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The 2018 JOTW Communications Survey

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Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW) and Sword and the Script Media, LLC conducted an online survey of JOTW subscribers in February 2018. Most respondents were senior in-house or corporate communications professionals with extensive experience in the field. Below are some of the survey highlights and detailed demographics can be found at the end.
Less budget to do more. Most respondents – 63% – cited budget as their top challenge, even as businesses and employers expected PR pros to do more and added to a growing list of duties. A majority (51%) said they expect their budget to remain the same over the next year.
Hiring and firing agencies. When corporate communications hires an outside agency, most (54%) said they do it because they need an extra pair of hands. Another 50% noted that expertise or a specialization was a compelling reason to seek outside help. When communications agencies are fired, the top reasons can be traced to a trio of cost (79%), service (50%) and results (40%).
Hot PR trends and tactics. Respondents identified storytelling (79%), content marketing (71%) and thought leadership (67%) as the trends or tactics that would be more important in the next 12 months. While no trend or tactic earned 50% or more of the votes for “less important” or “much less important,” there are three that earned the most: press releases (34%), white papers (35%) and award programs (39%).
Some communications tasks are getting harder. 51% said media relations is getting harder; 50% say organic social media is getting harder; views vary on whether or not PR measurement is getting harder – 38% say harder, while 20% say easier and 37% say about the same. Sentiment analysis suggests while digital channels are easier to track there are more things to track, which requires time and consensus.
Employed but open to new opportunities. Most respondents are employed full time but many are open to a conversation about a new position. More than half or 55% said they’d be open to new opportunities.

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The 2018 JOTW Communications Survey

  1. 1. The 2018 JOTW Communications Survey A survey of current trends among public relations, public affairs and modern communicators conducted in partnership with Sword and the Script Media, LLC
  2. 2. The “Job of the Week” network began as a simple experiment to build a community of communication professionals that could help each other find employment opportunities. Today we have more than 5,500 communicators in the network, and we engaged them to share some of their thoughts on the state of corporate communications in 2018. This survey demonstrates the value of the JOTW network and suggests that the network would be a useful group for subsequent surveys. The JOTW newsletter comes out every Monday. To join the JOTW network, send me an email at lundquist989@cs.com. It’s free. ~ Ned Lundquist, ABC March 19, 2018
  3. 3. “Public relations is an approach, not series of tasks to be done every day." ~ @frank_strong
  4. 4. Table of Contents Executive summary Top challenges Selecting agencies Firing agencies Tactics and trends Media relations Organic social media PR measurement Tech tools Comms budgets Job seekers Open ended comments Demographics Methodology About ……………..………..Slide 5 …………..………..………Slide 6 ……...………..………Slide 7 …………………..………Slide 12 ……..………..………Slide 15 …………………..………Slide 21 ….………..………Slide 24 ………………..………Slide 27 ……………….………..………Slide 30 ……….………..………Slide 33 …………….………..………Slide 36 ………..………Slide 39 ………….………..………Slide 42 ……………………..………Slide 47 ……………………………..………Slide 48
  5. 5. Executive Summary Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW) and Sword and the Script Media, LLC conducted an online survey of JOTW subscribers in February 2018. Most respondents were senior in-house or corporate communications professionals with extensive experience in the field. Below are some of the survey highlights and detailed demographics can be found at the end. • Less budget to do more. Most respondents – 63% – cited budget as their top challenge, even as businesses and employers expected PR pros to do more and added to a growing list of duties. A majority (51%) said they expect their budget to remain the same over the next year. • Hiring and firing agencies. When corporate communications hires an outside agency, most (54%) said they do it because they need an extra pair of hands. Another 50% noted that expertise or a specialization was a compelling reason to seek outside help. When communications agencies are fired, the top reasons can be traced to a trio of cost (79%), service (50%) and results (40%). • Hot PR trends and tactics. Respondents identified storytelling (79%), content marketing (71%) and thought leadership (67%) as the trends or tactics that would be more important in the next 12 months. While no trend or tactic earned 50% or more of the votes for “less important” or “much less important,” there are three that earned the most: press releases (34%), white papers (35%) and award programs (39%). • Some communications tasks are getting harder. 51% said media relations is getting harder; 50% say organic social media is getting harder; views vary on whether or not PR measurement is getting harder – 38% say harder, while 20% say easier and 37% say about the same. Sentiment analysis suggests while digital channels are easier to track there are more things to track, which requires time and consensus. • Employed but open to new opportunities. Most respondents are employed full time but many are open to a conversation about a new position. More than half or 55% said they’d be open to new opportunities.
