It has been a momentous year.
At times, it has seemed as if the only certainty has been uncertainty. Not least because we have all had to face a terrifying, common adversary and find our own ways of coming to terms with it. How we live, work and play has been reshaped in a matter of months by Covid-19. The virus is unseen; yet its effects are visible everywhere. It has been – and continues to be – a global game-changer.
Some parts of the real estate sector – logistics, for example – have been highly resilient. In contrast, high streets, hospitality and leisure have been ravaged by Covid, while offices are struggling to reinvent themselves to support a radically different approach to how we work. Recovery is no longer about a return to ‘normal’. It is about fundamentally reshaping the way in which our economy functions and how our lives interact to ensure that that we are prepared to face any new, future viruses without the same levels of disruption on a scale inflicted by Covid.
In the UK, we are already starting to see signs of the shape which recovery is starting to take.
Retail portfolios are being resized; major investors and developers, including some familiar household names, are looking in detail at how their estates can be repurposed. Covid has exposed a growing redundancy in ‘real retail’ and landowners are now turning to innovative ways of replacing some of their shops with residential. The build-to-rent sector is likely to grow significantly in response to increasing demands from a generation of younger people more interested in the quality of the spaces they inhabit than in simply owning their homes. Meanwhile, many offices are being recalibrated to accommodate far lower numbers of employees on any given day compared with pre-Covid numbers. In response, architects are seeking – where possible – to incorporate design features which may help to mitigate against the effects of any future pandemics: contactless control systems, rooftop gardens, natural ventilation, wider spaces between workstations. And, around our towns and cities, demand for storage and distribution facilities continues to grow as e-commerce firmly establishes itself at our fingertips – and in our mindsets. In parallel, the past nine months have seen a discernible uplift in local shopping. This is a welcome trend and one which is already starting to encourage a greater mix of outlets and services in suburban and smaller town centres as a readjustment of the balance between physical and digital retail experiences plays out.
Despite the huge challenges, there are many positive signs for an economic resurgence in the next few years. Technology has allowed the property sector to continue to function throughout the pandemic. Now, a highly promising vaccination programme is about to go live. Investors who have been understandably cautious and hedged their bets are starting to reassess their strategies as they look for new opportunities in a post-Covid landscape.
Now more than ever, a communications strategy must consider its messages from every stakeholder angle. The more we understand of stakeholder capitalism, that driving force of change that we are seeing played out across major industries and sectors across the globe, the more vital it is for organisations to get under the skin of their audiences. Understanding and listening – then delivering a clear message in response – will help build resilience in an organisation’s reputation and deepen trust for the long-term.
We are never afraid to give tough advice to help our clients achieve their objectives; with our communications lens, we are a mirror helping them better understand how they are perceived by their stakeholder universe. We are proud to have helped support our clients through these difficult times; as their businesses continue to adapt or readjust, we look forward to continuing to support them through recovery and beyond.