible and mobile, implementing more business-relevant skills (have unions in this new wave of industrial disputes taken note?).

Perhaps the most interesting CBI ‘finding’ is that building and maintaining trust with business partners and the public will become even more critical. But haven’t we communicators actually been saying this for years?

Compliance with governance and sustainability standards appear to be the latest catchphrases and as the CBI says: “Effective management will be the key determinant of survival and success.”

But enlightening? I fear not.

The loss of British retail institutions MFI, Woolworths and Wedgwood, amongst others in the last 18 months, simply represents the latest in a line of declining businesses that have simply lost their USPs. This has happened before and will happen in the future.

All have failed to grasp the need to continually evolve, and communicate effectively about that evolution, to attract their consumers and stakeholders who are themselves evolving – in their buying habits and personal tastes.

The rigid 10-year company strategy is no more. Every business must change with the times.

In 2010, enlightened communicators start from a Channel-Neutral perspective, removing pre-conceived off-the-shelf solutions. First understand the need (commercial, personal or whatever) and then identify how to reach customer audiences in this modern world of ours.

Yet this is an evolving story, in which tomorrow’s print media solution may differ greatly from today’s wiki or Facebook approach.

The CBI warns that towards the end of this decade “some key aspects of the UK economy may ultimately fall under the control of overseas governments” and prominent services and manufacturing operations “may move substantially overseas“.

But hasn’t this been happening for years? A re-set world? We live in interesting times, as they say, but isn’t the world still round? At least that’s how it appears from Google Earth!

Our world is indeed changing fast but it has always done so, in different ways. But great communication is even more essential now. We have no choice but to grasp this challenge, in a world where there are even more tools and channels at everyone's disposal.

Change with the times and enjoy the ride. This really is a fascinating and evolving world that we’re shaping …

David Wilson is Chairman of Bell Pottinger Public Relations, David will be writing a regular column for PRmoment.com.


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