The 2021 edition of the world’s largest study into strategic communication and public relations has explored current practices and future developments of communications in companies, non-profits and other organisations including communication agencies across Europe. The full report, based on interviewing more than 2.600 communication leaders and practitioners from 46 European countries, includes insights on CommTech and digital infrastructure, video-conferencing for stakeholder communications, and future roles for communication professionals, in additon to the most important strategic issues for the profession in the next years and characteristics of excellent communication departments.
CommTech and digital infrastructure
A vast majority of practitioners across Europe highlight the importance of digitalising stakeholder communications (87.7%) and building a digital infrastructure (83.9%). The current level of digital maturity, however, is often unsatisfactory: Only a minority (43.8%) of communication departments and agencies is considered mature when it comes to providing digital tools for support activities that are specific for communications.
Strategies for digital transformation are crucial for mastering the future of communications. The study shows that strategies for transforming structure (42.1%) or people (41.9%) and especially for modifying tasks (39.4%) are less prevalent than approaches for using technology (48.3%).
Video-conferencing for stakeholder communications
Video-conferencing has clearly taken over during the pandemic, with 89.2% of communication professionals across Europe using it for stakeholder communications during the past year. The most frequent use can be seen in internal communications for informing and engaging employees (92.5%).
All in all, three out of four practitioners (72.8%) intend to use it for stakeholder communications even when the pandemic is over.
Future roles for communication professionals
Today, communication professionals devote most of their worktime to the traditional Communicator role (42.8%), followed by the Manager role (31.1%). While one quarter of the respondents spend a substantial share of their worktime as a Coach (27.7%) or Advisor (26.2%) as of now, more than half of the surveyed practitioners expect that these two roles will rise in importance in the next three years.
When it comes to the competencies and personal attributes relevant to the various roles, it is not surprising that a majority consider themselves well equipped to communicate on behalf of organisations (77.1%), but only one in two consider their management competencies to be high.
Characteristics of excellent communication departments
The Comparative Excellence Framework for Communication Management (CEF) has been applied to identify high-performing communication departments and their attributes. These excellent communication departments put a stronger emphasis on using big data and algorithms (∆ +2.1%) and on digitalising communication processes (∆ +2.9%). They are significantly more mature both in digitalising stakeholder communications and in building a digital infrastructure and their strategies for transforming technology, people, structure and tasks are all better developed.