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Management tools for corporate communications: Relevance, benefits and experiences. Results of an empirical study in communication departments.

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The world's first study on the use of management tools in strategic communication, based on a survey among chief communication officers and communication managers with responsibility for strategy, steering or controlling in leading companies. It identifies the Top 12 tools for practitioners as well as the best-known and least known tools, and the satisfaction with different procedures. The relevance for implementing tools and knowledge gaps are shown, as are drivers influencing the use of management tools in communications. The study organized by Leipzig University and Lautenbach Sass complements research on the most popular management tools conducted by consultancies like Bain for more than a decade.

Communication management tools are methods, procedures, standard processes and frame-works (thinking tools) for the analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation of communication activities in organisations, and for steering those processes. They are implemented according to a uniform scheme and can be used in a wide variety of situations. Management tools provide orientation and make everyday work easier by enabling practitioners to perform frequently occurring tasks in a uniform, routinized and comprehensible manner.

Such tools are widely used in business management and management consulting. But what about corporate communications? To what extent do communicators use tools for analysing, planning, implementing and evaluating communication activities? The results show that there is still room for improvement. In addition to classic, more operational PR tools, more established management tools should be adapted. A toolbox tailored to your own needs is essential for the further development of the communications department – and for being recognized as a trusted partner by top management.

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Management tools for corporate communications: Relevance, benefits and experiences. Results of an empirical study in communication departments.

  1. 1. 1 Management tools for corporate communications – Relevance, benefits and experiences Results of an empirical study in communication departments w October 2018
  2. 2. 2 Imprint Publisher: University of Leipzig Institute for Communication and Media Studies Chair of Strategic Communication Burgstrasse 21, 04103 Leipzig, Germany LAUTENBACH SASS Management Consultancy for Communications Schleusenstraße 15-17, 60327 Frankfurt am Main, Germany Citation: Zerfass, A., Volk, S. C., Lautenbach, C., & Jakubowitz, M. (2018). Management tools for corporate communications: Relevance, benefits and experiences. Results of an empirical study in communication departments. Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main: University of Leipzig / Lautenbach Sass. © 2018 by the authors. All rights reserved. This report is available for download at http://bit.ly/tools-cc, http://www.communicationmanagement.de and www.lautenbachsass.de. The German version of this report is available at http://bit.ly/tools-uk. Publishing and uploading this document elsewhere is prohibited. The use of graphics and statements from this report is permitted if the source is quoted in full (see above) and the following reference is made directly below each illustration. “Source: Zerfass, Volk, Lautenbach & Jakubowitz, 2018; http://bit.ly/tools-cc”. Images: https://barnimages.com (p. 1), https://www.pexels.com (p. 22). Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  3. 3. 3 Preface Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Today, strategic communication is a key success factor for corporate management. However, in contrast to other professions, communicators do not yet have a repertoire of established procedures for carrying out their tasks. This makes it difficult for different functions, colleagues and service providers to work together. All too often the wheel is reinvented again and again. Therefore, board members, executives and internal business partners might get the impression that communication can be carried out ad hoc without a specific body of knowledge. Management tools set a counterpoint. They provide orientation and make everyday work easier by enabling practitioners to perform frequently occurring tasks in a uniform, routinized and comprehensible manner. Such tools are widely used in business management and management consulting. But what about corporate communications? To what extent do communicators use tools for analysing, planning, implementing and evaluating communication activities? We wanted to shed some light on these questions and conducted the world's first study on the use of management tools in strategic communication. To this end, we interviewed chief communication officers and communication managers with responsibility for strategy, steering or controlling in leading German companies. The results show that there is still room for improvement in the use of management tools in corporate communi- cations. In addition to classic, more operational PR tools, more established management tools should be adapted. A toolbox tailored to your own needs is essential for the further development of the communications department – and for being recognized as a trusted partner by top management. We would like to thank everyone who took part in the survey. Many thanks also to the German Public Relations Association (DPRG) for supporting the study. Prof. Dr. Ansgar Zerfass Christoph Lautenbach Sophia Charlotte Volk Melanie Jakubowitz
  4. 4. 4 01 Introduction: Management tools in business and communications 05 Tools in different management stages 02 Research design and methods 06 Factors influencing the use of management tools 03 Relevance, knowledge and experiences 07 Conclusions and call to action 04 Familiarity, diffusion and satisfaction 08 Literature and additional information / About the authors Inhalt Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  5. 5. 5 Introduction: Management tools in business and communications 01 Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  6. 6. 