Embracing the new digital era and involving communications specialists in decision-making were major talking points at the latest Infrastructure Intelligence webinar, writes Rob O’Connor.
The importance of getting to grips with digital tools and the key role of communications specialists in day-to-day and strategic decision-making were both highlighted during the “Communications in a new digital landscape” webinar on Friday 26 June 2020.
Over 150 industry professionals registered to attend the webinar that saw a typically strong panel of top-level communications and presentation experts discuss what best practice communications, networking and negotiating are already beginning to look like in the new increasingly digital world.
Hosted by Infrastructure Intelligence editor Andy Walker, TV presenter and corporate speaker Greg Ward, Arcadis UK corporate communications manager Catherine Llewellyn, negotiation expert Derek Arden and Jamie Gordon from communications agency and webinar sponsor BECG all made clear and insightful contributions to the event.
The Covid-19 crisis has seen business communications change with video meetings become the norm as the use of applications like Zoom and Teams have entered the business and social lexicon.
Catherine Llewellyn from Arcadis said “we are at the beginning of a new dawn” in terms of communications and that companies need to think differently about how they get their messages across. Previously, she said, 60% of marketing budgets had typically been spent on events – money that should now be spent embracing digital and social media and investing in media training for industry leaders, she said.
“Companies should be looking more seriously at their social media strategies,” said Llewellyn. “Something that can help make them more resilient in the future,” she said. Honest, transparent, and confident engagement was also vital to avoid leaving any communications vacuum – cutting down the space for untrue and unsettling rumours to grow and amplify.
Crucially, she said: “Communications specialists need to be in the room when both day-to-day and important strategic decisions are made,” helping to shape and inform the decision-making process. “Get your comms team on board and be adaptable,” she said.
Experienced TV presenter and global corporate speaker Greg Ward said the industry had very swiftly become confident in technology, moving from face-to-face meetings to virtual communications in a very short space of time. He described three vital pillars of presenting in the new era as technology, design and behaviour – with an emphasis on combining the best of all three to communicate successfully in a business setting.
"How you choose to appear and interact on screen has a significant impact on the effect you wish to achieve,” said Ward. “Be authentic, be yourself, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t be afraid to innovate, and don’t be afraid to fail,” he said.
Harvard-trained negotiation expert Derek Arden said it was important to think about how to achieve your goals in the new digital arena, but vital to never forget the key fundamentals of negotiation. Preparation, preparation, preparation – and making sure you knew what you wanted to achieve – remained as key starting points for negotiation in the new digital era, said Arden.
“The golden rules of negotiation and persuasion still apply even when you're working on a digital platform," he said. "If anything, these rules are even more important online if you are to achieve the desired outcome. Be ready to negotiate and, if you don’t ask, you don’t give the other person the chance to say yes,” Arden said.
Jamie Gordon from communications agency BECG outlined how using data and technology to help shape communication strategies and drive behavioural change was a huge opportunity – and that rapid changes were already taking place in the new digital era. Virtual public consultations were just one area of involving communities in positive decision-making at local levels, said Gordon, and - looking boldly at the bigger picture - the industry should forget all geographical boundaries.
“We are a global entity, and the ability to share knowledge is all around us,” he said. “This different way of working could mean more engagement not less, more collaboration due to a lack of geographic boundaries and even more knowledge sharing,” Gordon said.
Andy Walker, Infrastructure Intelligence editor, said: “This webinar on the crucial issue of communications was another excellent and informative event. It was excellent to hear (and see) people who are clearly enthusiastic about their subject offering advice and insights to our industry and this helped to make for a great webinar.”
The popular Friday morning diary of webinars continues with a brand-new series of Covid Recovery webinars running throughout July, with the next webinar taking place on Friday 3 July at 11am.
After Covid-19: a boost for Net Zero?
Friday 3 July 2020 at 11am.
Andy Walker, Editor, Infrastructure Intelligence
Keith Clarke, Chair, Forum for the Future
Julia Pyke, Director of Financing and Economic Regulation, Sizewell C
Maria Manidaki, Net Zero Carbon Practice Lead, Mott MacDonald
David Cole, Director for Power Generation, Atkins
This webinar is brought to you in association with Atkins.