Challenges of the UK Corporate Communications Profession

 

Lise Michaud

 

VMA group released today (March 14, 2017) a comprehensive research report which focuses on the UK corporate communications profession. Here are some of the key findings.

 

Strategy

 

While 69% of respondents say they have a formal communication strategy within their organization, this still leaves too many organizations (31%) without such a fundamental mark of professionalism. "Having a formal communication strategy is a fundamental practice that serves as a blueprint to communicating with stakeholders and ensures the profession is one step further in removing the dated mislabeling of being a ‘reactive function’ or ‘ finesse merchants’. " suggests the report.

 

 

Research, Measurement and Evaluation

 

Only 54% of respondents strongly agree/
agree that progress towards communications objectives are researched, measured and evaluated with metrics and KPIs.

 

"A well thought through strategy is a must. Without it, you’re driving a car with a set of broken headlights in the dead of night. That could be a fatal combination." Mark Cullen, Director Brand, Marketing and Communications
 EMEIA Financial Services Ernst & Young LLP

 

 

Influence of Communications

 

If 66% of communications teams have a reporting line to a board member, only 27% of respondents say that a communication professional is sitting on their company's board. For 19%, their communications function is either represented at board level by a communications professional or a marketing director. This leaves 42% of respondents having no communication professional with a seat at the table, while 12% say this isn’t applicable.

 

Still, 75% of respondents feel the importance of communications is recognized by their CEO/MD.

According to the report, there is an expectation that the recognition from top-level management for the function will increase considering 64% of respondents strongly agree/agree communications will have more influence within their organization during the next 12 months. Also, 81% believe the demand for communications will increase in their organization within the next 12 months.

 

"The relationship between communications and the c-suite has been growing for some time, so it is heartening to see that extending to representation at board level as well. I am optimistic this trend will continue as the importance of communications, whether it is supporting business objectives or managing reputation, is seen as integral to company strategy regardless of market conditions." Angela Warburton,  Global Head of Communications, Janus Henderson Investors.

 

"The profile of communications at senior leadership levels has never been higher, and is now seen as an integral part of critical business decision-making and strategy.  This isn’t going to change any time soon – the pace of change and flux in which businesses and organizations now operate, and have to pre-empt and respond to, will only see this growing." Jo Ouvry,  Director of Corporate Affairs, Deloitte. 

 

 

How Senior Leaders View Communication

 

  • 35% of respondents believe that senior leaders in their organization are strong advocates of communications.

  • 34% of respondents believe that senior leaders in their organization are ‘on board’ with communications.

  • 22% of respondents believe that senior leaders in their organization understand the value of communications, but are not key advocate.

  • 9% of respondents believe that senior leaders in their organization do not understand the importance of communications.

 

 

Digital Communication and the Future of Communication

 

Seventy-six percent (76%) strongly agree/ agree that digital communications is the future of communications. "We can continue to expect a complete digital transformation of the function," indicates the report.

 

"When the PR industry talks about ‘digital’, 
it is often a very limited definition - for example, managing corporate social channels. In this day and age, that is not good enough. Businesses today are either digital-born, like Just Eat, or have gone or are going through a significant digital transformation. PR professionals need to improve their understanding of digital in its widest sense
- including what that word means for marketing colleagues and how digital channels drive revenue. In exchange, agencies and brands should invest in their people to ensure they are trained in broader business and marketing skills earlier in their careers and that PR isn’t just seen as a bolt-on tool for campaigns but a key part of the marketing and communications mix." Joanna de Koning,  Head of Corporate Communications, Just Eat PLC.

 

"Demand for communications is growing. An effective strategy brings together a broader communications mix behind one clear sense of brand and purpose to help an organization achieve its goals. That this now includes digital communications is a given. The strategy needs to be flexible so that teams have space to adapt and change in the face of new digital opportunities, as well as more dynamic business challenges and opportunities." Tom Glover,  Communications Director, Tes Global.

 

 

Top Skills/Competencies that Candidates Are Lacking

 

  • Business acumen


  • Writing (specific corporate messaging)

  • Creativity


  • Writing (online)

  • 
Political awareness

  • 
Measurement


  • Communications planning

  • 
Writing (publications)


  • Strategy development


  • Coaching senior leaders

 

 

Top Skills/Competencies for a Communications Professional

 

  • Communications planning

  • Crisis communications


  • Influencing


  • Media relations

  • Proactive communications


  • Writing (specific corporate messaging)

  • Stakeholder/relationship management

  • Creativity

  • 
Business acumen


  • Corporate messaging

 

 

Most Important Challenges Facing Communications Team Within the Next 12 Months

 

  • Building an effective communications team that can meet the increasing demands from organizations with limited resources, restriction on growing budget and headcount.

  • Demonstrating the strategic value of the function.

  • Proving return on investment on digital and social media.

 

 

Biggest Challenges for the Communications Profession Over the Next 5 Years

 

  • The ability to leverage digital and social media channels.

  • Adapting to the speed of social media and evolving media landscape.

  • To improve the function’s reputation, justify its role and demonstrate its effectiveness.

  • Uncertainty and impact of Brexit across all sectors.

  • Matching an organization’s expectations with the resources available.

 

The View was compiled from over 410 responses to a survey conducted in 2017.

 

You can request a copy of the full report at: http://www.vmagroup.com/the-view/

 

 

 

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