6 Companies and their communication departments face many challenges today, ranging from the digital transformation and constant change to increasing complexity. In order to cope with more and more tasks with limited resources, clear orientation, agile structures and goal-oriented processes are necessary. Communication managers must set the right course. Management tools as drivers of excellence Management tools in the sense of standardized thinking tools and procedures for the analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation of recurring tasks are an aspect of excellence (Tench et al., 2017) that has so far hardly been discussed in corporate communications. Tools are common in many areas of business management. This applies not only to operational aspects such as project plans or quality controls, but also to strategic decisions and complex issues. Management consultancies such as McKinsey, Bain and BCG have always relied on management tools that are recognized by board members and executives when analysing markets, technologies and business processes. This ensures efficiency and effectiveness, and also fosters acceptance by internal business partners and other stakeholders. But what role do management tools play in communications? What are the best known procedures, what is frequently used, what about satisfaction with the most important tools? This is unknown until now; there is a worldwide lack of knowledge on this subject. This study closes this gap. It provides a first insight into the practice of German companies and shows possible courses of action. Tools in strategic management In management research, training and consulting, there has long been an intensive debate about the benefits and limitations of strategy tools. Well-known examples are the industry analysis (Five Forces) by Porter (1980) and the Balanced Scorecard by Kaplan and Norton (1996). These are frameworks that make complex contexts understandable and create a basis for discussion by mapping relevant elements, variables and influencing factors for specific problems. This enables practitioners to work on targeted solutions. Such frameworks are to be distinguished from theories that explain terms and connections, as well as from models that show empirically measurable effects (Ostrom, 2009, p. 414). The comparatively high popularity and acceptance of management research is often attributed to the fact that it has succeeded in developing such tools, communica- ting them in a practical manner, spreading them widely at universities and in executive training and implementing them in practice through strategy consulting under a uniform name (Jarzabkowski et al., 2010, 2013). Introduction Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  7. 7. 7 In the business discipline, textbooks and anthologies describing the most popular tools (e.g. Burtonshaw-Gunn, 2008; Schawel & Billing, 2018) are as widespread as studies on the use and acceptance of tools (Rigby, 2001; Rigby & Bilodeau, 2018). Empirical evidence shows that management tools are widely used (Jarzabkowski & Kaplan, 2015). Everyone who has ever dealt with strategy knows the best-known concepts – this fosters trust and facilitates cooperation. Backlog in corporate communications The knowledge in the area of strategic communication has not yet been distributed in a comparable manner. Apart from the widely used SWOT analysis, there are only a few tools in the literature that are repeatedly mentioned and linked to concrete concepts (e.g. the RepTrak for reputation measurement or the brand steering wheel). Systematic descriptions of tools are scarce. When they exist, they usually focus on sub-areas such as press relations or social media (Reineke & Pfeffer, 2000; Pfannenberg & Schmalstieg, 2015). A toolbox for strategic communication management as an overview of established concepts from management, marketing and PR as well as newly developed management frameworks was only recently developed in a research project (Volk et al., 2017). A description of the most important tools for communicators will be published in the near future (Zerfass & Volk, 2019). So far, the discussion has not even started internationally. Practical experiences Experiences of management consultants for communica- tion show that the systematic documentation and training of tools is scarce in communication departments. Standards are just as rare as the adaption of scientifically based concepts. Employees often use self-developed templates and procedures, so that neither learning curves are used nor acceptance by (internal) clients is created. Only a few companies, such as Deutsche Telekom, GIZ and Munich Airport, have documented and further developed key processes – and they have had positive experiences throughout. Introduction Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Examples: Practice-oriented descriptions of management tools (Rigby, 2017); industry analysis by Porter (2010, p. 4)
  8. 8. 8 In contrast to management consultancies, only a few communication agencies have a repertoire of proven management tools that can be used in projects with clients. Here, the experience is consistently positive as well – those who apply established concepts will reach their goals faster and better. Communication management tools: a definition Communication management tools can be defined as methods, procedures, standard processes and frame- works (thinking tools) for the analysis, planning, imple- mentation and evaluation of communication activities in organisations, and for steering those processes. They are implemented according to a uniform scheme and can be used in a wide variety of situations. This terminology is based on the established understanding of tools in strategic management. This understanding of tools therefore does not include technical platforms and software solutions such as editorial systems, databases, chatbots, social intranets, etc. These are also important, but do not primarily concern management tasks. In this context, corporate communications refers to all managed communication processes (messaging and listening) with which a contribution is made to the defi- nition and fulfilment of tasks in profit-oriented business entities, and which in particular serve to coordinate actions and clarify interests within the organisation (internal communications), on markets (market communi- cations) and in the socio-political sphere (public relations) (Zerfass, 2014). Communication management steers these activities and should be aligned with overarching corporate goals and act upon the maxims of strategic communication (Zerfass et al., 2018). Introduction Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Toolbox Strategic Communication Management (Volk et al., 2017, p. 38-39)
