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Many of the major issues that cast a shadow over the previous year – are still looming large.

Whether you are working in the public or private sector, the major issues that exhausted us all in 2021 have not gone away. Does your organisation have a strategic communications strategy that will help you navigate or even enhance your reputation through the next 12 months?

Here are my top four persistent challenges:

  1. Covid is not done with us yet, although most of us are tired of reading, talking and hearing about it
  2. The continuing lack of economic migrants and students is a handbrake on Australia’s growth and productivity
  3. The gap between the haves (homeowners) and the have nots (renters) continues to grow
  4. ESG has been over promised and social license is at risk

Covid is not done with us yet

Most of us are unwilling entrants in the covid lottery: will I catch it if I head out and socialise? Likely. Will I be able to get a test to confirm I have it? Unlikely. The big issue at our dining room table, which includes two primary school kids, is can we get through a month, a term, or a school year (dare to dream) without the return of remote learning? Depending on your situation, everyone has been impacted differently by coronavirus and no one has come out unscathed. There is a collective fatigue around the topic, is it time to drop reference to it in internal and external communications or isolate it to a specific channel where people can opt in to covid related news?

Recruit and retain

Meanwhile, the chat around boardroom zoom meetings is how do we get our people back to the office safely and when can we access the pool of overseas talent that we need to help us meet our commitments to shareholders and the wider community? Brand Australia has lost its lustre in the race for global talent, the recent Djokovic drama may only compound this.

Expect to see promises of genuine reform to migration policy and visas as a key election battleground. The list of in-demand skills is out of touch with the vacancies that employees can’t fill with local talent. Every employer will be experiencing its own version of ‘long covid’ for years to come. Those who effectively re-connect employees and potential hires to the organisation’s higher purpose in a fresh and engaging way, will be the winners.

Homeowners and non-homeowners

Beyond responding to climate change, access to secure and affordable housing and the way it fractures society is the issue of our time, in my opinion. Housing investment drives economic growth, participation and creates more sustainable, diverse and resilient communities.

Build to Rent (B2R) is still in its infancy as an alternative to home ownership. There’s a big hearts and minds job to be done, to change the long-held view that home ownership is the only path to a safe and secure retirement, if B2R is to succeed. It will also require specific tax changes to incentivise the private sector to invest in more B2R projects.

ESG overpromised and underdelivered

This year, increasingly stakeholders will hold corporates to account for their environmental, societal and governance commitments. Whether it is shareholders, staff, local residents or customers, they will all be getting behind the hyperbole to see what tough decisions and organisational changes have been made to drive genuine outcomes. How organisations demonstrate and evidence real progress, through effective communications, will be crucial to maintaining social license, employee engagement and customer loyalty.

Some things haven’t changed, as ever organisations that can adapt nimbly will be more likely to succeed. For instance, in 2022 increasing interest rates, changing consumer behaviours and expectations, and a transition to remote working all favour flexible business models. Success with each change will depend on effective communications with all stakeholders but that won’t happen by accident.

Johnny Sollitt-Davis is the Head of our newly opened Melbourne Office.

(Header image source: Stanford Arts Review)

Author Johnny Sollitt-Davis

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