COVID Has Made Communications More Important Than Ever for B2Bs: Here’s What Every Comms and Marketing Leader Needs to Know

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marketing and communications leader

Think about it: has there ever been another time in history when businesses have had to communicate changing policies and protocols publically and with a frequency that matches changing advice, regulations, and recommendations? 

Come to think of it, has there ever been a time when businesses were even able to do so? 

Since 2020, businesses in every sector and industry have been dealing with disruption on an unprecedented scale. 

And one of the changes this has spurred, as a recent Edelman report explores, is that communication functions have never been as critical to a business’s success as they are today. 

As a result, marketers, PR specialists, and communications leaders like CMOs and CCOs (chief communications officers) are both more valued by the C-suite—and under greater pressure to perform. 

Let’s take a look at what this means for communications professionals in 2022. 

Marketers, PR specialists, and CMOs have a golden opportunity to become closer partners with the CEO, COO, and CFO.

Marketing and communications has long been seen as either a support function or a cost center—not as a value creator. 

While, in many cases, this characterization has been unfair, it’s something leaders in this field have had to struggle with for decades. Now that CEOs and the rest of the C-suite are seeing the importance of strong communication, those who fulfill communication functions can make their case to executives who are much more likely to listen. 

65% of Chief communication officers said marketing will be a top 5 area of investment in 2022

In fact, according to the aforementioned report, 65% of CCOs said that marketing will be a top 5 area of investment in 2022. 

What should communications leaders do with this opportunity? 

Start by emphasizing your department’s value in any way that you can. Revamp your KPIs if they’re not serving that purpose, and ensure that your team is tracking and documenting results wherever possible. 

Second, share the wins you’ve created for the company during the pandemic. Was your team quick to communicate new changes in policy to employees or the public? 

Were you instrumental in communicating a pivot in service model to your customers and prospects? 

Did your team go into overdrive, answering customer questions and solving problems? 

Given what the past two years have been like, it’s a virtual certainty that your marketing, PR, and/or communications work was instrumental in keeping your business functioning and sustainable. Remind your CEO of these achievements so she can truly understand how valuable you will be going forward. 

Finally, ask for what you actually need in order to get the results your company leaders want. 

Presenting a marketing budget to the CFO is often a hard sell. But with those wins and the present business climate to help you, now is the ideal time to help your CFO understand the true cost of effective marketing, PR, and communications. 

Related post: 6 Tips to Budget like a CFO and Maximize your Digital Marketing Spend

More companies will employ virtual CMOs and/or virtual marketing partners. 

As executives understand how valuable a strong marketing and PR team is, they’ll be more likely to approve of expanding their brand’s internal team or work with an outsourced marketing team. 

The Great Resignation has made it harder to keep a fully staffed internal team, which means many brands will continue turning to virtual marketing partners and virtual CMOs

If you’re a marketing or PR pro at an agency, this will work in your favor. Brands are in greater need than ever of high-performing communications leaders, and working with remote or outsourced teams is now solidly mainstream, thanks to the work-from-home transformation of 2020. 

This doesn’t just apply to small or medium-sized businesses, either. Large companies are also jumping on the virtual marketing partner trend, opening up additional opportunities for communications professionals and agencies. 

CMOs, marketers, and PR specialists will need to invest in their own tech education.

Just as the rest of your organization is recognizing the value of communications functions, communications pros also need to recognize any skills they can acquire that will add more value. 

Nine times out of 10, these will have to do with technology. 

CMOs already need a solid understanding of marketing tech—like customer service-oriented AI, automated email marketing, and the latest changes to social algorithms—in order to succeed in their jobs. Data and analytics are tightly integrated into every measure of campaign success, and they influence everything from hiring to your marketing budget. 

But CMOs and those in their departments can go much further. What about the growing adoption of the metaverse? The rising value of NFTs? Extended reality (the all-inclusive combo of augmented, virtual, and mixed reality)? 

These are just a few examples of topics that are still largely ignored or misunderstood by the majority of marketers unless they specifically deal with tech-forward brands. By taking the time to educate yourself on these cutting-edge technologies, you’ll create more value not only for your company but also for yourself and your future prospects. 

Get out of your silo and make your marketing and PR more cross-functional.

Businesses in countless industries are seeing that their teams must work together more closely in order to compete. 

Customer experience (CX) has become both more all-encompassing and more important as a differentiator, especially since 2020. To meet customers’ demands, brands have realized that sales, marketing, PR, product, and other departments must come together to create that integrated CX for prospects and clients. 

If your marketing or PR department is still struggling to operate in an integrated fashion with other departments, this needs to be addressed in 2022. 

For example, consider a digital marketing campaign for a new product launch. The CMO and marketing team may conceptualize and lead the campaign, but they could (and should) also bring in:

  • Account reps who work directly with clients
  • Sales reps who can advise on pricing, sales trends, etc. 
  • Finance team members, who need to know about financial projections for the campaign
  • PR specialists who can help amplify the campaign before, during, and after launch

Understand that brands across the board are being held to greater accountability. Marketers and PR specialists need to center brand purpose and values in every type of communication. 

For marketers who work with brands that understand the importance of purpose, social responsibility, and authenticity, this centering won’t be difficult. 

If a brand’s purpose and values are truly organic to the company itself, then they come through in everything the company does—how they treat their vendors, the clients they choose to work with, how they treat their employees, and more. 

Yet communications professionals are still responsible for conveying that message in a clear, authentic way—and to a public that expects more accountability from the brands they work with than ever before. 

This can present some thorny challenges when it comes to deciding whether or not to comment on current events, how to talk about important social issues, or how to handle company crises, for example. 

The best way to handle this is to create a protocol and process for responding to social issues. 

Grounded in your company’s values and expertise, this protocol should establish what types of issues the brand will speak about, when they will do so, who’s responsible for crafting the statement, and who’s responsible for signing off on it. 

This is similar to a crisis management protocol, which lays out the process team members go through in order to publicly address a company crisis. 

Finally, it’s critical to get buy-in on your company’s purpose, values, and PR protocols from all the primary stakeholders. Keep the conversation open and revisit these topics as your brand evolves, executives leave, or other major changes take place. 

It’s an exciting time to be in marketing and PR. We’re seeing greater appreciation for our work, more opportunities for growth and learning, and a greater need for our expertise. If you need help filling that need, give us a call.

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