A trend is predicted to be a concern for PR practitioners next year. Namely sustainability communication. What’s that?

“Sustainability communication is an approach used by companies to be able to communicate their sustainability efforts to their stakeholders,” said Verlyana Hitipeuw, CEO and Principal Consultant of Kiroyan Partners. (Photo: Kiroyan Partners archives)

Such was the statement made by Veve, as Verlyana Hitipeuw, CEO and Principal Consultant of Kiroyan Partners, as she is usually called, opened a virtual conversation with PR INDONESIA, Friday (12/11/2021). According to her, sustainability communication is an approach companies use to communicate their sustainability efforts to their stakeholders.

Sustainability communication here is not only understood as communication about the CSR program and its impact. The meaning is broader than that. Effective sustainability communication must involve employees, customers, and investors as key stakeholders. It must be aligned with the company’s overall strategic objectives as outlined in its long-term sustainability plan. There is involvement or engagement in it. It contains not just hard news information but also a promotion about how diverse and creative the company’s CSR programs are or how many beneficiaries of CSR programs are.

Effective and believed sustainability communication is communication that has a positive influence on share value, customer and employee loyalty, as well as the company’s reputation in the eyes of key stakeholders. True sustainability communication enables companies to inform customers, employees and other stakeholders about their business, operations and how the company uses a sustainable approach in all aspects of their organization’s activities.

Starting from Understanding
Therefore, a sustainability communication strategy, like any other communication strategy, should start from the public relations understanding of the audience and stakeholders. PR must be able to map the motivations of the audience they are targeting so that the message conveyed is appropriate. PR also needs to use various communication channels and according to the targeted audience to be right on target and the message arrives.

For example, investors will focus on sustainability factors that impact a company’s financial performance. In particular, they will usually look at the company’s initiatives and efforts in responding to sustainability challenges in specific industrial sectors. Customers will be more interested in non-material factors such as sustainable sources or products. Meanwhile, prospective employees and employees will tend to see the work environment provided by the company as meeting the standards, meeting the rules, or even above average.

For this reason, the woman who is also a lecturer for the reputation management course believes that it is essential for PR practitioners to explore more about sustainability communications. Not just wanting to follow trends, but because all companies will be increasingly demanded to be more sustainable in all aspects of their business operations in the future in the future. In fact, this claim does not only apply to public companies. Abroad, the task of carrying out sustainability communications usually falls within the scope of corporate communications work, in collaboration with the division that handles the company’s sustainability strategy.

Several factors influence whether or not PR should follow trends. Among other things, return to the goals or objectives of each organization. (Photo: Special document)

This sustainability communication needs to be seen as one of the business strategies for companies that have integrated sustainability into their operational activities. “One of the goals that sustainability communication wants to target indeed is to help improve the company’s ESG (environment, social, governance) ranking,” she said. Because, in many cases, this ESG rating can be an accurate indicator of sustainability performance. “But that’s not the only goal of sustainability communications,” she said.

Future Challenges
In addition to the above, Veve also appealed to PR practitioners to be aware of the many challenges that will arise in the next year. One of them is the demand for PR to think strategically and creatively in achieving communication goals. Strategic here means being effective, efficient, and on target starting from the HR side, budget to mobility, even with all the limitations.

Holding a master’s degree in Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences from Bonn, Germany, she also emphasized that PR can manage expectations. For example, even though the rate of virus transmission is decreasing, the number of vaccine recipients is increasing, and health and economic conditions are gradually improving in 2021. However, don’t expect the way humans move, work, and even the way the audience communicates will return to what it was before the pandemic. Some habits that are considered good during the pandemic will be continued even though conditions are gradually improving. “Because we feel that this method is effective, has become a new habit, and is still relevant to do,” she said.

PR has to get used to not relying on only one channel even in packaging an event. Instead, it echoes the same message across several different channels. From holding workshops, followed up with coverage in online media, to being revealed in the form of content on social media. PR should also explore the channels that best suit their target audience. This condition is complex because now all communication actors compete to convey their message repeatedly in many channels. “Multichannel is no longer an option but a necessity,” she said.

PR should be more proactive in monitoring news and conversations concerning brands/organizations across all channels. The increasingly massive development of social media makes every individual act as a content producer. However, not all must be responded to reactively. Like Pandora’s box, a pandemic allows all things initially being forbidden to be opened.

Veve concluded that adaptability, not rigidity, openness to new things, flexibility, agility, up-to-date, and doing a lot of research would be the most needed public relations competencies in the future. “Whatever the industry, no matter how long the organization has been operating, all of them are required to act like a startup company,” she said. What is certain is that PR should never join in doing something going viral. At the same time, that’s not necessarily the way to solve the issues faced by the organization. “However, one thing is for sure, PR practitioners must continue to study trends,” she said.

Several factors influence whether or not PR should follow trends. Among other things, returning to the goals or objectives of each related organization/corporation, the target audience they want to target, and the media channels they use, the situation or issue the organization is currently facing. After that, PR can adjust to trends that allow it to be followed up. “Basically, the formula for communication is the same. Everything is influenced by these factors,” she said. For that, this is where the importance of doing research PR. Thus, PR can find a point or a middle ground for the organization that is most relevant even though it may be different from other organizations.* rtn/ais


This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 81st Edition, issued on December 2021, page 20-21.


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