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The JOTW Strategic Communications Survey for 2021
4th annual survey of 300 professionals working in
communications, public relations and public affairs.
Conducted in Partnership between Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW)
and Sword and the Script Media, LLC
The 2021 JOTW Strategic Communications Survey provided professional communicators a chance to sound off. Since we do this
each year, we can look at what communicators are telling us and note trends they reveal. Such is the case again this year, but this has
not been an ordinary year. We’ve had both collective and solitary experiences working our way through the pandemic. It seems that
we are emerging from the veil of COVID 19, and so we bring you this report with a sense of hope. If we can get through this, we can
get through anything.
We thank the 300 professionals who responded to our survey. Most of them are subscribers to my Job of the Week newsletter (not
because they’re out of work, but because they keep a keen eye of the state of the profession and career opportunities). We also thank
the communication thought leaders who analyzed the results and offer their thoughts. And we want to hear your thoughts about the
results we’ve obtained. Feel free to connect with us and tell us what you think.
Ned Lundquist, ABC, IABC Fellow
Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Editor and Publisher
The Job of the Week Network LLC
Over my career I’ve noticed when businesses face a problem they don’t know how to solve, they turn to one of two departments for
help: legal or communications. By the looks of these survey results, that’s never been truer than today. Businesses have faced
problem after problem since March of 2020 and the people they relied on the most to help navigate unchartered waters has been
professional communicators. As such, the value of PR and communications has grown in the eyes of business.
This recognition, while welcome, doesn’t come without challenges. Media relations is still difficult, political and social issues add
complexity to public communication and we face too many priorities. That reminds me of a time when I commanded a company in the
Army National Guard, and my First Sergeant used to say, “Sir, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.”
With all the change we’ve faced over the last year or so, we made two dramatic changes to this survey. First, we completely re-wrote
many of the questions to understand the impact of change on our profession. Second, and for the first time ever, we invited a panel of
esteemed contributors to help shape the questions and analyze the findings. They are all experts and likely names you’ll recognize.
Frank Strong, MA, MBA
Founder & President,
Sword and the Script Media, LLC
frank@swordandthescript.com
Table of Contents
• Meet the contributors: slide 4
• Executive summary: slide 5
• The pandemic: comparing the before and after times: slide 6
• The top challenges facing communications and PR: slide 11
• Media relations: it isn’t getting easier: slide 17
• Paid media for earned media’s sake: slide 21
• Views on politics and social issues in communications: slide 26
• Communications and PR measurement: slide 34
• Communications and PR technology: slide 38
• Organizational structure and reporting: 42
• Demographics: 45
• Methodology: 51
Meet this year’s contributors
1. Karen Swim, PR, Marketing and Social Media Consultant, Words For Hire, LLC and President of Solo PR Pro
2. Michael Smart, CEO, Michael SMART PR, LLC
3. Michelle Garrett, PR consultant, Garrett Public Relations
4. Stacey Miller, Senior Director, Communications, Auto Care Association
5. Shel Holtz, Director of Internal Communications, WEBCOR Builders and Co-Host of the For Immediate Release podcast
6. Shonali Burke, President & CEO, Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc.
Executive Summary
Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW) newsletter and Sword and the Script Media conducted the fourth annual JOTW Strategic Communications Survey to understand trends
in the field of communications. About 300 professionals took the survey: 97% of respondents are based in the U.S.; 88% report having 11 or more years of experience;
62% of respondents are in-house communicators; and respondents come from more than a dozen different industries. Detailed demographics are included at the end.
• Organizations value communications more than ever. In the wake of a tumultuous year, 80% “agree” or “strongly agree” organizations place a greater value on
communications. When asked about specific functions, respondents overwhelmingly said employee communications (93%) grew in importance compared to pre-
pandemic times. More than half (64%) of respondents anticipate their organizations will adopt a hybrid work environment.
• Too many priorities. The top three challenges facing communications and PR professionals are 1) “too many priorities” (40%), “cutting through the noise” (37%),
and working with “leaders that don’t understand communications” (36%). This is a change from the top challenges in prior year surveys where budget and ROI were
the top challenge. More than half (54%) of respondents think more work will be shipped to outside agencies to help relieve the pressure.