  6. 6. The top challenges facing communications
  7. 7. Budget, scope and proving value; the struggle is real. The modern communicator, like public relations and public affairs professionals, face a seemingly impossible challenge: their budgets are under constant pressure while businesses ask them to complete an ever-growing list of duties. In addition, organizations are demanding more proof that communications is contributing to success. Surprisingly, cross-functional alignment with other teams such as sales, marketing and creative was not a concern, suggesting communications has made progress in these areas. The top five challenges respondents identified are as follows: 1. 63% cited budget as their top challenge; 2. 57% point to an ever-expanding list of duties; 3. 54% said proving value or ROI of communications to the business; 4. 52% reported headcount limitations; and 5. 51% said finding an effective means to measure communications. The open-ended comments provided important sentiment and cited competing priorities, evolving technologies, commercial noise and fake news as contributing factors. “Hiring and finding talented people,” wrote one respondent of their top challenge. “They are out there, but where are they looking for jobs?”
  8. 8. Corporate communications considerations in choosing agencies
  9. 9. In-house shops need an extra pair of hands. If an expanding scope of duties is among the top challenges, then it’s natural that in-house communications professionals need help getting work done. Interestingly, planning and strategy, a category of work agencies typically like to perform because it’s usually both interesting and profitable work, trailed in fourth place by a wide margin. Rounding out the top five reasons corporate communicators hire agencies were: 1. 54% said execution or an extra pair of hands; 2. 50% hire agencies for expertise in a niche, vertical market or subject matter; 3. 35% need help with strategic launches, such as product launches; 4. 26% seek planning and strategy consulting; and 5. 25% said agencies provide a better cost-to-value than additional headcount. Agency work is often described as a mile wide, but an inch deep, which often brings big picture perspective. This value was reflected in the commentary on this question. That goes hand in hand with credibility which can come with an agency. About a quarter, or 23% of respondents cited “outside objectivity and advice” as a reason to hire an agency. One respondent noted that external help was needed to influence leadership decision making in favor of a given communications idea or plan.
  10. 10. Why agencies get fired
  11. 11. The triangle of termination: cost, service quality and results If corporate communications budgets are tight, it shows up in the reasons an agency gets fired. By far the biggest reason agencies are let go is related to cost – according to 79% of respondents. Client service followed closely behind with half (50%) of respondents citing it as the second primary reason for termination. Finally, ROI, or the ability the prove results landed third with 40%. When we consider these in aggregate, it seems to reason that cost, service quality and results are inextricably linked. This only serves to reinforce what many in the profession already believe, but it’s still interesting to see this reflected so clearly in the numbers. Other factors influencing the decision to end agency relationship, though smaller, are not insignificant. “Too much hand-holding” (25%) is a classic example, especially in the more technical markets, such as technology. Bringing new ideas – breathing life into a story – earned 17% of the votes, which is close to one-fifth. Finally, staff turnover, with 15%, rounded out those factors earning double-digit percentages. While it can be bittersweet to see a beloved member of an external account team grow into a new position and leave, too much places the risk on the client. This because there is a level of education in ramping up new account team members to learn the culture and process of the client organization. Among the “other” reason provided (8%) varied widely: • Taking more work back in-house; • Poor writing skills among junior agency staff; • Inability to understand the business; and • Client fears the communications function would be entirely outsourced due to high agency performance. As incredible as that last bullet is, agencies probably shouldn’t sweat the last bullet; it happens less than one-percent of the time.
  12. 12. The rise and fall of trends and tactics in PR
  13. 13. The next few charts are *busy* but there’s no way around it. However, these charts are also packed with information worth your while to slow down and study. Here’s the key to interpreting the data:
  14. 14. Chart 1 of 2 for Question #5 38%41%17% 1% > 50% say either “more important” or “much more important” 3%
  15. 15. Chart 2 of 2 for Question #5 15%27%37%15%5% > 50% say “about the same” Most votes for “not important” or “less important”
  16. 16. Note: For this question only, we removed “not applicable” answers. Generally this meant just 10 or less answers with the exception of analysts relations. You can see the total number of responses, and a weighted average on the far right of this detail chart. Notice that “executive speaking” earned greater than 50% for “more important” or “much more important” but it’s overall weighted average is lower. This is why averages need to be examined carefully.
