Recovery and Resurgence Communications: What Tech Sector Pros Need to Do Now

June 24, 2020

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Research, insight and thinking about responsible messaging in 2020 and beyond

Today our president and CEO, John Saunders, is speaking at Collision, termed by Politico as “the Olympics of tech”, on the topic of ‘responsible messaging in a pandemic’.

And frankly, never has the concept of responsible messaging been more important to tech companies – and communications professionals in the tech sector – than it is today.

Working in communications in 2020 – grappling with a global pandemic, economic meltdown, and now an outpouring of righteous emotions focused on eradicating institutional and systemic racism – has left tech sector comms pros dealing with one of the most difficult communications, and frankly ethical, challenges of an entire generation.

On the one hand, so many organisations have been trying to save, adapt, pivot or reimagine their business – strategies less aimed at building a thriving, diverse and fair company, but more focused on surviving a global pandemic.

On the other hand, we’ve borne witness to the abhorrent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and are grappling with the social and economic impacts of a global pandemic. In this context, employees, customers, policy makers and community leaders all expect tech companies to take a stand, adapt and evolve their behaviors, and do everything possible to support the extraordinary demands and needs of this most critical of times.

So much of the narrative of 2020 is rightly about how tech companies are dealing with the sector’s deep-seated challenges around Diversity and Inclusion; how they’re treating employee needs; whether they’re making commitments to support front line workers; and where they’re providing their software or solutions to help customers deal with the challenging environment.

In short, recovery and resurgence communications in 2020 is not just about economic survival and revival. It is now about social reckoning, emotional recovery, the resurgence and emergence of doing what’s right, for all of society and all stakeholders.

Not surprising then, that research we commissioned at the start of May, even before race rightly became the focal point of our collective minds, outlines a renewed focus on values, culture and purpose on the part of employees. They are telling companies to rethink more than just financial expectations and immediate challenges like return to the workplace. There will need to be a new contract and a new responsibility-focused, values-led conversation between employer and employee moving forward. And race, diversity and inclusion will have to be core to that conversation.

So how do tech sector comms pros navigate all of this? How can they help shore up the company’s immediate term survival, while also keeping one eye not just to the people that will enable its long-term success – employees, customers, partners and the wider stakeholder community – but also on the critical importance of eradicating entire systems and structures that exclude or disadvantage certain communities?

Today, we have launched a report, titled Recovery and resurgence communications: what tech sector pros need to do now, to share practical insights and advice on how to navigate the rest of 2020. Clearly it does not have anywhere near all the answers. But in it, we acknowledge both the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. There will be a reckoning for tech when it comes to race, diversity and inclusion. There is bound to be a re-appraisal of techlash. We’ll need to evolve comms team infrastructures. There will be an evolution of employees’ expectations on where, when and how they’ll work. And we know there is already a radically different media and events landscape to navigate.

In short, we look to help comms pros not only do what’s needed for business survival, but also do the right thing, on behalf of all stakeholders.