Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a massive shift in what the news media covers. Even as newsrooms across the country consolidated – few spared from the financial impacts of Covid-19’s spread across the nation – traditional beats for many technology and business reporters expanded to include coverage of urgent societal issues including public health, unemployment, race relations, social justice and more.
The massive societal disruption which touched nearly everyone on earth led to a significant shift in the scrutiny directed to, and expectations of, CEOs and top executives at companies around the globe. Any executives that earned coverage for their businesses in 2020 also faced questions about how they were managing Covid-19, how they were keeping employees safe and employed, and where they stood and what they were doing in response to the protests ignited by George Floyd’s killing, among many other issues.
And it wasn’t just the media. Throughout the year, executives faced an intensifying pressure from the public, their customers and partners, and their own employees to not only to say more – but to back up what they said with meaningful action.
So what’s changed from an executive communications standpoint in 2020? Simply acknowledging issues like race, politics and the environment is now table stakes for any CEOs who earn the media’s interest. And long gone are the days where executives can opt out of tough conversations. That said, businesses are in a unique position to influence real change in society at large – to support causes, empower their workers and to use their power and privilege to improve society. And consumers expect authentic action and transparency around those efforts.
Key stakeholders, like employees and investors, are paying attention, too, and the media has rewired to keep your business accountable to whatever commitments have been made - especially as they relate to CSR initiatives.
So as you enter the new year and begin to map your plans, keep in mind that the media, your employees and your stakeholders all have an increasing interest in how you are delivering or working toward CSR commitments made in 2020. Be authentic in your approach, stay true to your values, and be transparent about the challenges that you’ve encountered and that lie ahead. Making good on the promises of 2020 will be a major theme in media coverage in 2020 and companies and executives that demonstrate meaningful progress will come out ahead.