  9. 9. 9 Research design and methods 02 Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  10. 10. 10 Objectives and starting point The aim of this study is to gain an initial empirical insight into the relevance and assessment of management tools in the practice of corporate communications. The research is explorative and descriptive, since there are no findings on the subject beyond the descriptions of individual cases to date. It is therefore not possible to formulate and test hypotheses. Research questions The study asks for the understanding and knowledge, fundamental assessments and the perceived added value of management tools for communications on the individual level of communication professionals (RQ1). On the level of communication departments, general patterns of practice as well as the use of and satisfaction with key tools for analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation are explored (RQ2). Finally, the study checked whether the identified characteristics are influenced by characteristics of the respective person, department or organisation (RQ3). Design and survey method Based on an interdisciplinary literature analysis, an online questionnaire with a total of 30 questions was created. Five-pole Likert scales as well as single and multiple selection questions were used. Some questions were only asked depending on previous answers (filters). The questionnaire was programmed with Questback's EFS survey tool and made available for various devices (computer, tablet, smartphone). Functionality and comprehensibility were checked during a pre-test with 15 communicators and subsequently optimized. Population and sample For the study, an elite sample of communication mana- gers in German companies with dedicated responsibility for strategy, steering or controlling of corporate communi- cations was surveyed. The basis was a address list of 383 chief communication officers (CCOs) and managers responsible for strategy and controlling of communica- tions in large German companies, which was compiled by the researchers. Personal invitations werde sent via e-mail. In addition, the German Public Relations Asso- ciation (DPRG) announced the study. The survey was online from April 25 to June 5, 2018. For this report, only fully completed questionnaires by communication mana- gers meeting the above criteria were evaluated. This resulted in 125 respondents (32.6% of the original list). Data analysis The data were analysed with descriptive and analytical statistical methods using IBM SPSS software. Correlations are only shown in this report if they are statistically significant. Research design and methods Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  11. 11. 11 Research design and methods Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Tools Knowledge Assessment Added value • General understanding • General knowledge through academic studies or further education • General knowledge through professional experience • Knowledge of selected tools for analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation • Importance for communications • Competences of communicators • Structured problem recognition • Routinized problem solving • Simplification of complex problems • Acceleration of decision making processes • Efficient solution finding Use Application Satisfaction • Systematic documentation • Competent appli- cation by communi- cation employees • Increased intensity of use • Use of selected tools for analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation • Frequency of use of the tools applied • Degree of satisfaction with the tools used Online survey about the knowledge, use and assessment of management tools in corporate communications Person Demographics Education Position • Age • Gender • Academic degree (level) • Degree in business or economics • Management trainings • Hierarchy level • Responsibility for strategy and steering • Job experience in communciations • Job experience in consulting • Responsibility for management tools Organisation Size Leadership Comms Dept. • Total annual revenue or total assets • Degree of support for the use of tools by top management • Headcount • Previous assessment by management consultants External factors • Environmental uncertainty • Complexity of communication tasks
  12. 12. 12 n = 125 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in Germany who have completed the entire questionnaire. Questions: What is your position? In your position, do you have responsibility for strategy, steering or control of the communications department? How old are you? How many years of professional experience do you have in the communications industry? Did you study business or economics? Did you attend management trainings? Did you work as a consultant in your previous professional life? Sample characteristics Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Communication managers in German companies in charge of strategy, steering or control125 Overall heads of communication (CCOs)41% Department, area or team leaders46% Communication specialists13% Male68% Age (years)Ø47 > 16 years of job experience72% Academic background with management content36% Further education in management87% Formerly working in a consultancy38%
  13. 13. 13 Management tools explored in the study PlanningAnalysis Evaluation Implementation Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Analysis tools § SWOT analysis § Benchmarking § Stakeholder map § Process analysis § Persona analysis § Budget analysis / Financial Decomposition § Scenario technique & forecasting § Communication touchpoint analysis Evaluation tools § Big data and social media analytics § Communication dashboard § Sentiment tracking § Communication reports § Media response analysis § Communication scorecards § Reputation analysis § Brand assessment Planning tools § Topic planning § Budget planning § Reputation management § Outsourcing / Make-or-buy decision § House of communication targets § Positioning matrix § Brand steering wheel § Mission statement Implementation tools § Editorial plan § Communication briefing § Communication checklist § Communication scrum § Portfolio of instruments § Topics pyramid § Target radar § Flow charts and swim lanes
  14. 14. 14 Relevance, knowledge and experiences 03 Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  15. 15. 15 Parameters for communication A clear majority of the communication managers surveyed observe that their organisation operates in an increasingly turbulent environment (79.2%). The constant change is even more evident at the level of communica- tion tasks. 92.3 percent confirm that these are becoming increasingly complex: this is not the case in only very few companies (5.1%). Importance of tools in practice Communication management tools help to capture and structure complex challenges. So it is not surprising that the relevance of tools has increased recently. 72.1 percent of the communciation leaders stated that communication management tools are used more intensively in their company today than five years ago. Irrespective of this, nine out of ten respondents (91.2%) demand that tools should be part of the professional knowledge and skills set of communicators. From a practical point of view, it makes sense to deal with this topic in any case. Basic understanding and knowledge gaps However, the empirical results reveal a clear uncertainty when defining and discussing communication manage- ment tools. The conceptual understanding of the interviewees does not always coincide with the general management discourse. A majority postulates that methods (85.6% approval; e.g. stakeholder or media analyses) or procedures and standardized processes (e.g. for communication planning; 76.8%) can be understood as tools. Only one in two (52.8%) knows that the term also includes thinking tools (e.g. for situation analyses). Instead, databases (e.g. for journalists), software systems (for project management), platforms, channels and apps (instagram, websites) or measures (e.g. news