  17. 17. This data tells a story about content marketing and thought leadership Storytelling, content marketing and thought leadership topped the list of more than 20 tactics or trends related to PR in terms of importance. For example, over the next 12 months: • 79% of respondents said storytelling will be “more important” or “much more important;” • 71% said content marketing will be “more important” or “much more important;” and • 67% said thought leadership will be “more important” or “much more important.” Thought leadership and the ability to communicate through effective stories – challenge, tension, climax and denouement – are classic elements in traditional public relations. Content marketing, which is distinctly different than marketing content is a fairly new trend that naturally aligns with the PR profession given their work with editorial contacts. Additional trends or tactics where 50% or more of respondents said they’d be more or much more important included: alignment with marketing, influencer relations, organic social media and infographics. Several trends or tactics will be no more or less important in the next year, according to 50% or more of respondents. These included: native ads, PPC, analyst relations and both first and third party events. It’s worth pointing out tactics like PPC and native ads tend to be less central to the typical PR professional’s role. While no trend or tactic earned 50% or more of the votes for “less important” or “much less important” in the next 12 months, there are three that earned the most: press releases (34%), white papers (35%) and award programs (39%). Open-ended comments on this question revealed tactics and trends not listed such as account-based marketing, one-to-one communications, video, editorial meetings, web redesigns, cause marketing and issue management.
  18. 18. Media relations is getting harder
  19. 19. Fewer bona fide journalists charged with producing more stories The break out of this question yields a stark comparison: a majority (51%) believe media relations is getting harder, about one-third (32%) say it’s about the same and just 3% think it’s easier. The rest are unsure. While publishers have made gains with paid digital subscriptions, content studios and native advertising, the last decade has been widely one marked with cuts to editorial staff. The open-ended commentary on this question – 53 comments – makes the analysis clear. Here’s a representative sample of some of those comments: “It's getting more and more difficult to break through the clutter and get directly to the media representative you're trying to reach.” “It is more challenging to cut through the cacophony of competing messages and conflated vocabularies with unique and compelling messages. The media is looking for the biggest headline rather than the significance of the story.” “Opinion rather than straight news coverage is increasingly prevalent and prioritized and harder to shape.” “Competition for media attention; digital media has made it easier, but also harder; traditional means of getting attention doesn't work any longer.” “Demands on journalists time has made them more open to well-developed pitches.” “Fewer reporters, high turnover of journalists, lack of beat reporting.” “The changing face of journalism has left many newsrooms bereft of veterans and reporters with historical knowledge.”
  20. 20. Organic social media is getting harder
  21. 21. The future of social media is a path paved in payment The data on organic social media – which like media relations is earned rather than paid – looks very similar to media relations. There's no doubt many of the major social media platforms have tweaked their algorithms in such a way that it reduces organic reach for brands. Individuals can still cut through the clutter, but for most brands, even those with large fan bases, paying the platform for reach is the only way to gain notable traction. On this question too, the comments submitted by respondents were illustrative including: “Social is unabashedly pay-to-play.” “Revelations about bots and manipulation of social media.” “It really depends on how you define "result." E.g., number of followers as a metric = easier. Getting people to engage with your content = harder.” “Continued changes to feeds/algorithms decreases visibility even among large organic follower bases.” “Constantly changing algorithms. It's hard to keep pace while also managing against my own business objectives AND demonstrating ROI across all activities.” “Marketing efforts are being automated, increasing the volume of messages and content being pushed out. Combined with changing algorithms that in essence create an echo chamber of opinions, all of this is drowning out the possibility of true organic growth/spreading of content.” “Every platform needs to grow and show ROI, so it needs to charge for its services.” “People don't like to be bothered by corporate entities on social media.” “Social media is a tool, not a standalone function, so it is harder to be heard when everyone says something daily.”
  22. 22. Dissenting opinions on measurement continue
  23. 23. PR measurement gets harder and easier at the same time Precisely how to measure communications is a timeless debate and respondents to this survey were fairly divided as to whether or not communications and PR is getting easier or harder to measure. On one hand, digital formats are easier to trace and new technology tools have provided some level of automation. On the other hand, the proliferation of channels leaves PR with many more possibilities in measurement. While deciding which measures are useful is hard enough, this often requires gaining consensus across the business. In addition, the new technology tools for measurement can vary in cost widely. For example, some web analytics are free, while premium monitoring tools can easily run into five and six-figure costs. Fifty-four respondents provided viewpoints in open-ended commentary associated with this question including: “Measuring communication activity is relatively easy. The hard part is measuring its value.” “Measurement is always tricky and always has been. There's nothing that truly and definitively measures the quality of a placement - traditional or social.” “Advanced tools for measurement and metrics makes it easier, yet more data inputs can make it more difficult to draw actionable insights.” “In more than 20 years, I haven't found a method that satisfies the CEO and isn't insulting to the staff.”
