Change means opportunity for Communications Directors
Each year Brands2Life and PR Week ask Communications Directors to share what’s on their minds. Over the last 12 years we’ve explored the impact of digital and social media; the aftershocks of 2008; redundancies; and the measurement conundrum. This year we spoke to over 100 Communications Directors anticipating that a third year of major political events will have dented business confidence. How wrong we were. It is both refreshing, and a little bit surprising, to learn that senior communicators are feeling so positive about their roles in the coming year. Thirty-nine per cent said they are very optimistic, and a further 49 per cent are quite optimistic, about the year ahead. Given continuing political upheaval, this optimism will prove vital for our employers, our work and our industry
As a gauge of aspiration, we offered Communications Directors a metaphorical magic wand and asked them what they would do with their communications budget and why. The majority (59 per cent) wanted an increased budget to allow for more ambitious, creative campaign activity. Music to our ears, but how do we harness this optimism to unlock investment and unleash the creativity? It seems to me that communications departments need to become much more entrepreneurial in their approach. We should start making the business case for investment, in the way our marketing colleagues are used to doing, to unlock creative and media spend. Thorough market research is needed to inform communications strategies and spark the creation of campaign concepts that will truly resonate with the target audience. Ruthless measurement is also required to show the real contribution communications-led campaigns make across different channels. This rigour and analysis is key to securing the investment we need to take the lead on creative content. Digital has given marketers new confidence in knowing how content is shared and engaged with, but how many of these measures (shares and clicks) really evaluate long-term effectiveness?
While market research and measurement are not new issues, in 2017 the stakes feel higher and our opportunity to compete for marketing budget is stronger than ever. Campaigns are needed not only to fuel engagement with the media but also to directly engage audiences over social platforms. Just under three quarters (73 per cent) of Communications Directors have a clear strategy for social media, and are happy with their social media content. Despite fifty-five per cent saying their content is delivering new business growth only 25 per cent say their social content positively reflects their brand – suggesting a role for communications.
In the trade-off between brand and reputation, is it time for communications professionals to become more strident architects and judicious guardians of brand content? To market themselves effectively and stay relevant with their audiences, brands need consistently high-quality communications across ALL their channels from PR and social to advertising, direct mail and sponsorship. There’s a lot to play for but communications professionals have every right to take the lead in shaping and delivering it.
The one thing apparently holding us back is a lack of resources. Some 54 per cent of senior communicators want to expand their teams as a top priority to get more done and provide more strategic support to existing product and service teams. If communicators have the resources to create content that they have proven can drive growth what’s holding back further investment? My view is that communicators need to seize the moment, sharpen our elbows and make the case for the true investment required to deliver a better, more thoughtful, impact.