Many corporate communications practitioners, particularly those working in-house, rarely have the opportunity or time to reflect on the industry. Unfortunately reflecting on the future is often shelved in favor of getting through the immediate business cycle or—quite frankly— the workday. With this challenge as a guide, we set out to start a conversation with leaders in corporate communications to look a step ahead, exploring how macroeconomics, demographic shifts and political uncertainties will shape the corporate communications function in the future.

Through the autumn of 2017, senior counselors across H+K EMEA opened a conversation with more than 20 senior communications executives at large international companies about the future of their organizations. The conversations, which were kept anonymous to ensure participants could speak candidly on business challenges and aspirations, focused on expectations for the corporate communications horizon in five years’ time, in the year 2023.

The participants in these conversations represented a diverse range of businesses – from General Electric to Hitachi, from Nokia to Novartis, from Dow Jones to L’Oréal. Their visions of the future of the corporate communications function, however, were largely aligned: that the function will elevate in importance and play more of a role in business strategy, enabled by new competencies in analytics and data-led internal consultancy.  Alongside this, many are anticipating a greater role for artificial intelligence in the function, although the potential shape this may take remains to be seen.

“It’s not a surprise that applying data-based insights to the corporate communication function came up as a priority for the next five years,” said Sara Jurkowsky, one of the project leaders. “What struck us, however, is that many practitioners are still looking at data in silos – for example as brand research, audience research or social listening. There’s an opportunity to use the intersection of data-based listening, measurement, and market research – at speed – to deepen the consultancy our clients are providing to their internal partners and stakeholders”.

As one participant noted, “We are living in a fast-moving and unpredictable environment. Speed and the ability to prioritize will be deal-breakers. The winners will be those that can keep up.”

H+K is continuing these conversations about the future of corporate communications with clients and partners around the world, exploring how everything from talent, to technology, to geopolitics will shape the future of the function. To read more, please see below for the full report, which provides a valuable snapshot of even more valuable exchanges.