The Future Of Corporate Comms Lies With Being A Subject Matter Expert

By Megan Leppan, Founder at Raised by Wolves 

In the world of communications, there is a stereotype that corporate comms, with their technicalities and legalities, aren’t creative. So, how do you go about changing perceptions around corporate and sustainability comms? How do you communicate complex subject matters and technical information that’s antithetical to common advertising practices? Brands need subject matter experts who can take on heaps of information and organise it into a strategy that pulls out key facts and engages consumers emotionally.

Why is being a subject matter expert pivotal to elevating creativity in corporate communications?

In the ever-changing corporate and sustainability space, there’s a fair few landmines to watch out for. Conversations around creative work more often than not focus on the messaging, tone and creatively crippling anxiety that ‘someone might read it this way’. It’s then no surprise that design, and its relationship to the copy, are of peripheral importance.

That said, without judgment, brands should rightly protect the integrity of their corporate messaging as much as agencies should look for smart ways of evolving it into something meaningful. On this journey, we’ve made a lot of mistakes, but we did learn something, a mantra that we now live and operate by. Beyond all the traditional reasons for being a subject matter expert in your clients business, there’s a mercenary creative one: the more you understand the intricacies and motivations behind complex corporate or sustainability subjects, the more likely you are to create something which doesn’t lose its integrity by the end of the process. No small feat in this world.

 

It might sound obvious, but nuances in this space behave more like landmines than they do roadblocks. Anticipating tension points, covering off the legal necessities, and building out solutions that are uniquely authentic to the brand’s image help navigate towards a creative solution that both sides are happy with. Whilst I never envisaged becoming an SME in topics like Net Zero, Packaging Circularity and Corporate Purpose, it does give you an acute awareness and instinct for how to translate the technical into the meaningful. And that in turn, develops a deeper level of trust with clients who feel more comfortable that you ‘get it’, as they after all don’t want to be the ones ‘killing creative’ either.

As sustainability and corporate reputation continue to hit the mainstream, this experience is going to become ever more familiar. To elevate creativity in this space, agencies will need to find a middle ground between keeping an objective distance from a brand’s challenge and becoming an SME in the topic driving the communication.

Why does creative comms now live at the intersection of marketing, comms and strategic advisory?

Creative communications is an underdeveloped space with a lot of potentials. Generally speaking, it means different things to different people, depending on what side of the industry you fall into. For us, it was the sweet spot between three disciplines – advertising, communications and strategic advisory – and its rise seems to have coincided with brands’ shift towards being a good corporate citizens.

But what exactly is it? We tend to say it’s ‘bringing an advertising calibre of creativity to communications’. As the lines between corporate and consumer continue to blur, there’s a fast-growing need to translate what previously would have been internal or B2B messages into engaging and meaningful consumer-facing ones. With that comes a key creative challenge – how do you get across deeply technical subject matters to people who are used to tagline advertising? How do you explain the differences between things like recycled content and recyclability in a way that doesn’t look like an annual report?

That’s where the sweet spot comes in. Creative comms specialises in tactical creativity that keeps the conversation going in a simple and compelling way. It draws upon the best of strategic consultancy in terms of understanding the core business challenges and how to navigate a myriad of corporate stakeholders. It has the resilience and agility of comms to translate that into a messaging platform that has the depth of thinking to handle audience pivots, daily changes, technical nuance. Whilst still upholding the creativity and simplicity of thought that you would expect from advertising or something along those lines at least.

From our experience, this model lends itself well to hybrids or small tactical teams that like to work fast and have an inherent resilience to them. Co-founder of Uncommon, Nils Leonard, recently mused “The fewer people you need to make an idea happen, the more powerful you are”. Although speaking in a different context, this certainly feels like the crux of what the newly chartered creative communications space looks to achieve.

The importance of agility and having the capacity to adapt creative on a day-to-day basis

This is a tough one, one of the more challenging aspects of creative communications is the initial planning that goes into developing suites of assets that are subject to constant strategic evolution. In this space, never-ending messaging changes and design pivots come as standard. So, the challenge is to build creative concepts and messaging platforms that don’t just become the average of averages but actually maintain their original integrity in the face of constant adaptation.

It’s a bit of a contentious topic in the industry as some will inevitably see this approach as a sell-out or the ‘beginning of the end’ for creativity. For us, it’s about raising our strategic and creative game. Corporate and sustainability topics don’t always fit neatly into a single-minded proposition, and their technical complexities aren’t going to get simpler in the near future. But consumers are demanding more transparency, more communication and more agility around these complex topics. So we have a choice: continue to allow this area to be poorly serviced creatively or change our approach to it.

The latter led us to found Raised by Wolves, and the outlook that elevating creativity in these two areas is one of the toughest creative and strategic challenges out there currently. But, we do believe it can be met and it will need to be if brands are going to communicate effectively around corporate reputation and sustainability at the speed and frequency consumers now desire.

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