letters) are often considered as tools. One reason for this more operational understanding of the term is probably the fact that only a quarter of the respondents were confronted with management tools during their academic studies or further education. For practitioners, the topic has so far become more or less randomly accessible – if at all – in everyday working life. Practical experience and added value Only four out of ten companies state that those working in the communications department are able to use tools competently (39.5%). The proportion of departments in which tools are systematically documented is a bit higher (41.9%). There is a lot to do – especially because the added value of such frameworks and processes is clearly recognised. From the respondents' point of view, the structured recognition (79.0%) and routinised processing (79.0%) of problems are particularly supported. More than two-thirds also mention the efficiency of finding solutions and the simplification of complexity as positive effects of tool usage. Relevance, knowledge and experiences Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  16. 16. 16 Increasing complexity of communications leads to a growing importance of tools; know-how in this area is indispensable Management tools for corporate communications I Study report n ≤ 125 communications managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in Germany in Germany. Questions: If you think about the topic in general, to what extent do you agree with the following statements? When you think about your department, how do you agree with the following statements? | Agreement on a scale from 1 (disagree fully) to 5 (fully agree). Percentages show answers with scale points 4 and 5 (agree/fully agree). Our communication tasks are becoming increasingly complex92.3% Tools will gain in importance due to growing and more complex tasks88.0% Tools should be part of the knowledge and skills of communicators91.2% Communication management tools are used more intensively today than five years ago72.1% ↪
  17. 17. 17 Correct understanding (going along with the business discourse) 52.8% 76.8% 85.6% Thinking tools Procedures and standard processes Methods Mentions in % Different understanding 31.2% 47.2% 61.6% 64.8% Activities Platforms, channels and apps Software systems Databases Mentions in % Not all communication leaders have a clear picture of communication management tools n = 125 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in Germany. Question: There are many different definitions and understandings of communication management tools. What do you mean by that? In my understanding, tools for communication management ... | Percentages show agreement with individual statements. Multiple answers possible. Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  18. 18. 18 n = 125 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in Germany. Questions: If you think about the topic in general, to what extent do you agree with the following statements? Communication management tools ... When you think of your department, how far do you agree with the following statements? | Agreement on a scale from 1 (fully disagree) to 5 (fully agree). Percentages show answers with scale points 4 and 5 (agree/fully agree). Communication management tools in practice Knowledge, skills and documentation of management tools are lagging behind Management tools for corporate communications I Study report 39.5% 41.9% 63.2% 25.6% The staff in our department can use tools competently In our department tools are systematically documented I learned about tools in detail during the course of my professional practice I learned about tools in detail in my studies or in further education Agreement in %
  19. 19. 19 n ≤ 125 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in Germany. Question: If you are thinking specifically about the use of communication management tools in your daily work, to what extent do you agree with the following statements? I Agreement on a scale from 1 (fully disagree) to 5 (fully agree). Percentages show answers with scale points 4 and 5 (agree/fully agree). Added value of tools in the daily work of communication managers 79.0% 79.0% 69.4% 62.6% 68.5% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Management tools help to identify, simplify and solve problems Management tools for corporate communications I Study report … enable a routinized processing of problems … help to simplify complex problems … help to accelerate decision-making processes … enable efficient solution finding ... facilitate a structured recognition of problems Communication management tools
  20. 20. 20 Familiarity, diffusion and satisfaction 04 Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  21. 21. 21 The study reveals which tools have already been used in the communication departments surveyed and – if this is the case – the frequency of use and satisfaction. In the case of the tools not used, it was also clarified whether the respondents had any knowledge about them at all. In total, 32 established tools in all stages of the communication management process (analysis, planning, implementation, evaluation) were examined (see p. 13). Spectrum of management tools used A first descriptive insight is that an average company has already used 21 of the 32 tools presented. This means that a broad repertoire of established thinking tools and methods is available in practice, even if they are not systematically documented or reflected upon. Frequently used procedures Tools for the operational planning and implementation of communication enjoy the greatest awareness and spread. These are often easy to use, but not standardized in the industry. In German communication departments, topic and budget planning as well as editorial plans and communication checklists are widespread (used by 88% to 94% of companies in the sample). The top ten most widely used tools include only two analysis tools: SWOT analysis (90.4%) and benchmarking (84.8%). Of the evaluation tools, only one method – media response analysis – is used in a very large number of companies (92.8%). Low profile tools The ranking of the least known communication management tools is led by the communication touchpoint analysis. More than a quarter of the communication leaders surveyed (28.0%) are unfamiliar with this popular method known from marketing communications. There are also knowledge gaps in implementation tools such as the communication scrum, flow diagrams, target radar, and the topics pyramid. Most popular communication management tools The 12 most important tools for communication management were identified on the basis of satisfaction with the practical application. It turns out that some methods are among the favourites that are less frequently used, e.g. reputation analysis, mission statements or touchpoint analysis. It is evident that more complex tools with a high strategic impact can achieve a lot. Overall, however, the comparison of commitment and satisfaction shows that traditional and simple tools have been at the forefront of communication departments up to now. Familiarity, diffusion and satisfaction Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  22. 22. 22 n = 125 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Question: Which of the following analysis tools / planning tools / implementation tools / evaluation tools have already been used in your department? Answer options: (1) "don't know this tool", (2) “has been used here", (3) “has never been used here", (4) "don't know whether it has been used here“ | Figure shows the mean based on all 32 tools with positive answers for (2) “has been used here". Communication departments use a variety of management tools Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Use of tools (average number) 21 … of 32 tools (on average) have already been used by the companies surveyed Ø “If the only tool you have is a hammer, (it is tempting) to treat everything as if it were a nail.“ (Maslow, 1966, p. 15)