• The media relations struggle. 60% of respondents say media relations is harder or much harder compared to last year, while about one-third (35%) say it’s about
the same. The multi-year trendline on this question suggests it’s not getting any easier. About one in three (29%) say their organization is investing more in media
relations, while most (60%) will put about the same investment into this effort.
• Credibility of sponsored content. Sixty-two percent say sponsored content, like posts from the Forbes Communications Council, can be credible some of the
time, depending on the source. Forty-one percent of communicators say their organization has at least dabbled in sponsored content – about the same number
(40%) that has “never” purchased a paid piece.
• Brands taking stands on political or social issues. There’s greater support among communicators for brands to take a stand on social issues versus political
issues. About one in five (21%) say brands should take a stand on political issues “often” or “always” while 43% say brands should take a stand on social issues
“often” or “always.” In both cases, another 40% said “sometimes” depending on the issue, context and relevancy to the organization.
• DE&I programs. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents said their organization has a formal DE&I program in place. Many of these have been in place for years – just
13% of respondents said their organization created a formal DE&I program in response to the social unrest in 2020.
• Making an effort to measure is half the battle. More than half (60%) of respondents say they measure their comms efforts “always” or often.” Another 30%
measure their efforts some of the time, while 10% rarely or never make any effort to measure results. Although the question was worded differently in prior year
surveys, this looks like an improvement.
• Communications technology. Respondents give both themselves and the industry remarkably good grades on technical skills. Nearly three-quarters (74%) say
the tech skills of comms pros across the industry are somewhere between “good” and “excellent,” however, one in five lack technical chops.
• Reporting structure for communicators. Most respondents report to either the CEO (21%), CMO (20%) or chief communications officer (22%) currently. Many
would prefer to be independent of marketing and report to either the CEO or CCO.
The pandemic: comparing the before and after times
In the wake of a tumultuous year, 80%
agree or strongly agree organizations
place a greater value on communications.
59%
31%
34%
47%
17% 42%
17% 34%
Greater than 50% say
“more important” or
much more important.”
“No company-wide policy; Individual option
to work fully remote, in office, or hybrid.”
“Self employed.”
“Always been hybrid.”
“Expect some expanded WFH policies.”
Contributors’ Analysis:
Karen: This is a pivotal moment for PR and communications professionals to get out of the media relations spin cycle and demonstrate the breadth and
depth of our value. Organizations saw the impact of well-rounded strategic programs and we must lean into that.
Michael: Executives found their employee and customer comms teams last year! Not surprising that media relations isn’t keeping pace in perceived
importance, as organizations realize they can reach stakeholders directly. I am somewhat surprised by the lag in influencer marketing – there is no
pandemic-related reason why that would have slowed down, and I look for it to continue to grow as an alternative to traditional media relations.
Michelle: Communications took center stage during the pandemic. It became clear that ALL organizations need to prioritize communications with their
audiences, and in this particular case, communicating with employees and customers. If organizations don’t prioritize communicating with employees, it
will be yet another reason for them to look elsewhere. With competition for talent stiffer than ever, an organization that communicates clearly and puts
employees’ needs first will be more successful in keeping current employees – and recruiting new ones. Of course, it’s ALWAYS important to
communicate with customers, but the pandemic only underscored that. Another important point here is that. as more was expected of communicators
during the pandemic, burnout also became an issue. Communications pros need to be sure to take care of themselves and employers need to try to be
supportive. One statistic I saw was in a survey by Blind: 83% of marketing and communications pros reported experiencing burnout during COVID-19 –
more than any other job function.
Stacey: Comms has spent basically all of eternity working to prove their worth to stakeholders in their organization. With a renewed focus on more
communications to key stakeholders, this presents an opportunity for companies to reexamine their comms strategies and put talent in place that will
fortify their brand now and into the future. It would be great to see a flood of companies hiring for communication roles as a result.
Shel: The hybrid model, which will look different from organization to organization, needs to be communicated as an organizational change initiative.
While superficially this model appears to accommodate the desire many employees have to continue working from home at least part of the time, it has
already drawn criticism from a number of quarters, including Apple employees, who sent a letter to CEO Tim Cook asking him to reconsider. The key
issue is around whether leaders will trust employees to be in the office on days their work requires it and work from home when the nature of their work is
primarily solitary. This internal communication needs to be proactive and address the vision the company has for the hybrid model and the reasons your
employees may resist it.
