Every year, world and business leaders gather at The World Economic Forum. They discuss ways to make progress on the world’s largest issues — issues that have become increasingly important to how businesses conduct themselves and communicate with stakeholders.
The discussions are a good reminder that everything a business does — not just the messages and stories they craft — is Public Relations. All their actions mold together to shape the public’s perception of them.
That’s why businesses must focus on creating more culturally relevant and aware communications. It’s why Davos themes, which matter to the world, are critical to consider.
Here are three that stood out to us from the 2021 agenda — and why:
2020 made clear that stakeholders care deeply about and evaluate spending decisions against businesses’ societal efforts.
This ‘stakeholder capitalism’ was a major Davos discussion point. The WEF is advancing it through a set of standardized Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) business goals. This year, over 60 companies (representing over $4 billion in market cap) signed on to start reporting on this framework.
Takeaway: ESG pressures on companies will only grow. Businesses in every sector would be wise to make it a key pillar of their business plans and communications.
As WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab stated, “I think 2021 will be a historical year in terms of changing the philosophy of business, moving from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism …. If we want to restore trust the key condition is to show that when we work together, we work not only for our own interest but for society’s interest and for the interest of everybody who works together with us.”
Mental Health & Wellness
The events of 2020 added to an already-growing global mental health crisis. It was a trying year governed by health concerns, sociopolitical unrest and loss of connection amid social distancing.
The millions who lost jobs, women and are categorized as low-income were most likely to be impacted. However, people across the board were affected. In Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey, 48% of Gen-Z and 44% of all Millennials said that they felt stressed or anxious all or most of the time.
Takeaway: Mental health is an issue business need to prioritize and address in 2021, with solutions, programs and communications that help remove the stigma and provide relief.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Technology companies are no stranger to harnessing AI, IoT, robotics, 5G and other breakthrough technologies for their products and in their marketing. However, Davos continues to reinforce technology-driven revolution as an important topic.
Takeaway: What’s important, for marketing and communications, is that these technologies must be elevated beyond buzzwords and technical descriptors. They represent an opportunity for the technology sector to make a greater connection to humanity; to show how these technologies are fundamentally changing the world and improving lives. They must be part of a strategic (and elevated) narrative.
As Ronan Dunne, EVP and Group CEO of Verizon Wireless wrote on the WEF site, “If there were ever a moment for tech to change this narrative and bend the arc of its own history, this is it. Some might expect tech to be the last place to look for meaningful advances in social equality, but the arrival of 5G and related technologies offers a once in a generation opportunity for precisely such advances, from precisely such a place.”