  23. 23. 23 n = 125 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Question: Which of the following analysis tools / planning tools / implementation tools / evaluation tools have already been used in your department? Answer options: (1) "don't know this tool", (2) “has been used here", (3) “has never been used here", (4) "don't know whether it has been used here“ | Percentages show answers with (1) "don't know this tool". "The Classics" – most widely used communication management tools 81.6% 81.6% 84.0% 84.8% 88.0% 90.4% 92.0% 92.8% 94.4% 94.4% Planning/implementation tools are most frequently used; but there are few established methods for evaluation 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Editorial plan Topic planning Media response analysis Budget planning SWOT analysis Communication checklist Benchmarking Communication briefing Mission statement Portfolio of instruments Analysis tool Planning tool Implementation tool Evaluation tool Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  24. 24. 24 n = 125 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Question: Which of the following analysis tools / planning tools / implementation tools / evaluation tools have already been used in your department? Answer options: (1) "don't know this tool", (2) “has been used here", (3) “has never been used here", (4) "don't know whether it has been used here“ | Percentages show answers with (1) "don't know this tool". "The Unknown" – least known communication management tools 11.2% 14.4% 16.0% 16.8% 17.6% 19.2% 19.2% 20.8% 26.4% 28.0% Knowledge gap in analysis and implementation tools – many thinking tools and procedures are not known 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Communication touchpoint analysis Communication scrum Flowcharts and swim lanes Target radar Topics pyramid House of communication targets Persona analysis Brand steering wheel Scenario technique & forecasting Budget analysis/Financial Decomposition Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Analysis tool Planning tool Implementation tool Evaluation tool
  25. 25. 25 n ≤ 118 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Questions: How satisfied are/were you with the practical application of the analysis tools / planning tools / implementation tools / evaluation tools in your department? Which of the following tools have already been used in your department? The figure shows the three tools with the highest satisfaction for each stage of management. Percentages in brackets show satisfaction (scale points 4 and 5, satisfied/very satisfied) and use (“has been used here"). "The Popular" – communication management tools with the highest satisfaction The top 12 tools for communication management with the highest level of satisfaction Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Benchmarking (64% / use: 85%) SWOT analysis (68% / use: 90%) Communication touchpoint analysis (73% / use: 38%) Reputation analysis (75% / use: 71%) Media response analysis (71% / use: 93%) Brand assessment (71% / use: 60%) Communication checklist (81% / use: 88%) Communication briefing (83% / use: 84%) Editorial plan (78% / use: 94%) Topic planning (76% / use: 94%) Mission statement (77% / use: 82%) House of communication targets (74% / use: 53%) PlanningAnalysis Evaluation Implementation
  26. 26. 26 Comparison of use and satisfaction Traditional and simple tools are ahead in use and satisfaction Satisfaction Use 100% 50% 75% 2.5 4.53.5 5.0 n = 125 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Questions: How satisfied are/were you with the practical application of the analysis tools / planning tools / implementation tools / evaluation tools in your department? Which of the following tools have already been used in your department? Percentages show answers for “has been used here" | Mean values of satisfaction on a scale from (1) "not satisfied at all" to (5) "very satisfied". Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Analysis tool Planning tool Implementation tool Evaluation tool Editorial plan Stakeholder map Persona analysis Process analysis Benchmarking SWOT analysis Communication touchpoint analysis Scenario techniques Mission statement House of communication targets Budget planning Topic planning Outsourcing / Make-or-buy decision Target radar Flow charts & swim lanes Communication checklist Communication scrum Communication briefing Scorecards Dashboards Media response analysis Brand assessment Reputation analysis Budget analysis Reputation management Positioning matrix Topics pyramid Reports Portfolio of instruments Sentiment tracking Brand steering wheel Big data & social media analytics
  27. 27. 27 Tools in different management stages 05 Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  28. 28. 28 A comparison of satisfaction and commitment for all management tools provides a closer look at practices in various stages of the communication management process. The data reveal whether the respective tools are used in the communication departments surveyed. The frequency of use (weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.) was also recorded. But this is not evaluated here for comparative purposes, since some tools such as editorial plans and checklists can be applied more frequently than methods linked to specific points in time, e.g. the development of a mission statement or the evaluation of a brand. Satisfaction with and use of analysis tools The degree of satisfaction with established methods is least pronounced in the analysis stage. Only one method scores more than 70 percent among the respondents: communication touchpoint analysis. However, many respondents are not even aware of this tool (see above) and it is only used in 37.6 percent of the companies. It is remarkable that stakeholder maps are used in three out of four communication departments, of which only 57.7 percent are satisfied with their practical application. Planning tools Among the tools for communication planning the house of communication targets is a method that receives