European Communication Monitor 2016: highlights of the outcomes


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The ECM 2016 is a very interesting study overviewing the whole communication function in Europe. But take your time to read it as it has 125 sheets. I did some reading and would like to share some of it’s highlights. Read the full report here.

The study conducted by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD) supported by partner PRIME Research and media partner Communication Director magazine. The ECM 2016 is based on responses from 2.710 communication professionals based in 43 European countries.

Reading everything, the biggest challenge communication professionals have today is to fully stay on top off developments and to permanent educate themselves in order to stay truly valuable for their organisation.

1. Big data is important, but communications professionals lack the knowledge to use it! Almost 75% of the  communication professionals in Europe thinks that big data will change their profession. But only a minority showed a comprehensive understanding when they were asked to rate various definitions representing different characteristics of big data. An alarming lack of skills and knowledge hinders public relations and communication professionals – who tend to define themselves as information experts – from profiting from the massive amount of structured and unstructured data available for public communication today.

2. Will “Auto-Communication” be the end of today’s communication department? Digital information and big data can be used for more than decision‐making: it has “opened up the doors to real‐time, inexpensive and large‐scale testing of the effectiveness of persuasion” and for generating user‐specific and situation‐specific content. 75% of the respondents agree that communication activities should be adapted to external algorithms of search engines or social media platforms. But only one third state that their communication department or agency uses such approaches….why? Maybe because professional communication might lose its relevance if it is restricted to self‐referential practices which create no overall value for organisations and society.

3. Strategic issues and the most important communication channels Digitisation, mediatisation and new demands in business and society have changed communication management dramatically. The longitudinal data collected by the European Communication Monitor for one decade (2007‐2016) substantiates this development on the strategic and operational level. Not surprisingly the importance of the digital channels are growing with Mobile Communication (phone/tablet apps, mobile websites) as the absolute number 1.

The top 3 most important strategic issues for communication management until 2019 are:

  • Linking business strategy and communication
  • Dealing with the speed and volume of information flow
  • Coping with the digital evolution and the social web

Surprisingly low in this list are “Dealing with the demand for more transparency and active audiences” and “Dealing with sustainable development and social responsibility”.

4. Misfit in skills, knowledge and competency development Communication leaders have to take care that their teams acquire relevant competencies to deal with the requirements of communication across multiple channels, manage programs and campaigns, coach and enable other people, and help organisations to align with various stakeholders. To this end, previous research has identified three critical areas in development. Firstly, competencies in the growing field of social media are often lacking. Secondly, management and business qualifications need to be developed. Last but not least, only a minority of development needs for communicators are addressed through suitable training programs.

When asked for their development and training needs, every second communicator mentions technical knowledge and technical skills. This is followed by business knowledge or skills and management knowledge or skills (marked by approximately one third). 23.6 per cent of the respondents need to develop their communication knowledge and 17.0 per cent want to enhance their communication skills. However: Employers tend to offer skills development, while practitioners rate knowledge support more important in each area. This should be reflected and adjusted – intelligent people development is indispensable for excellent communication departments and agencies!

5. Characteristics of excellent communication departments In the comparative excellence framework (CEF), theoretical considerations are combined with self‐assessments of communication professionals and statistical analyses to identify the characteristics which make a difference. Excellence is based on the internal standing of the communication department within the organisation (influence) and external results of the communication department’s activities as well as its basic qualifications (performance).

The ECM 2016 shows that excellent communication departments:

  • have implemented big data activities significantly more often. One third of them also consults internal clients and colleagues about the topic. Big data analytics are used for the same purposes as in other departments, but more intensively.
  • Regard social media influencers as more important and have specific measures to deal with them to a higher degree.
  • Excellent departments are also better aligned to the top management and to the executive board.
  • Professionals working there spend less time for operational work. They put more effort on coaching and consulting other members of the organisation with a highly significant focus on advising and enabling top executives.
  • Professionals in excellent departments focus more on supporting top management

Last but not least: Excellent organisations invest significantly more in personnel development. This is linked to a higher level of staff competencies. Excellent departments employ communicators with stronger management skills!

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