Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Two steps forward, one step back.

That’s how it often feels in some communications departments today. You get most of the budget you need, but not all. You’re able to establish a firm ROI on your recent campaign, but someone on the board still wants to know the advertising equivalent. Or you establish reputation as a core pillar of the overall corporate strategy, only to have the CEO pursue it half-heartedly – or less.

This is the third trend of the recent European Communications Monitor (ECM) – the difficulty in fully aligning business strategy with communications processes and capacity.

Let’s go to the numbers:

  • 46.3% of those surveyed by the ECM stated that coping with the digital evolution and the social web was among one of the most important strategic issues
  • 44.1% replied affirmative to the aforementioned difficulty of linking business strategy and communication
  • 33.8% struggle with reconciling the need to address more audiences and channels with limited resources
  • 33.8% also indicate concern over strengthening the role of the communications function in supporting top-management decision making

Sound familiar?

Having identified these issues plaguing management and creating a rift over how to make communications part of the bottom line, it is more important than ever to prove the value of communications as a prerequisite for helping management to formulate strategic decisions.

Another aspect of the study examined potential barriers affecting the professionalization of communications:

  • 84.2% of respondents admitted to a lack of understanding of communication practice within top management
  • 75.3% conceded to difficulties in proving the impact of communication activities on organizational goals
  • 53.9% cited a shortage of up-to-date communication training
  • 52.4% underscored the tarnished reputation of professional communication and PR in society

Moreover, for the first time since the ECM began, the perception of both advisory influence and executive influence of communication managers has decreased in Europe over the past year, slipping from 78% to 70% for advisory influence and 77% to 72% for executive influence.

Why?  Respondents suggested the main reason for declining influence and impact on business directly reflect a dearth of relevant competencies, particularly when it comes to management skills and knowledge. Many communicators simply don’t know how to translate what they do into language executive management interpret and apply.

This makes it exigent  for the communications industry to close the gap between communicators and management. A concerted, comprehensive training effort in this area will benefit both the reputation of the communications field as well as communications professionals’ ability to effectively counsel senior business leaders.

So in other words, we’ll need to step up if we want to continue stepping forward.

This is this third of a five part series on the European Communications Monitor (ECM), sponsored by Ketchum.  The ECM is one of the largest surveys of communications professionals in the world, run by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA), the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD) and Communication Director Magazine, drew data from more than 2000 participants in 42 countries.  View the first post here and the second post here.

About David Gallagher

As a Senior Partner, CEO of Ketchum’s European operations and Chairman of the London office, David Gallagher brings more than 20 years of public relations experience, both as a client and as a senior agency adviser, to some of the world’s leading brands and companies. Interested in PR, politics, Texas Longhorns and life with two labradoodles. Follow him on Twitter @TBoneGallagher.