“The deeper notion of ESG has just gone through the roof” - Nik Govier, CEO - Blurred

E.S.G.P - if you haven’t heard of it, Nik Govier and her team at Blurred believe those 4 letters will become essential in the world of PR & Communications, where brand is purpose, and companies will become accountable through actions over words.

What is ESGP?

“This is how companies are measured as being good corporate citizens. E is environmental, S is social and people related and G is governance - do they have good corporate governance and eg. pay tax. P is purpose and is not usually added onto ESG, but we believe you cannot have one without the other.”

“The companies who had better ESG ratings fared considerably better than those that didn’t”

“The name Blurred comes from the fact that everywhere we now look there’s a blurring of lines. Corporate is consumer, internal is external, brand is purpose and increasingly comms consultancy is management consultancy.”

“For us, employee comms is a fundamental principle. We always believed employees were a vital audience to communicate with. But actually, the deeper notion of ESG has just gone through the roof. There’s probably a lot of people who, a year ago, had never heard of it. Whereas now most people know something about it and it was fascinating to see that during this tough time, the companies who had better ESG ratings fared considerably better than those that didn’t. So, suddenly companies are thinking, this isn’t just about doing good things, this is about how we make our business bulletproof going forward.”

“It’s not okay just to woke wash”

“We have big clients like Coca-Cola and BT so ESG is essential for them. But it comes through differently as well. Movements like Black Lives Matter are huge for ESG. I loved the way the public and employees reacted to BLM as it spread across the globe. I loved the way that when companies just lamely shared a black square, people went back in their droves and asked what right they had to be sharing a black square.”

“People now want to know what these companies are doing for black people. And that’s a classic example of ESG affecting a company by how it’s viewed by consumers. It’s right that companies are now having to answer these questions. It’s not okay just to woke-wash.”

“Coca-Cola, one of our clients, put all its marketing on hold right up until a couple of weeks ago so it could divert all of its normal marketing money to support the pandemic effort globally. As well as just being the right thing to do, that would have garnered a lot of support from employees and customers.”

“Christmas is going to be extremely difficult”

“Christmas is going to be extremely difficult. Where we’re facing a moment of extraordinary heartbreak where we might be having to have our first Christmas with family members missing. So, the normal, hugely expensive, glorious kind of ad campaigns that have existed for decades just aren't going to wash, and could so easily send out the wrong message.”

“We’ve been doing a lot of work to get the nuances right and make sure that businesses are backing their chat. If they’re doing an advert about loneliness then we’re looking to see what work they’re doing to combat loneliness.”

“You cannot do superficial, light, fluffy stuff in the world we live in anymore”

Regarding how PR trends will change, Nik says two big areas need to be watched closely.

“Environmental is one, we can’t forget that we’re in a climate crisis, so that will be raising its head. Another more emerging one is AI and robotics which is quite a major ESG threat. We’re very lucky that Matt Peacock is one of our partners who used to be group comms director of Vodafone and also lectures at several business schools. He runs Blurred Business School. Every fortnight we have a proper lecture on something and a few weeks ago it was on robotics and AI. There’s a huge threat there globally because increasingly jobs will be going. This has a huge ESG knock-on effect. If people don’t have jobs, then companies won’t have consumers. So, that’s an interesting minefield.”

“You cannot do superficial, light, fluffy stuff in the world we live in anymore. It has to have depth, feel authentic and link to something of substance otherwise, you get found out.”

“That’s a great thing for our industry because we can be more proud of what we do. If Blurred can keep proving that companies with good ESGP make more money, that will then lead to them being better corporations as a side effect.”

This episode of PR in Lockdown was recorded in September 2020.

PR in Lockdown is a podcast series produced by Access Studios in collaboration with the PRCA. It is available on YouTube and all major podcast libraries.