here are new horizons for corporate communication in Italy

Corporate communication takes on an increasingly central role, supporting the strategic choices of organizations and identifying itself as a tool for order in complexity. This is what emerges from the second edition of the ‘Communication Leaders’ survey carried out by EY – in collaboration with Swg – which questioned over 50 communication managers of some of the most important companies in the country, with the aim of understanding how brands, reputation and corporate communication continue to evolve and what the challenges are for the future.

The survey shows how communication plays an increasingly strategic role in promoting debate (96% of those interviewed) and in proposing solutions linked to central issues such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion, technology and training (for 95% of the sample). Furthermore, for 91% of respondents it is perceived as a credible source of information (91%).

Alessandro Vanoni, Brand & Communications director of EY in Italy and brand strategy leader of the EY Europe West region, comments: “In a complex context like the current one, companies become the subjects closest to citizens, capable of guiding their cultural and consumption. Hence the renewed importance attributed to the role of communication, considered adequately recognized by 61% of the managers interviewed. Great attention is paid to external communication for 88% of those interviewed, who consider the positioning of the organization the main driver of the company story, without however losing sight of internal communication to guarantee coherence between the internal and external dimensions”.

In terms of content, corporate themes return to center stage together with ESG themes (29%) and those related to people (21%), which significantly outperform the commercial offer (12% compared to 26% in 2022). Today communication finds itself working in an integrated way with HR (78%), CEO and leadership (70%) and sustainability (65%). However, the connection is not always smooth with business (43%) and sales (20%).

The survey also reveals the presence of a certain caution in relation to budgets and new hires, in a context of international economic fragility and technological implementation of AI. In fact, only for 26% of those interviewed, the increase in attention towards communication in the company translated into an increase in the budget reserved for the function; for 52% of the sample it remained unchanged and for the remaining 22% it even decreased. Resources that are directed homogeneously to the entire range of communication channels (press office, owned media, special projects), demonstrating the increasingly present integration between internal, external, digital and traditional dimensions.

A similar argument also applies to new hires, where the sample is divided almost in half: 43% of managers do not plan to hire new resources, while the remaining 56% will do so by giving priority to external communication (28%), new technologies (28%), internal communication (20%) and social media (20%). As far as AI is concerned, there is still no structural implementation although 87% of communication managers believe that the use of AI will make the communication function more strategic in the company. Going into detail, they see the greatest contribution of AI above all in technical activities such as campaign targeting (91%) and results monitoring (86%), while they keep the development of strategic plans firmly in hand (in this case artificial intelligence drops to 49%).

However, this trust clashes with implementation: only 1 in 10 uses it in a structured way, 1 in 7 uses it in exploratory mode, 1 in 2 is thinking about it. All this further accelerates the flow of transformations that have affected communicators in recent years: 93% of managers believe that, compared to when they started working in the sector, the set of skills necessary to carry out their work adequately has changed, in in particular to manage channels and proprietary platforms to create engagement (78%), the speed in propagation of content (75%), the creation of available formats (75%). While media management, reputation management and stakeholder management remain part of a more classic set of resources of the communicators profession.

Among the soft skills of the ideal communicator: flexibility (15%), problem solving (14%) and critical thinking (13%); among the hard skills: data analysis (31%), project management (28%) and planning and budgeting (16%). In short, the data driven culture has taken over with data analysis becoming central, but with great trust in the communicator: knowing how to read, interpret and transform data remains a people’s job, albeit supported by AI.

“The future of communication, which has become vital during Covid and strategic in the era of complexity, is based on transformation and authenticity. Precisely authenticity, key for 59% of managers, today is not only demonstrated with solid storytelling but passes through concreteness (49%) and ability to execute projects linked to environmental impact (74%) and the centrality of people (62%). As for the transformation, between outbursts of enthusiasm and some defensive traits, communicators seem optimistic about the potential that the new technological engine, enabled by artificial intelligence, can have to open new horizons for communication”, concludes Vanoni.

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