Shonali: I echo what Karen said; it seems to me that the opportunity for PR pros is to really demonstrate their value across the length and breadth of an
organization, not just as publicists. They also have an opportunity to advocate for employee and work environment best practices, if they use data to
demonstrate equal or more impactful outcomes during the pandemic and help build a more trustworthy and productive company culture.
The top challenges facing communications and PR
Challenges: chart 1 of 3
“We've built great credibility at the exec level through
the year of COVID, recurring racial injustice and now
workplace reset.”
“Absurd hunger for ‘influencer’ outreach... and failure
to understand that so-called ‘influencers’ are largely just
seeking monetary reward.”
“Business leaders who think great comms can solve
poor leadership.”
“Complete dearth of true diversity - ethnic and
experience, in particular.”
“Connecting newly remote workers to organizational
culture, values.”
“Comms leaders don't understand how to be proactive,
and strategic and just SIT at the table. They are order
takers too often.”
Challenges: chart 2 of 3
Rank 2021 Top Challenges 2020 Top Challenges 2019 Top Challenges 2018 Top Challenges
1 Too many priorities (40%)
Measuring the impact; proving
value; demonstrating ROI
(50%)
Budget (59%) Budget (63%)
2
Cutting through the clutter
(37%)
Executive team doesn’t
understand comms (45%)
Limited staffing or headcount
(55%)
Ever expanding duties (57%)
3
Leaders don’t understand
comms (36%)
Cutting through the clutter and
noise
(40%)
Ever expanding duties (52%) Proving ROI (54%)
4
Ever-expanding duties [i.e.
social media, content, etc.]
(35%)
Budget (40%) Balancing priorities (49%)
Limited staffing or headcount
(52%)
5 Not enough staffing (99%)
Ever expanding duties [i.e.
social media, content, etc.]
(35%)
Measuring impact of comms
(49%)
Measuring impact of comms
(51%)
6 Not enough budget (26%)
Complicated or prolonged
review and approval process
(31%)
Proving ROI (48%) Balancing priorities (44%)
7 Scope creep (24%)
Balancing priorities among
diverse stakeholders (30%)
Gaining executive buy-in
(45%)
Gaining executive buy-in
(40%)
Challenges: chart 3 of 3
If too many priorities is the top challenge,
54% of respondents think more work will be
shipped to outside agencies to help relieve
the pressure.
This suggests a broad reversal of the trend
in years earlier where clients were taking
more work in-house.
Other surveys have suggested this is also
true across related fields in marketing and
creative.
Contributors’ Analysis:
Karen: Partnering with solo PR Pros and micro-agencies is an important strategy that allows in-house team to stay focused on core priorities.
Michael: Take yourself back to March or April of 2020; who would have thought that budget would be a lesser concern? The exploding economy means
our budgets are back, but we have too much to do. Educating and persuading executives to focus is the 2021 superpower (especially if this strong
economy turns out to be an inflation bubble, which I fear).
Michelle: There is a PR boom right now. From my perspective – and from the perspectives of those I’ve talked with – agencies can’t hire fast enough to
keep up with the demand, and they’re turning to freelancers to help fill the gap. I think it’s going to be a BUSY year for consultants.
Stacey: This is absolutely fascinating to see the shift of top challenges move from needing more resources and proving ROI to there being just too much
to manage. I believe part of that comes from leadership not fully understanding the workflow of comms and the time and effort behind campaigns. Those
who are responsible for both internal and external communications must be absolutely overwhelmed. Now that comms has proven their value (previous
charts), we should start positioning an agency partner or solo PR pro as a necessary element to achieve our goals in-house and to continue or improve
the success of the department.
Shel: It's interesting (and not in a good way) to see measurement/ROI at the bottom of the list. If we can demonstrate with numbers that we are having an
impact on the bottom line, it can lead to higher budgets to address the issues that ranked higher than measurement. If we have truly moved the needle,
it's easy to make the case that we could move it even further if we had more staff or money to address multiple priorities, cutting through the noise, etc.