  24. 24. The types of arrows in the PR quiver
  25. 25. Staple tools of PR pros The tools communications professionals use tend to be the staples – web analytics and social media management for example. Press releases topped the list too, though the data on a previous question indicated press releases may have a less prominent role. What this survey did not ask – and perhaps we can in the future – is which of these tools are premium solutions. Many web, social media management and content management tools are free to use, while media monitoring and project collaboration tend to require some level of investment. The five tools communications professions say they use the most are: 1) 78% web analytics 2) 75% social media management 3) 66% press release distribution 4) 66% media monitoring 5) 50% content management systems It’s somewhat surprising that media databases ranked at just 38%. However, the cost-benefit of these systems – often with erroneous or out-of-date information in vertical segments – can be a difficult case to make.
  26. 26. Budgets mostly flat with glimmers of hope
  27. 27. The same story for many; a mix of hope and concern for others The majority of respondents (51%) predict their budget will remain flat over the next year. However, one-fifth (20%) thought their budgets would “increase” or “increase significantly” in the next 12 months. This is interesting since budget constraints has been a theme throughout the survey. By the same token, nearly one-fifth (19%) thought their budgets would “decrease” or decrease significantly in the next year. Open ended comments provided a window into sentiment and shifting ideas around budgeting: “There will be a shift from traditional marketing modes such as sponsorships and direct mail to digital media marketing and advertising and content-rich programs.” “We are continually asked to do things with close to zero budget.” “We saw a significant decrease the past two years but expect next year to remain the same.” “Company executives believe first place to gain savings is cutting communications because the company won’t feel any loss.” “Budget will stay the same however how it is spent is being looked at not such a diverse mix of PR and marketing channels. Digital was over 80 percent and this is being scaled back to include grassroots and event marketing to talk to customer.” “More on paid social content, significantly less on print ads. More spent on video and graphics.”
  28. 28. Are PR pros looking for a job?
  29. 29. Many PR pros are gainfully employed but open to opportunities Nearly three-quarters of PR pros (74%) are gainfully employed, however many are open to a conversation. More than half of respondents (55%) reported being fully employed but open to new opportunities. Another 7% are employed part-time and expressed a willingness to entertain a new position. At the time of this writing, the unemployment rate has dropped to roughly 4% nationally. The most recent jobs report showed better than expected hiring and suggested many unemployed people who had given up looking for a job, have returned to the search. By many measures, signs point towards an employee’s market causing businesses to compete more aggressively for talent.
  30. 30. What is one thing you wish you could get senior leaders to understand about communications that you don’t think they understand today?
  31. 31. For the final question of the survey, we asked respondents an optional open ended question and 126 of the 155 survey takers obliged. The question asked was, “What is one thing you wish you could get senior leaders or senior management to understand about communications that you don’t think they understand today?” and what follows is a representative sample of their answers in their own words: “I wish more would get how much more audiences appreciate communications than marketing. Buyers are looking for great marketing when they’re deciding what they need to meet their needs.” “That the cost of a well-run communications program is not measured the same way as their sales or business development programs.” “That it plays a critical role across the organization - like no other function; key to sales, marketing, handling crises/public perception, motivating employees, communicating mission/vision/values to all stakeholders, including employees, customers, stockholders. So ALL messaging needs to be consistent, one voice: Communications is the core of a thriving organization.” “It's a foundational necessity. So many think of it as a nice to have, but it supports so many other functions and strategies of an organization.” “The communications team must be thought of as collaborators in developing products and services, not just the ones charged with selling them.” “That reporters don’t write corporate profiles, they cover NEWS.” “Internal communications is as important as external.” “That one tactic isn't king. It's not just about content, or search, or conferences, or advertising, or a webinar, etc. It's all of those combined, and each is valuable and necessary.” “The overall importance of consistent messaging, particularly when it comes to crisis and strategic communications, and not to play it as it comes.”
