EMENAComm: Communication Trends for 2019

Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity; 2018 was a year of confusion, especially for the public.

The role of the communicator has also become more challenging. There’s more stakeholders to deal with, there’s a plethora of channels to use, and even more noise to contend with. Trust is being eroded, and consumers are asking more questions about brands and their values.

Communicators themselves must answer basic and fundamental questions about their roles. While their skills are in increasing demand, especially in the Middle East, many communicators are still not operating at the boardroom level. They’re tasked with tactics, rather than execution.

So, what issues and skills areas should communicators focus on in 2019?

As part of the Digital Boom’s partnership with the International Association of Business Communicators for EMENAComm, the largest communications conference in the Middle East in 2019 that will take place in Bahrain this February, we look at the areas that we should all develop.

The Need for Specialization

Many of the communicators in the region are generalists – they work on pretty much everything. With the possible exception of digital, we’re yet to see specializations emerge, such as for public affairs or internal communications. The latter is going to become more important, as organizations realize the need to better engage and talk with their staff.

EMENAComm will have a track dedicated to internal communications, with sessions on purpose led by Internal Comms expert Sean Trainor, which will seek to challenge and make you rethink your perception on your organization’s visions and values, so that you are able to better understand your people and think critically about what matters to them.

The Importance of Listening

Many organizations are eager to talk, but they’ve forgotten the other element of conversation. If we’re to build trust and communicate more effectively, we must become better listeners, and listen to hear and understand, rather than simply to respond.

At EMENAComm, three leading experts will run a workshop designed especially for the conference. The session will help communicators understand what listening really mean – for individuals and for organisations; why listening is a crucial tool for the communicator and is key to transformation, and tips, tools and ideas to improve listening, insights and to generate change.

Our Ability to Adapt and Transform

If the past couple of years has demonstrated anything, it’s that organizations need to be able to shift quickly if they’re to remain relevant to the public. Communicators are essential to the success of any transformation, and we have to be at the top of our game if we are going to help our leaders see through change.

We have a number of communicators at EMENAComm who will share their change stories. Former Cameron Craig executive Cameron Craig was at Apple during its turnaround, and worked side-by-side with Steve Jobs. Cameron will share five communications lessons from those days and how you can take advantage of these same principles for your company. Themes include why you should keep it simple, prioritizing influencers, staying focused on your message, and using outside milestones for internal momentum.

Our Need for Transparency (and why it’s so hard)

We keep getting told about speaking truth to power, and the need for communicators to practice this concept. However, as many of us know, the idea of telling our leadership directly our views isn’t easy, particularly when those views are unpopular.

How do you promote a culture of openness?

One keynote speaker at EMENAComm is Dawn Metcalfe, the person behind the concept of HardTalk. Dawn will be sharing her learnings on how we can foster an open, transparent culture.

She’ll be explaining why our neurobiology makes difficult conversations even harder; the impact not having difficult conversations has on critical areas including: brand and reputation management and crisis communications, and how we can build high-­performing teams through kind candour and avoid the spiral of doom that leads us to stay quiet when we should speak up.

For those working in communications, 2019 is going to be just as complex (and possibly more so). Build up your capabilities, and get prepared to step up your abilities and those of your team. Invest in yourselves, and become more strategic.

We’ll see you at EMENAComm