Measurement should ALWAYS be a top priority for communicators. After all, numbers are a language leadership understands.
Shonali: I think there will be a significant uptick in hiring (I’m already seeing that), which I intuitively link to the issues of too many priorities, scope creep,
etc. However, I’m also fairly certain that, as things “normalize,” the measurement/ROI issue will regain ground as a top issue, unfortunately. So, if PR pros
really want to get ahead, that is (still) what they need to focus on.
Media relations: it isn’t getting easier
Answered:
281
60% say media relations is harder or much
harder compared to last year.
In year’s prior, here’s how that number
looked:
• 2020: 75%
• 2019: 68%
• 2018: 51%
The trendline suggests it’s not getting
harder, but then again, it’s not getting easier
either.
Answered:
265
About one in three (29%) say their
organization is investing more in media
relations. However, the most (60%) put
about the same investment into this effort.
Contributors’ Analysis:
Karen: These results validate the importance of having a comprehensive strategy that does not rely on media relations.
Michael: For various reasons – mostly inertia and tradition – organizations still place the same value on media relations, despite the fact that it’s grown
much harder and – on average – delivers diminishing returns. Silver lining: the upside is greater for the relative few who excel.
Michelle: What I found interesting is that in spite of all the pandemic related coverage, journalists continued to look for other stories to cover as well. In
my mind, it underscores that a good story is a good story – and if you pitch a journalist for whom it’s a fit, they’ll respond well to that at any time.
Stacey: Part of the challenge to media relations is the extensive time pros require for their craft, which it seems we are getting less and less of. Although
investment remains the same in some organizations, it could be a point of leverage when asking for more resources if pros have been able to prove
success over the past year with increased priorities. “If I was able to achieve these things during a challenging year with normal resources, imagine what
we could achieve with 10% or 20% more?”
Shel: The fact that media relations is harder does not diminish its value. Third-party validation is still more credible than all the content marketing and
brand journalism in the world. A recent Pew Research study found more Americans now see the media's influence growing. That's just one good reason
to redouble our efforts by employing the very best practices and avoiding the worst like the plague. Not too long ago, a consumer product company was
contacted by the Washington Post, which sought interviews for a positive story on the company. The company's response: We're sorry, we don't have
time. They were convinced their own brand journalism was adequate but building the goodwill you can get from earned media remains important; that
company may regret its decision one day soon.
Shonali: If an organization is investing less in media relations despite its importance being “about the same,” when half the respondents are saying “it’s
harder,” the question is: why? Are they seeing results that matter from other marcom tactics? I don’t think media relations is “dead,” I’m seeing increased
demand for that expertise. But if PR keeps tying results to tired and debunked metrics like AVE, then it’s probably likely to linger in this middle ground for
a while to come.
Paid media for earned media’s sake
“It’s basically paid content; however, the
general public does not always know that.”
“The authors Forbes Council publishes are credible in their
own right. The value Forbes adds is a platform that cuts
through the noise and gets the attention of more readers.”
“As long as it’s truly thought leadership, the content is
useful. The second it turns to a hint of a sales message, all
credibility is lost.”
“It depends on who is sponsoring the content, and who is
creating it. The audience makes the determination if
either is credible.”
“People are increasingly able to see these for what they are: overdeveloped
advertising opportunities masquerading as quality content.”
“Generally advocating for a particular POV.”
41% of communicators say their
organization has at least dabbled in
sponsored content – about the same
number (40%) that has “never”
purchased a paid piece.
Contributors’ Analysis:
Michael: Especially with earned media opportunities shrinking, we need to be open to alternatives. Influencer relations or sponsored content make some
classically trained PR pros turn up their noses, but when properly labeled are wholly ethical and possibly effective. Don’t dismiss “paid” out of hand – try it
and see if it resonates with your particular audience.
Michelle: Pay-to-play scams are increasing, as publications struggle financially. What happens though, as in the case of Forbes, is that it takes away
from the publication’s credibility. When anyone can pay to be published there, what does that say about the “news” it provides? And many of these pay-
to-play “opportunities” are just plain scams. Use great care if you decide to go the paid route.