quite positive feedback from the users (74.1% satisfaction), but is comparatively rarely used (by 52.8% of the companies). Two well-known tools, mission statement and topic planning, lead the satisfaction ranking in this stage. Implementation tools Four favourites clearly stand out in the implementation stage of communication management, both in terms of use (over 80%) and satisfaction (over 75%): communi- cation briefings, communication checklists, editorial plans and portfolios of instruments. However, flow charts and swim lanes, the method with the lowest values in both dimensions of all tools in the study, can also be found in this section. Tools for communication evaluation Among the evaluation tools, reputation analyses have the highest satisfaction value (75.3%), followed by media response analyses (71.2%), brand evaluations (70.9%) and communication dashboards (70.8%). The picture is different when it comes to usage: media response analy- ses (92.8%) and communication reports (80.8%) are in the lead. However, only 63.5 percent of the communica- tion departments that use the latter tool are satisfied or very satisfied. For big data and social media analytics, the frequency of use and satisfaction are exactly the same (68.8%) – this is not the case with any other tool. Tools in different management stages Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  29. 29. 29 n ≤ 113 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Questions: How satisfied are/were you with the practical application of the tools in your department? Which of the following tools have already been used in your department before? Bars show satisfaction (scale points 4 and 5, satisfied/very satisfied). Percentages show answers for “has been used here". Satisfaction with and use of analysis tools Analysis tools: High satisfaction with communication touchpoint analysis – but few use it Management tools for corporate communications I Study report 50.0% 53.3% 56.8% 57.7% 59.3% 64.1% 68.4% 73.0% Process analysis Persona analysis Scenario technique and forecasting Stakeholder map Budget analysis / Financial Decomposition Benchmarking SWOT analysis Communication touchpoint analysis 37.6% 90.4% 84.8% 56.0% 74.4% 44.0% 59.2% 63.2% Use in %Satisfaction in %
  30. 30. 30 n ≤ 118 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Questions: How satisfied are/were you with the practical application of the tools in your department? Which of the following tools have already been used in your department before? Bars show satisfaction (scale points 4 and 5, satisfied/very satisfied). Percentages show answers for “has been used here". Satisfaction with and use of planning tools Planning tools: House of communication targets in the top three with highest satisfaction, but only used by every second Management tools for corporate communications I Study report 57.1% 64.1% 68.9% 70.7% 71.3% 74.1% 76.2% 77.1% Outsourcing / Make-or-buy decision Reputation management Brand steering wheel Positioning matrix Budget planning House of communication targets Topic planning Mission statement 81.6% 94.4% 52.8% 92.0% 61.6% 50.4% 62.4% 46.4% Use in %Satisfaction in %
  31. 31. 31 n ≤ 118 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Questions: How satisfied are/were you with the practical application of the tools in your department? Which of the following tools have already been used in your department before? Bars show satisfaction (scale points 4 and 5, satisfied/very satisfied). Percentages show answers for “has been used here". Satisfaction with and use of implementation tools Implementation tools: Communication briefings and checklists are most popular – swim lanes little recognized Management tools for corporate communications I Study report 42.4% 63.3% 64.3% 65.8% 75.8% 77.5% 81.1% 82.8% Flow charts and swim lanes Communication scrum Topics pyramid Target radar Portfolio of instruments Editorial plan Communication checklist Communication briefing 84.0% 88.0% 94.4% 81.6% 37.6% 40.0% 25.6% 35.2% Use in %Satisfaction in %
  32. 32. 32 n ≤ 116 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Questions: How satisfied are/were you with the practical application of the tools in your department? Which of the following tools have already been used in your department before? Bars show satisfaction (scale points 4 and 5, satisfied/very satisfied). Percentages show answers for “has been used here". Satisfaction with and use of evaluation tools Evaluation tools: Almost all companies use media response analyses, but only 71 percent are satisfied Management tools for corporate communications I Study report 55.6% 61.9% 63.5% 68.8% 70.8% 70.9% 71.2% 75.3% Communication scorecards Sentiment tracking Communication reports Big data & social media analytics Communication dashboards Brand assessment Media response analysis Reputation analysis 71.2% 92.8% 60.0% 68.8% 68.8% 80.8% 55.2% 43.2% Use in %Satisfaction in %
  33. 33. 33 Factors influencing the use of management tools 06 Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  34. 34. 34 In order to explain the spread and acceptance of management tools in corporate communications, it is particularly interesting to identify independent variables that influence the values researched. In the present study, this is done with analytical statistical methods that calculate cross-tabulations (chi-square or T-tests) and show statistically significant correlations (at least at the level of 0.05). Assessment of added value The number of tools used in a communication department influences their assessment by communication leaders. The contribution of tools to accelerating decision-making processes (Pearson correlation: 0.220) and to efficient solution finding (0.299) are seen more clearly if more methods or procedures are used. Influence of company and department size Management tools help to ensure that recurring tasks are processed systematically and according to a comparable pattern. This facilitates cooperation within the communi- cation department, with other company functions and with service providers. In this respect, it can be assumed that larger companies and larger communication departments use more tools than smaller ones, as the need for coordi- nation increases and the expected benefit is greater. This is supported by the empirical data. Companies with annual revenues of up to 1 billion Euros use an average of 17 different methods, while companies with revenues of between 1 and 20 billion Euros use 21 tools, and the largest companies with revenues of over 20 billion Euros use 23 methods. This number is also reported by com- munication departments with more than 100 employees; those with up to 10 employees use an average of 18 tools. Management consultants leave their mark Significantly more tools are also used if a communication department has been analysed by external or internal management consultancies (McKinsey & Co.) in the last five years. These consultants themselves work heavily with management tools; this could lead to learning effects for communicators. Experience and competence of communicators The personal profile of those responsible for strategy, steering and controlling communications in a company is also relevant. Significantly more tools are used if respondents have been working in the communications industry for a longer time. If they regularly attend management training courses, an average of 23 tools are used for communication management in the department. If no management skills are acquired, the number is significantly lower (15 tools on average). Factors influencing the use of management tools Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  35. 