I am not a great fan of conferences, especially when they last longer than a day. But this one really worked well for me. More than 500 delegates — mostly leaders of communications departments from corporations, associations and organisations representing 45 countries — gathered in Berlin to participate in the annual European Communication Summit 2019 (ECS 2019). The event’s busy schedule with 48 panels, presentation, workshops and keynotes gave many opportunities to discuss, share views and — most importantly — expand personal horizons. Leidar partnered with the ECS 2019 as a sponsor and held a workshop on “Macro Trends and Micro-Influence”.
I joined a total of 13 different sessions during the two-days conference. Irrespective of their thematic focus, I saw three major threads emerging from the various contributions and ensuing follow-up conversations:
- Corporate Purpose – Any company that attempts competing successfully in the market place, retaining their best people and attracting best-of-breed professionals has to determine its values and business strategy based on a higher purpose that defines its role in and contribution to society. But be aware: the purpose has to be relevant to the company’s core activities. As importantly, a corporate purpose must be fully embraced by its leadership and its employees who need to breathe it and live it. Otherwise it’ll backfire massively because buy in from stakeholders and customers will simply not be there!
- Corporations’ Obligation – The challenges humankind is facing in the decades to come are unprecedented while political leaders are not willing, capable or empowered to tackle them successfully. As Laila Pawlak (Co-founder and CEO of SingularityU Nordic) in her outstandingly entertaining and insightful keynote said on Friday morning: “There is a global ‘To-Do-List’ out there: the 17 Sustainability Goals.” With that framework or roadmap at hand, corporations do not only have the opportunity to contribute to solving big global issues, the private sector – corporate leadership together with employees – is a collective force that can successfully drive the necessary change and develop viable solutions for all key issues the world is facing. The term ‘Inclusive Capitalism’ echoed a couple of times in various conference rooms. I think, you could still call it ‘Creating Shared Value‘ or even ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’. The premise is though, that helping to resolve the existing global issues is not solely a part of the corporate communications strategy – because of our capability to create awareness and set agendas – but an integral component of a company’s corporate and go-to-market strategies.
- Re:Humanize – The world has progressed over the years, first based on hardware– in the 60’s, 70’s and 80s, then evolved with softwarein the decades thereafter, today culminating in AI based on algorithms. Now we should enter into a new phase focusing on – as Laila Pawlak coined it – humanware or Re:Humanize.It is the reorientation to the human factor in all – private or professional – interactions and processes making sure that technology will serve and not manipulate us. The large digital platforms that are currently controlling Social Media and multi-stakeholder engagement should not dominate the communities, while we all have to put the human element first: in how we manage, engage and communicate. This all will require a change of attitude, behaviour and, yes, better regulation. Here too, the private sector has an important stake and should push policy makers. But above all stands: not losing sight of the global ‘To-Do-List’ (see above).
A great idea of the organisers was to end the conference thematically with – as far as I am concerned – the most sympathetic quality of the human species: humour. ‘Corporate humourist’ Drew Tarvin summed it up nicely with his keynote speech ‘The value of humour in communications’. Not only in communications, I presume.