Stacey: Part of the reason why sponsored content may be a turn off for communications professionals is because we are subjected to poorly executed
articles on the daily. This doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a part of our toolkit. With the right outlet and neutral execution based on thought leadership,
sponsored content can be extremely effective in a variety of ways: from awareness, to SEO and website traffic.
Shel: When sponsored content was a new concept, Richard Edelman told an audience of communicators the window was closing quickly for PR to own
the space. The window has closed, and marketing/advertising has clearly taken ownership. That does not mean there are no great examples of native
advertising (another term for sponsored content). One of my favorites was a New York Times piece on the state of women's prisons in the U.S. -- paid for
by Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" to promote its season premiere. It was a work of pure journalism; it was just one that the newspaper was not
planning to produce. The sponsorship was clear, leaving nobody to think this was just a newsroom product. That's the approach to take: Be strategic and
be sure the news outlet clearly labels the content as sponsored.
Shonali: I do think there’s a place for paid/sponsored content in an integrated marcom program. But you must have quality content if it is to do anything
for you. Let’s start there, with content that is valuable, and focusing on building a community for that content. Unless you do that first, sponsored content
isn’t like to do much for you.
Views on politics and social issues in communications
“I think it is usually impossible to separate political and
social issues. They tend to be intertwined.”
21% say brands should take a stand
on political issues “often” or “always.”
43% say brands should take a stand
on social issues “often” or “always.”
Conveying a stand: chart 1 of 2;
total responses: 123
“By making sure to communicate two core messages: 1) How that position will strengthen the core business, employee health & well-being,
and positioning in the market; 2) What the tradeoffs are and why the choice made was the best way forward.”
“Clearly, forthrightly, grounded in shared values like democracy, justice, concern for the environment, etc.”
“Aligning the stand to the company’s values.”
“Companies should stay in their lane. If they take a stand they need to explain why and the relevancy to why they felt they needed to take a
stand.”
“Diplomatically. Not at the expense of jobs or mental health of employees.”
“Direct and open communication from the CEO or other leadership member in a letter or other formal communication. They have a right to
know why and how the decision was made.”
“Don’t. Think about it first and stand firm.”
“Organizations should carefully consider their brand before taking a specific or political issue. What might be popular today, may not be so
tomorrow, and consistently changing your political/social perspective to fit popular opinion can lead to serious brand creep.”
“If it’s hot button, very carefully worded would be the best. Hard line stances often drive people away.”
“Organizations should have clear mission statements and guidelines regarding their stance on a particular topic. Organizations should hold
strong to their convictions and explain their stances in a clear and definitive manner.”
“They should be prepared stand up for what you believe; be willing to lose business; and understand people have the tendency to vote with
their wallets.”
“They should be clear and firm. Don't flip-flop.”
Conveying a stand: chart 2 of 2;
total responses: 123
This question was only presented to
those that answered “yes” to the
preceding question (21% of the 66%
with an ESG program).
In other words, about 13% of all
respondents said their organization
created a formal DE&I program in
response to the social unrest in 2020.
Contributors’ Analysis:
Karen: There is societal pressure for brands to take a stand and have a point of view. As communicators we must guide our organizations and clients in
ensuring that taking a stand aligns with their mission, vision and values, and that is a practical next step of action.
Michelle: The Edelman Trust Barometer has corporations now ranking ahead of other organizations, including the media and government. This means
that it will be even more common for consumers to expect brands to step up to fill in the gap. It is important to use care when deciding which issues align
with your brand. You have to be ready to walk the talk if you decide to put yourself out there.
Shel: Mountains of studies find that employees and prospective employees want to work for companies whose purpose represents a higher calling. The
Edelman Trust Barometers has for years been clear that the public expects business to solve societal problems. Brands may no longer sit on the
sidelines. The role of PR is critical here, ensuring leaders don't step into a minefield, that their messages are carefully thought out and crafted, and that
they align with the nature of the business and the company's values. As for CSR/ESG/DEI, the public and the media don't care about your plans; they
care about your results, so they had better be substantial before you go touting them.
Shonali: The alphabet soup of “DE&I” and “ESG” is being thrown around like no one’s business today. I’d like to see organizations do more than simply
pay lip service to these extremely important, fundamental business values. I’m not sure I’m seeing that yet, or from these data.
