THURSDAY 8 APR 2021 9:58 AM


The past year has shown in stark relief the yawning gap between digital leaders and laggards in the consumer world. Richard Dixon, chief digital officer at Black Sun, talks digital leadership and the rising mega-trends in corporate communications.

The overnight digital transformation left those unprepared fighting for survival. The same realisation is dawning on those in the world of corporate communications. 

As we look ahead there are three mega-trends colliding that will place digital indisputably at the heart of corporate communications.

Accelerated digital transformation

Even before the pandemic digital was a vital part of the communications mix. Digital leaders recognised its power - that the corporate website is the go-to destination for your corporate story, directly affecting investor decisions, being a resource for journalists, and the favoured channel to recruit employees; that social media is a powerful channel to reach and continuously engage with audiences; and that film can deliver authentic and engaging content.

2020 saw the most dramatic digital transformation almost overnight. Even Microsoft's CEO said the company had delivered 2 years of digital transformation in 2 months. And this pace of change is set to continue. Gartner has forecast that IT spend will be up 6.2% in 2021, and 70% UK businesses plan to grow investment in digital and new digital technologies.

Rise of stakeholder capitalism

Consumers and society at large are expecting more from business. The free-market economy has driven economic growth, however there is deep seated discontent further amplified through the COVID pandemic. The latest Edelman Trust scores are astonishing. Trust in all news sources is at a record low - yet trust in business is higher than government, NGOs and media. 86% expect CEOs to lead on societal issues, and 68% say CEOs should step in when government doesn't fix societal issues. Long term sustainability is at the heart of the corporate agenda, and is directly effecting investor decisions. Global sustainable investing now tops $30 trillion - up 68% since 2014, and companies with long-term thinking grew $7bn more (McKinsey Global Institute). Companies must now communicate their value creation story!

Changing reporting landscape

Corporate reporting is undergoing its biggest ever transformation - with a more holistic approach, with a converging of global standards, and an evolution towards a hub and spoke model of reporting - coupled with the embracing of technology. All of this points towards a more dynamic, audience led, digital reporting environment.

A renewed digital purpose

These three trends lead inexorably to the conclusion that digital must be at the heart of every company's corporate communications with a need to:

  • Define its digital strategy and ecosystem
  • Create a 'destination website' that articulates its purpose - fuelled with content that evidences leadership and its wider value creation story - with extended reach through social and email
  • Invest in the technologies that will not only meet future reporting standards, but also to deliver more relevant, timely and engaging content

Be in no doubt that digital will be the powerhouse through which organisations will reach, engage and influence their stakeholders; to secure future investment; to win the battle for talent; to evidence their long-term sustainability and wider contribution to society. Those organisations who fail to seize this opportunity will increasingly be left behind, missing out on future investment, losing their share of voice and wider societal influence, and left wallowing in the wake of the digital leaders.