  32. 32. In their own words (continued): “Senior leaders are more comfortable with advertising - it is something they can control and with sponsored content, can push a message out via social media. We can pitch with social media, but actual editorial coverage is not necessarily predictable, not is the tone or content angle.” “That communications isn’t a quantitative measure, it is a qualitative measure.” “Organic media relations is MUCH harder these days.” “Corporate communications is a fire marshal and not a fire chief. Use it to assure problems do not happen, rather than using it to fix problems that have occurred.” “How difficult media relations is compared to what is was even 10 years ago.” “Press releases do not guarantee coverage, interest, likes, follows, awareness.” “The difference between paid, owned and earned and why it's important to allow PR the time and freedom to manage all three and the patience to allow PR to generate results.” “It's not as simple as sending out ‘an email’ or one kind of communication. There is a thought process and it includes customer experience.” “With all of the noise in social media and differing angles in the press, it is hard to cut through the clutter and say something compelling that people will hear and understand.” “That it can take time to execute a campaign and the ROI may not be apparent within the first week.”
  33. 33. Who took this survey?
  34. 34. Primarily experienced in-house professionals The vast majority of survey responses – 70% – hail from in-house positions. Just 30% were comprised of agency or freelancers combined. Most have extensive experience, with 99% reporting six or more years experience and 90% report 11 or more years in the field. More than half, or 60% say they have 20 years experience or more. The industries or vertical markets represented are very diverse; among the top five include: • 20% non-profit or charitable; • 16% government; • 16% health, pharma or life sciences; • 11% marketing, advertising or creative; and • 11% financial services.
  35. 35. Survey methodology The survey was a joint effort between Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW) and Sword and the Script Media, LLC. Subscribers to the JOTW, a weekly newsletter and online community of communications professionals, were solicited to take the survey. Respondents were asked to take the online survey both through mentions in the weekly newsletter and thought dedicated email requests. In total 155 respondents took the survey online from Monday, January 29, 2018 until Wednesday February 28, 2018. Survey takers were incentivized to take the survey with an offer to be entered for a chance to win one of three gift cards ($100, $50 and $25). Winners were publicly announced in the March 5, 2018 edition of the newsletter.
  36. 36. Behind the survey About Ned’s JOTW Ned Lundquist’s “Job of the Week” is a free email networking newsletter for professional communicators started way back at the dawn of the 21st century and attracted a cult following of more than 5,500 newsletter subscribers today. The job leads are just one reason his faithful followers begin their Mondays (and sometimes Tuesdays through Fridays). To subscribe or submit a job for posting, please email lundquist989@cs.com or subscribe online at www.nedsjotw.com. Ned Lundquist, ABC, is a communication professional who has been publishing the “Job of the Week” e-mail newsletter since January 2001. He served on active duty with the U.S. Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer and as a Public Affairs Officer. Today, he works for MCR Federal LLC as a senior science writer. Heck, he’s the only science writer. He supports clients such as the Office of Naval Research, NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation, and commercial companies serving the naval, maritime and defense sectors. About Sword and the Script Media, LLC Sword and the Script Media, LLC is veteran-owned public relations agency dedicated to business-to-business (B2B) technology. The firm builds consistent, repeatable, and process-driven programs for PR, content marketing and social media. The agency publishes weekly blog posts and a monthly newsletter, both of which are available for subscription by email. Visit or subscribe online at www.swordandthescript.com. Frank Strong is the founder and president of Sword and the Script Media, LLC, a veteran-owned business focused on PR, content marketing and social media for the B2B market space. His agency grew out of a humble marketing blog Strong started nearly a decade ago. @Frank_Strong
  37. 37. Still here? Subscribe to the JOTW by sending an email to lundquist989@cs.com
  38. 38. Looking for more? Here are some good reads: Breaking Down the Results from the 2018 PR Salary Survey; Are You Earning What you are Worth? 12 Things You Should do to Amplify a Media Mention Once You’ve Earned It Why Content Marketing and Public Relations Need Each Other The Future of Marketing Looks More like Public Relations
  39. 39. Sword and the Script Media, LLC www.swordandthescript.com “Effective communication is complicated: Just because a message is sent doesn’t mean it’s been received. Just because it’s been received doesn’t mean it’s been understood. Just because it’s been understood doesn’t mean it will affect behavior. Just because it affects behavior doesn’t mean it will affect it in the manner in which we had hoped.”

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