There is no Industry 4.0 without proper communication

When searching the web for the collocation ‘industry and communication’, you usually get results related to data transmission, efficient network communication, robot communication, the Internet of Things (IoT) or Industry 4.0. And very rightly so, but it’s not the kind of communication I’m going to write about today. Instead, I will show you, using four different areas as examples, that the manufacturing industry – just like any other sector – needs a well-thought-out communication strategy. Such strategy should be based on PR activities that are tailored to the company’s business goals and different audiences.

Be the employer everyone wants to work for

‘It’s already a fact: the market for the employee is over’, ‘Not yet an employer’s market, but no longer an employee’s market’, ‘In Poland we still have a market for the worker, but a skilled one’. In 2023, media headlines are outdoing themselves in predicting, often contradictory, trends and changes in the work environment. Two things are certain. For years now, the challenge of finding skilled professionals has been cited by CEOs as one of the main threats to stable organizational development. And the labor market is ruled by those companies that take care of their employer reputation, i.e. effectively work in the area of Employer Branding (EB).

In 2019, HRM Institute conducted the ‘Dream employer for a professional’ survey which showed that one in seven professionals takes the image of the employer into account when deciding whether to participate in the recruitment process or not. What’s more, 72% of respondents to the same survey were convinced that if organizations do not find suitable job candidates, it is because their reputation as an employer is not at a high enough level.

It is impossible to overestimate the benefits, both financial and intangible, that come from planned employer branding activities based on a well-tailored communications strategy. The latter is like homework, which, if done by the company, allows it to prepare more effective (that means also cheaper) recruitment campaigns, attract the most talented candidates, influence employee engagement, and ultimately keep the right people in the organization and thus reduce retention rates.

Sounds too good to be true? Not necessarily. When preparing your employer brand development strategy, it’s worth expanding your company’s HR team with a dedicated employer branding specialist, or turn to a communications agency that has employer brand development activities in its offer. Experienced internal communications and EB specialists will do their best to ensure that your company is not among the 75% of manufacturing companies surveyed by ManpowerGroup in 2022, which complain about a talent shortage.

Crises erupt… when we are not prepared for them

Some emergencies we cannot foresee. Others we often prefer to turn a blind eye to. In running a business, however, it is better to keep our eyes open and prepare to respond to crises before they happen. Especially since the range of threats increases every year. The Covid-19 pandemic, followed by the semiconductor crisis, strained supply chains, the energy crisis, climate change, and finally that dreaded C-word: cyber-attacks. Capgemini’s 2022 report, ‘Smart & Secure: Why smart factories need to prioritize cybersecurity’ leaves no illusions. More than 40% of the 950 manufacturing organizations surveyed by that organization indicate, that they have seen an increase in hacker activity since 2019, and 73% of them had experienced an attack in the 12 months prior to the survey. To quote an expert from Kyndryl – a brand we are pleased to support – in terms of the likelihood of a cyberattack, informed organizations are asking themselves not ‘if’ but ‘when’ it will happen.

At this point, it’s worth realizing that each of the previously mentioned threats has not only a business, technological or financial dimension, but also a reputation one. The public perception of our company depends on how we handle these threats communication-wise. With a good PR strategy we shall get through the crisis with dry feet. Without it, we might drown in mud. Fortunately, there are a number of communication tools that help prepare in advance and respond appropriately in a crisis situation. One of them is a crisis manual – a document that carefully analyzes the communication risks specific to a particular industry or institution, presents various crisis scenarios and offers very specific guidelines on how to find your way through a difficult situation.

Crisis management training combined with media training is also an invaluable source of knowledge and practical skills. We will thank ourselves for participating in it when, standing in the glare of the spotlight, a hail of questions falls on us from journalists expecting an instant response. If the crisis appears suddenly and quickly escalates, it is worth asking for support from external communication advisors, who, looking at the problem from the side perspective, will be able to propose solutions best suited to the current situation.

Sustainable and responsible development: that’s what we’re talking about

Until a few years ago, when writing about sustainability, I would have focused primarily on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities that companies undertake voluntarily. Today, however, the acronym CSR is increasingly being displaced by the slogan ESG, and that for business and industry companies is no joke. This is about reporting on the non-financial aspects of running a company gathered around three areas: environment (Environmental), community (Social) and corporate governance (Governmental).

Starting in 2024 (with a first report in 2025), more and more organizations will be required to report on their ESG targets with each passing year. First it will be listed companies with more than 500 employees, then large companies with more than 250 employees, and from 2027 also medium and small enterprises. The latter, according to PARP’s 2022 Report on the State of Poland’s Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Sector, constitute 99.8% of the country. The remaining 0.2% are large enterprises, more than half of which (51.6%) conduct business in the industrial sector.

Why am I writing about ESG reports in the communication context? Because it’s a socially and commercially important topic, and companies have much to gain if they approach communicating it to stakeholders and the public in a planned and consistent manner. Investors and institutions in the financial sector are already taking a close look at companies’ actions to implement sustainability strategies. For example, ING Bank Slaski, in its Environmental Declaration 2021, announced that after 2025 it will not finance companies that rely on carbon more than 5% in their operations.

A responsible strategy of communicating the sustainability area in the spirit of presenting efforts and results, rather than greenwashing, can translate into better credit terms, a higher place in investor ratings, and ultimately determine competitive advantage in the market. And frankly speaking, if as a company we are contributing to the planet’s health and a better future, then it is always worth bragging about.

Thought leadership and public affairs as real support in daily operations

These two buzzwords might sound foreign, but in the long run they have a big impact on building a company’s image in the country. Thought leadership is nothing more than positioning a company’s experts in the media (business, economic, industry – as appropriate) and in the public space. Currently, this is one of the most valuable and qualitative ways for an organization to appear in the minds of the public. It allows to develop brand recognition at its best by promoting the knowledge and experience of the specialists working there. Thought leadership activities result in benefits on many levels: customers and business partners are reassured by the company’s professionalism and potential candidates are attracted to participate in recruitment. Additionally, they allow you to appear organically (that is, without paid promotion) in the media, which are important from the perspective of the organization, commenting on issues of business and economic importance.

A company’s expert image can also be a useful tool in communicating with the organization’s public and legal environment, including local and government administrations. This area of communication, referred to as Public Affairs (PA), involves activities aimed at maintaining good relations with a company’s external stakeholders, allowing it to influence projects and decisions that directly affect the day-to-day operation of the business. For companies in the industrial sector, these can be very costly decisions, such as those related to financial support programs or grants for innovation or green transformation. To build relationships with decision-making entities, however, one must first know what these entities are. This is where stakeholder mapping proves to be very useful. It’s a tool which clearly identifies specific stakeholder groups and their level of agility, and therefore the influence they have on our organization.

Business does not operate in a vacuum

These are just selected examples of areas and tools that a company can use to precisely reach its audience and actively develop its position in the market. The choice of specific techniques will depend on the organization’s business goals, size and development plans. The communication strategy does not have to be glamorous, but should always be thoughtful, specific and tailored to the industry we operate in.

If you think your business could benefit from effective communication, but you’re not sure where to begin, write to us. We will be happy to answer all your questions and suggest measures to pull your business out of the communication vacuum.

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