Amy Drummond

Opinion: How to communicate in the ‘techlash’ age

Amy Drummond, head of technology at AprilSix Proof, discusses the findings of the agency’s latest report into the current backlash against tech companies.

The ‘techlash’ – the backlash against the technology industry – is growing in intensity, fuelled by public, and political, concerns around data privacy and job security. But what does the techlash mean for strategic communications – specifically PR- and its influence on the board?

This summer we polled 400 UK-based marketing and comms professionals, working in technology, about the impact that the techlash has had on the perception of PR within their organisation. Nearly a third (30%) of the professionals that we polled said recent technology-related PR crises, such as Facebook’s data breach, has meant that PR has more influence within their organisation. Yet, only a fifth (22%) said decisions regarding PR are ultimately taken by the board.

Now seems to be the time to make the case that PR can be a strategic and valuable asset for the board. It can tune into the full spectrum of stakeholder concerns and influence the board to not just change the way it communicates, but the way it does business. In the age of this techlash, PR should be, more than ever, a two-way mode of communication – a feedback loop. That loop needs to run from external stakeholders – for example, employees, the public, customers, or government – through to a company’s key decision makers: the board.

Communication professionals are in the natural position to educate their organisation’s stakeholders on the techlash – explaining the damage that it has already caused brands, not just to their reputation but to the bottom line too. In many cases a backlash has happened when a company’s actions have contradicted the values they promote, or they’ve been unclear about their business objectives. Companies can learn from this and evaluate how well their vision, values and objectives are understood both internally and externally, and how they chime with current stakeholder sentiment.

By creating a robust feedback loop – one that monitors stakeholder debate and feeds that sentiment to the board in order to drive change where necessary – makes sense not just from an ethical perspective, but a business perspective too.

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