Future of Corporate Communications study finds CCOs investing more in technology

The Edelman 2023 Future of Corporate Communications survey found that half of respondents see themselves as strategic advisers to or partners to their company’s leadership – up from just one third two years ago.

The study is about the future of corporate communications, so technology clearly plays an essential role in future proofing the function with 44% of respondents increasing investment in technology compared to last year. It’s welcome news that 54% say that the value of CommTech is only as powerful as the interpretation and application of data.

As well as 218 survey respondents (all of whom were CCOs or comparable positions) the study also included more than 20 interviews with communications leaders. Their thoughts on technology and data chime with the advisory work we’re doing with clients. Most (89%) of the respondents were from the USA, but I suspect the same themes and trends to be apparent in most countries. The survey targets were from the Fortune 500 and Forbes Global 1000 with 63% having a turnover of more than $10 billion.

Insights about the future of corporate commmunications

“I think it would be a grave mistake for anyone in our field to think that these things are not going to be a big, maybe central part of what we do for a living.”

Even when communication leaders recognise the importance of data and technology, they often need to convince others in the company before they can take meaningful action. That’s why we often start client assignments with a discovery and scoping project to identify a road map that can be used to present a business case for investing in the right communications technology, data and analytics, and the culture change and training needed for people to use it effectively.

“There are internal tools that provide more accuracy in data and reporting. There are platforms we don’t have that we need.”

The sheer number of tools, platforms and services make it impossible for CCOs and their teams to stay on top of what’s available and sift the marketing hype from the reality. This challenge is compounded by the need to work with procurement who often don’t fully understand what communications is and how it differs from marketing. There is also the need to integrate tools into a cohesive workflow and avoid duplication. As vendors add functionality to their tools it’s not unusual for enterprises and agencies to be paying for new tools they already have. That’s why our team stays on top of the latest developments in CommTech by a variety of means:

  • We run our own annual global research to publish the Global CommTech Report which takes an in-depth look at what the Edelman report partially covers.
  • We also hold regular vendor briefings where we meet the CEO, founder or other leader to really understand what they are about, rather than just the usual sales pitch.
  • We attend global PR and comms events (such as the AMEC Global Summit in Miami, the PRCA International Conference in London and the PRovoke Media Global Summit in Washington DC) to hear from their clients what it’s like to use their products and services.

“It only takes one crisis to realise the importance of good quality data and facts, versus hearsay.”

There are some amazing AI-powered, data and analytics tools to help with crisis communications and reputation management. We can use tools to

  • Accurately predict how viral or big a news story or social media post is likely to become.
  • Identify specific journalists or media titles and predict how likely they are to be interested in a news story, help redraft the story to make it more likely and create drafts of potential pitches.
  • Conduct daily, weekly or monthly reputation audit research with real people at a fraction of the cost of traditional research approaches.

Today these tools should be a standard part of the communications toolkit, alongside experience and expertise. But too may communicators still rely on traditional tools, contacts and experience. All of these are important but are massively enhanced by using the latest technology and AI.

The importance of data and analytics is a theme that runs throughout the Future of Corporate of Corporate Communications report. CCOs also identify the need for better data and analytics to measure the impact and effectiveness of ESG. If companies are to avoid accusations of greenwashing and spin then it’s essential, they can not only evidence claims with data, but that data is used to identify and plan improvements.

One aspect of data and analytics that is too often implemented badly is to use it for effective storytelling so people can really understand what the numbers mean. As a judge of the Communicate Datacomms Awards I’ve seen some fantastic examples of data visualisation and storytelling from winning and shortlisted entries. I’ve also seen some scary ones that are bad, but the entrants think are actually good enough to win an award!

Key considerations from the Future of Corporate Communications report

Edelman identifies four key considerations for communications leaders from the Future of Corporate Communications report. All four of them involve the need to improve the use of communication technology, data and analytics.

Too often PR and communication measurement focuses on proving results instead of using insight data and analytics to make better decisions and plans.

This is true, but CCOs need to be careful not to confuse the “business case” with “ROI”. ROI is a specific financial metric which often isn’t the best business metric, or even financial metric to use. Measurement and evaluation, data and analytics are critical to improving and proving the performance of communications.

Unfortunately, the answer to innovating is often no or reluctance. That’s why our focus with clients isn’t just selecting and using the right communications technology, but the training and more importantly culture change which is essential for it to be successful.

Data again. The key part of this isn’t tracking employee sentiment but using the data to drive action derived from making decisions based on better insight.

The final quote is one that particularly resonated with me as I often talk about the strength of corporate affairs, public relations or corporate communications is that it is the professional corporate discipline that has a 360-degree view of a company or organisation. Marketing focuses on products and sales. Human resources focuses on people. Public relations and corporate affairs have to consider everything as the entire organisation needs relationships to exist – with employees, customers, suppliers, regulators and every other stakeholder.

You can read the full results in the Edelman Future of Corporate Communications 2023 report (PDF).

If you want to discuss how the Purposeful Relations team can help you with your future of corporate communications and corporate affairs then please get in touch.