New research on corporate communications in an integrated world

PR and corporate communications recruitment firm VMA Group today published a new research report on ‘communicating in an integrated world’. I was privileged to be invited as a CIPR board member to sit on a panel to discuss its findings.

I’d urge you to read the full The View report, but wanted to quickly share some of my thoughts on some of the findings.

Digital and social media

There is a lot about digital and social media. How important it is, how it’s the future, it’s one of the biggest challenges facing corporate communications, the difficulty of proving its ROI, lack of digital and social skills etc.

Some of the key statistics include:

  • 76% agree that ‘digital communications is the future of communications’
  • 53% rate their organisation’s current usage of digital communications and social media as poor or average
  • 74% of corporate communications teams use social media for ‘corporate messages’ or to put it another way to shout at people, which isn’t very social is it?
  • On a minor technology point I’m astounded that just 2% are using Pinterest (half of the number using Google+!) when 32% use blogs. Doh! Pinterest drives traffic to your blog.
  • Considering that most of the respondents to the survey work in corporate communications it is alarming how little they use social media for CSR (29%), crisis communications (22%) and reporting (16%).

As someone who is ‘known’ for digital and social media for corporate affairs, corporate communications and public affairs, you’d expect me to give a great whoop of joy as The View contains lots of evidence why in-house corporate communications teams should work with me to improve how they use digital and social media.

However, I feel that it’s all a distraction from the real issue. My fellow panelist Kevin Ruck, co-founder of PR Academy, made a similar point when he talked about digital and social being distracting ‘noise’.

The real issue is strategy and measurement.

The influence of communications, budget and strategy

I found these sections of The View far more interesting and hidden within them is one explanation as to why digital and social media are seen to be one of the main three challenges for corporate communications over both the next 12 months and the next five years.

The View says “Alarmingly 31% of organisations do not have a formal communication strategy”. Viewing it as alarming is one way of looking at it, but I have an alternative. It might be be seen as positive or refreshing that 31% of professional corporate communicators recognise that they don’t have a strategy. In my experience of working with some very big companies and organisations I’d say that a lot of the 69% of respondents who say they do have a communication strategy are probably mistaken. I’ve looked at a lot, or rather I haven’t. I’ve been shown plans, budgets, lists of activity, calendars etc, but frequently not a strategy.

An even more alarming figure is that just 54% of respondents agree that “progress towards communications objectives are researched, measured and evaluated with metrics and KPIs”.

And then we wonder why PR and communications doesn’t always have enough influence in the boardroom, or isn’t being earmarked for budget increases (that data is also in The View).

There is also the issue of conflating ROI (return on investment) with intelligent and relevant measurement and evaluation. If that’s what people are trying to do then they are probably trying to do the wrong thing and betrays a lack of deep understanding about how corporate communication and public relations objectives should relate to business and organisational objectives.

If organisations have a good public relations or corporate communications strategy with clear, measurable objectives then it becomes much easier to understand and justify what role digital and social media plays in it.

There is lots more to take from VMA’s research including sections on remuneration (money), recruitment (jobs) and personal development (success) so why not ask for your own copy here.

Or if you want to talk about how I can help you to review your strategy, put in place robust measurement and evaluation, and upskill your team for the digital and social age then please get in touch.

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