35. 35 Number of tools used depends on company size and previous assessment by consultants Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Number of tools used and total revenues or assets Number of tools used and former assessment by consultants n = 119 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Questions: Which of the following tools have been used in your depart- ment? How high are the total annual revenues or total assets of your company worldwide? Figures show mean values. n = 116 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Questions: Which of the following tools have been used in your depart- ment? Has your department been assessed by external or internal management consultants in the last 5 years? Figures show mean values. Ø23 Tools Ø17 Tools Small firms (≤ 1 billion Euros total annual revenues / ≤ 50 million Euros total assets) Large enterprises (> 20 billion Euros total annual revenues / > 500 billion Euros total assets) The higher the company's turnover and the more employees in the communication department, the more tools are used. More tools are used if a communication department has a track record of being analysed by management consultants. Ø23 Tools Ø19 Tools No assessment of the communication department by in-house consultants or external management consultants in the last five years At least one assessment of the communication department by in-house consultants or external management consultants in the last five years à à
  36. 36. 36 Experience and further training of communication leaders influences the use of tools Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Number of tools used and professional experience of communication leaders Number of tools used and attendance of management trainings and further education n = 125 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Questions: Which of the following tools have been used in your department? How many years of professional experience do you have in the communications industry? Figures show mean values. n = 125 communication managers in charge of strategy, steering or control in German companies. Questions: Which of the following tools have been used in your department? Have you attended management training/education courses? Figures show mean values. Ø22 Tools Ø16 Tools Less than 6 years of professional experience More than 20 years of professional experience Ø23 Tools No management trainings/ further education in management attended yet Regular attendance of management trainings/ further education in management Ø15 Tools Departments use more tools, if communicators with management responsibility have more work experience. More tools are used when communication leaders regularly attend management trainings or further education in that area. à à
  37. 37. 37 Conclusions and call to action 07 Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  38. 38. 38 Key findings of the study The empirical survey shows that there is a considerable need to catch up in the use of tools in corporate commu- nications. The importance of tools is clearly seen by the interviewed chief communication officers and commu- nicators in charge of strategy, steering and control. But there are clear gaps regarding the competent use and documentation in communication departments. German companies mainly use methods for planning and imple- menting communication, which are often traditional PR tools. Procedures with roots in marketing communication or strategic management are less well known. Satisfaction is often higher with more complex and less frequently used tools than with the more widespread, mostly operational standard procedures. The use of tools is influenced both by structural characteristics of the respective organisation and by personal experiences and competences of the communicators in charge. Success factors and recommendations Based on the present study and the literature, some recommendations and success factors for the use of tools in communication management can be formulated (Zerfass & Volk, 2019): 1. There will never be "the one right method" – but a better one can almost always be found (Kiechel, 2013). This requires thorough research, weighting strengths and weaknesses, exchanging experiences with other tool users and taking into account the particularities of the respective company. Beware of elusive fashion waves. 2. Quick and simple solutions are not always effective. The lower the effort involved in selecting and implemen- ting tools, the greater the risk of dissatisfaction. In view of scarce time resources, it is better to select a few management tools and then use them purposefully (Rigby & Bilodeau, 2018). 3. Systematic documentation is mandatory. Only if tools are documented in writing – whether in guidelines, manuals, toolkits, handbooks or intranets – can the knowledge be codified and passed on to new employees or service providers without loss of information. The written specification also ensures that all parties involved use the tools correctly and prudently (Nohria et al., 2003). The same applies to tools and procedures developed in- house: these should also be standardised and documented. 4. A toolbox signals rationality and promotes acceptance as a business partner by top management and other departments. The introduction of a toolbox as a collection of documented procedures and methods (Volk et al., 2017) is a prerequisite for the continuous development and professionalisation of the communication depart- ment. Active support of management should be ensured (Jarzabkowski & Kaplan, 2015). Conclusions and call to action Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  39. 39. 39 5. The added value of tools is based on the right combi- nation of different procedures. But these combinations do not always have to be invented anew. For recurring challenges, it makes sense to set up situation-specific toolboxes for individual tasks or teams in addition to a master toolbox: e.g. a toolbox for crisis management, a toolbox for content management, a toolbox for change communication. 6. The use of communication management tools has to be learned. Thinking tools and methods are a means to an end. Only those who know which concrete problems need to be solved or goals need to be achieved can use the right tools. This requires a clear assignment of tasks. In addition, the use of tools must be practiced, e.g. with the help of case studies and real-life examples from within the company or in the context of further training under professional guidance. 