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Global economy, wars and corporate communication

The world today is far from resolution of its problems, and the past year brought more question marks than answers. By the same, we can speak about the deepening of phenomena or stagnation rather than a great turnaround. After 2001, reality changed irreversibly, and thereafter subject to transformation are also its actors.

In such environment corporations must change their way of thinking about communication and become very sensitive, performing social functions to no lesser extent than economic. More than half of us function in direct relation with a large organisation, and we are almost all directly connected with them – this illustrates a huge area of corporate influence on the shaping of social attitudes.

There can be many assessments of the world economy, but factors moulding it should not be neglected. The rising economies have not leaped over the expectations, the states using official development assistance will be restricted by costs connected with refugees, geopolitical tensions will not abate by themselves and a strong dollar will place mark on many economies. Added onto that weak governments and terrorist threats in African states, corruption scandals in Brazil; low oil price will trigger the nervousness of Russia and countries which depend from its production. All this shapes social attitudes, in relation with which the corporations operate. A dynamic situation may give rise to product boycotts, cultural problems inside organisations or the need to define a new narration on the threatened markets. Negative phenomena overshadow such positive aspects as low fuel costs, positive signs of struggle against the Islamic State, stable food prices, common will to resolve the problems of refugees, anticipated peaceful ending of conflicts in Syria, Libya or Yemen. The public opinion is governed by strong emotions. All this is intensified by such tragedies as the November developments in Paris, attack in Madrid in 2004 and attacks in London in 2005. Today, nothing can be the same any more – and likewise, corporate communication has to consider cultural and social risks on the equal par with economic risks.

In the days of the quick circulation of information, such events as the last suicidal attack in Istanbul or sexual assaults in Cologne, affect strongly stability of undertakings, shaping on this occasion social behaviours. This is important, because the success of an organisation depends largely from the support and commitment of people. With such strong impulses, on one hand exposed to risk are those organisations which marry many cultures and have to avoid conflicts, and on the other hand those, which base on the exchange of commodities and services, to mention only tourism. To give justice, it must stressed at this point, that phenomena connected with perception of events and social trends have rarely a global dimension at one time – the example being the VW crisis, which echoed completely differently in the United States than in Poland, which results also from the level of people’s affluence. We faster share information, and they faster and to a greater extent determine the positions of consumers, clients or those reporting on our organisation. The organisations which perceive far and wide the role of dialogue should watch closely and not remain passive with respect to the most important social phenomena.

Another issue is the people’s limited confidence in companies, which is the consequence of the dichotomy of corporate and social values. This is why, the more complex is the organisation’s relation with the environment, the more the two parties should base on the open dialogue. Corporations are an important part of the community and cannot build its position as an external actor. Three important challenges should be identified for communication conducted from the level of the organisation. Firstly, communication – though based on central stimuli, shall be assessed more locally than ever – the same issues, depending on the distance from such tragedies as conflicts or attacks, shall be perceived in a different way. Secondly, internal communication will have a completely different meaning, as the factor shaping relations in the multicultural community and element of education in security. Corporations will also play an important role in the shaping of the attitudes of the younger generation, as it is often in corporations that they take their first serious lessons connected with the functioning in the prof world.

It is hard to define one event, which sparked the changes of which we are witnesses and it will certainly be equally hard to specify the moment ending the transformation. Nevertheless, these changes must be used to construct such models of corporate communication, which will base on open dialogue, shorten distance to its people and include in the assumed position the phenomena that determine the social atmosphere.

Michał Szapiro