How is the year of reckoning playing out? Future Five mid-year reflection


In February this year, we predicted five key communications trends and issues would shape the year ahead and we argued that many organisations would face a tipping point – they needed to act now or it would be too late.

We also said successful leaders needed to boldly embrace the need for this change, while staying true to their organisation’s core values.

These predictions were based on the changes we saw happening – communities were driving fundamental change as they push for government, businesses, and NGOs to align with their own values and social conscience.

The first half of 2018 has seen many of our predictions come to fruition in rapid fire under intense scrutiny and gaining global traction. The five trends and issues were as follows.

1. Strength in diversity – leaders taking stronger action on equality of gender, race, and sexual orientation.

2. The activism age – ethical responsibilities and regulatory changes continuing to be a big challenge for businesses and government (due to a major shift in the risk environment – one of the key findings identified in SenateSHJ’s Reputation Reality 2017: Trans-Tasman perspectives on reputation and risk report).

3. Trust in a truthless world – organisations need to ensure they proactively build reputation and goodwill among stakeholders.

4. Change or get left behind – how to manage the challenges and opportunities linked to automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and subsequent fragmentation.

5. Integrity above all – those business leaders and organisations who navigate fast-paced change and its challenges with genuine honesty and strong moral principles will be rewarded.

Let’s look at two in particular.

Strength in diversity

Failure to embrace strength in diversity has been brought into sharp focus this year with the exposure of a myriad of inappropriate behaviour cases that have rocked the corporate (especially legal) and entertainment worlds, and being amplified by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

The recent condemnation following Australia’s number one rugby star Israel Folau’s anti-gay post put Rugby Australia and their sponsors in the glaring spotlight and left them floundering in unchartered waters. What was their position? It was unclear, and they missed the opportunity to make that clear and reinforce their positive message. One could say at times it looked like ‘the tail was wagging the dog’.

Where one may falter under this scrutiny, others used this opportunity to promote their positive action. NZ Rugby was able to use this platform to publicise their fully inclusive policy and strength in diversity. This effectively demonstrated their organisation’s drive for inclusion while showing genuine, human-centred sentiment.

Organisations and business leaders need to ensure they continue driving diversity as an intrinsic part of their culture across all industries and sectors.

We have also seen organisations ‘stepping up’ by introducing new policy to promote gender equitable work environments, and many business leaders ‘standing out’ by signing up as Pay Equity Ambassadors.

There has also been a heightened conversation about board diversity. Having said that, there is still a way to go on all these matters.

Trust in a truthless world

The biggest example of this has been Facebook – once a hero, now emerging as an anti-hero. The public’s distrust of Zuckerberg’s Facebook empire following the Cambridge Analytica data mining saga intensified with the recent court action from consumer rights campaigner Martin Lewis for allowing fake adverts for his services to appear on Facebook.

We said that integrity would underpin all of the trends and issues and this has been proven. We’ve seen this tested and challenged numerous times in 2018 already for organisations, governments, individuals and the media. Business leaders should not lose sight of the need to continue to demonstrate this quality we all value.

To read more on our Future Five 2018 predictions, or discuss how SenateSHJ can assist you with your communications needs this year, please contact us.