7. Tools must be adapted to existing processes and systems in the company – not the other way around. They provide generic templates and schemes. Therefore, they do not have to be implemented rigidly or strictly applied according to textbook descriptions. They should provide food for thought and aid practice, but also allow for creative ideas or unconventional approaches to solutions (March, 2006). 8. Many potentials of tools are wasted without a regular evaluation. Tools must be checked and updated again and again, as factors influencing their appropriateness and performance are constantly changing. It is also necessary to reflect on which tools work poorly and whether there have been situations in which tools have led to wrong management decisions. Ideally, employee satisfaction with the methods used should be measured regularly (Rigby & Bilodeau, 2018). 9. Satisfaction with management tools often varies between countries (Rigby & Bilodeau, 2018). This offers opportunities for internationally operating communication departments. For example, new tools can be tested in pilot projects in one country and then implemented globally. 10. Management training and education is a key to success. A solid understanding of business fundamentals and regular attendance of management training courses is positively correlated with the use of management tools in general (Nohria et al., 2003) and especially in commu- nication management (see above, p. 36). Conclusions and call to action Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  40. 40. 40 References and additional information / About the authors 08 Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  41. 41. 41 Burtonshaw-Gunn, A. A. (2008). The essential management toolbox: Tools, models and notes for managers and consultants. London: John Wiley & Sons. Jarzabkowski, P., Giulietti, M., Oliveira, B., & Amoo, N. (2013). “We don’t need no education” – or do we? Management education and alumni adoption of strategy tools. Journal of Management Inquiry, 22(1), 4-24. Jarzabkowski, P., & Kaplan, S. (2015). Strategy tools-in-use: A framework for understanding ‘Technologies of Rationality’ in practice. Strategic Management Journal, 36(4), 537-558. Jarzabkowski, P., Mohrman, S. A., & Scherer, A. G. (2010). Organization studies as applied science: The generation and use of academic knowledge about organizations. Introduction to the special issue. Organization Studies, 31(9-10), 1189-1207. Kaplan, R. S., & Norton, D. P. (1996). The balanced scorecard: Translating strategy into action. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Kiechel, W. III (2013). The management century. Harvard Business Review, 90(11), 62-75. March J. G. (2006). Rationality, foolishness, and adaptive intelligence. Strategic Management Journal, 27(3), 201-214. Maslow, M. (1966). The psychology of science. New York, NY: Harper & Row. Nohria, N., Joyce, W. F., & Roberson, B. (2003). What really works. Harvard Business Review, 81(7), 42-52. Ostrom, E. (2009). Beyond markets and states: Polycentric governance of complex economic systems. Nobel prize lecture on December 8, 2009, Stockholm, Sweden. Retrieved from https:// assets.nobelprize.org/uploads/2018/06/ostrom_lecture.pdf Pfannenberg, J., & Schmalstieg, D. (2015). Toolbox Social Media. Stuttgart: Schäffer-Poeschel. Porter, M. E. (1980). Competitive strategy: Techniques for analyzing industries and competitors: with a new introduction. New York, NY: Free Press. Reineke, W., & Pfeffer, G. A. (2000). PR Check-up: Arbeitshandbuch Öffentlichkeitsarbeit – Checklisten für die Praxis. Essen: Stamm. Rigby, D. (2001). Management tools and techniques: A survey. California Management Review, 43(2), 139-160. Rigby, D. (2017). Management tools 2017. An executive guide. Boston, MA: Bain & Company. Rigby, D., & Bilodeau, B. (2018). Management tools & trends. Boston, MA: Bain & Company. Schawel, C., & Billing, F. (2018). Top 100 Management Tools (6. Aufl.). Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler. Tench, R., Verčič, D., Zerfass, A., Moreno, A., & Verhoeven, P. (2017). Communication excellence – How to develop, manage and lead exceptional communications. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Volk, S. C., Berger, K., Zerfass, A., Bisswanger, L., Fetzer, M., & Köhler, K. (2017). How to play the game. Strategic tools for managing corporate communications and creating value for your organization (Communication Insights, Issue 3). Leipzig: Academic Society for Management & Communication. Zerfaß, A. (2014). Unternehmensführung und Kommunikationsmana- gement: Strategie, Management und Controlling. In A. Zerfaß & M. Piwinger (Hrsg.), Handbuch Unternehmenskommunikation (2. Aufl., S. 21-79). Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler. Zerfass, A., Verčič, D., Nothhaft, H., & Werder, K. P. (2018). Strategic communication: Defining the field and its contribution to research and practice. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 12(4), 487-505. Zerfaß, A., & Volk, S. C. (2019). Toolbox Kommunikationsmanage- ment. Denkwerkzeuge und Instrumente für die Steuerung der Unternehmenskommunikation. Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler. References Management tools for corporate communications I Study report
  42. 42. 42 More information Book publication on the 44 most important tools Online coaching for the practical application of tools Zerfaß, A., & Volk, S. C. (2019). Toolbox Kommunikationsmanagement. Denkwerkzeuge und Instrumente für die Steuerung der Unternehmenskommuni- kation. Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler (German language). Available early 2019 at www.amazon.com Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Volk, S. C., Berger, K., Zerfass, A., Bisswanger, L., Fetzer, M., Köhler, K. (2017). How to play the game. Strategic tools for managing corporate communica- tions and creating value for your organization (Communication Insights, Issue 3). Leipzig: Aca- demic Society for Management & Communication. Free download at www.academic-society.net Booklet illustrating three newly developed tools digable offers: Interactive sessions on concrete challenges. Practical application of tools for communication management. Tangible results after only half a day (German language). More information at www.digable.de
  43. 43. 43 Prof. Dr. Ansgar Zerfass Professor and Chair of Strategic Communication zerfass@uni-leipzig.de About the authors University of Leipzig Management tools for corporate communications I Study report Sophia Charlotte Volk, M.A. Research Associate & Project Lead sophia-charlotte.volk@ uni-leipzig.de Christoph Lautenbach Managing Partner lautenbach@lautenbachsass.de Melanie Jakubowitz, M.A. Strategic Communication Consultant jakubowitz@lautenbachsass.de Lautenbach Sass
  44. 44. 44Management tools for corporate communications I Study report

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