Communications and PR measurement
60% measure their comms efforts
“often” or “always.”
“Connect business goals with communications efforts. Still
too much of a ‘just do stuff and hope it works’ mentality.”
“More cross-functional alignment and shared understanding
of execution.”
“Having people actually care about the impact of comms and
or actually be willing to find out if their programs and
initiatives are working. Measuring comms can be dangerous
because it may show the CEOs pet project/campaign/policy
change is a dud.”
“Access to client data to demonstrate impact.”
“Clearly defined goals and audiences.”
Contributors’ Analysis:
Karen: Measurement is critical to the work that we do, but it is important to measure what matters to the organization. Establish success metrics in
advance and secure buy-in from key stakeholders as part of the planning phase.
Michael: Ninety percent of us measure the results of our communications. The problem is that we have no consensus on what “results” means. Only
when it’s strictly defined as “impact on business objectives” will we get the respect and understanding of leadership that was cited earlier as one of our
biggest problems.
Stacey: Measurement can help with the prioritization of duties from leadership and enable comms to focus in on the projects or campaigns that align with
organizational goals...and make the case for eliminating those that don’t. Partnering with marketing to show how communications efforts contribute to the
marketing/sales funnel is an often-unexplored realm for pros but can pay dividends.
Shel: Measure outcomes. Of course, you should measure output and outtakes as well, but that's for your own edification as a communicator, not for
sharing with leadership. The only thing leadership cares about is outcomes and if you can demonstrate that communications delivered outcomes that are
meaningful to the organization, your value will increase. And measure beyond collateral. For internal communicators, for example, measure the impact of
your efforts to operationalize communication.
Shonali: I think every single response of mine has tied back to the importance of valid metrics – this will be no exception. Michael hit the nail on the head:
what exactly are communicators measuring? Do they even understand what “valid metrics” are? I still sit in meetings where “follower numbers” are touted
as a metric of success. This is a HUGE growth area for the industry; if comms pros want to elevate their careers, this is where they need to focus.
Communications and PR technology
“External measurement support, advanced content analysis,
traditional and social media stakeholder analysis.”
“Agency support for media relations and monitoring.”
74% say the tech skills of comms
pros across the industry are “good,”
“very good,” or “excellent” but one in
five lack technical chops.
84% say their tech skills are “good,”
“very good,” or “excellent” but one in
10 say they lack technical skills.
Analysis:
Frank: The market is saturated with monitoring tools. Each claim their own special sauce, but they all do the same basic things in my view. If there’s a
difference here it’s UX and ease-of-use, which typically comes with the newer tools built on modern software frameworks.
For sure, most organizations will benefit from a monitoring tool, but these charts just underscore how little innovation has taken place in the PR
technology market. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite with a handful of vendors making acquisitions, consolidating tools, and stripping out the pieces
they want and leaving the remains on the chopping block floor. In effect this is removing innovative innovation in this market. So, I for one, welcome the
new startups because they bring new thinking and challenge the incumbents to try harder.
The survey results underscores what I think are three areas of opportunity for PR technology vendors:
1. Internal communications. It’s more important than ever and yet, I only see one viable solution provider in the space (SocialChorus), which is
owned by a private equity firm. However, the trend clearly shows that internal communications is more important than ever, so the demand is
there. In addition, it provides a new target audience in HR and the chance for the vendor community to be a bridgebuilder between PR and HR. I
suspect this is a more viable target audience too, since the linkage is welcomed, where some corporate communications departments desire
independence.
2. Online newsrooms. Years ago, online newsrooms used to be the most trafficked section of a business website, because it was the only section
updated with fresh content and it attracted links. Today, many corporate online newsrooms are dismal and barren. Newsrooms are an opportunity
for PR to make real progress for the business in owned media. Some SEO vendors have been moving into the PR space and this is an area where
they have the expertise to shine, but their tools need more polish, and simplicity, to appeal to corporate communications.
3. Pre-analytics. Analytics in PR are weak. Most center on slicing up a list of media placements with dubious metrics like tonality, prominence and
type of outlet. There’s very little value here – we know a placement in a solid publication is good – and PR doesn’t have to sell that to the executive
team. What they need is help in getting more, so vendors should move upstream and strive to build analytics that helps PR conduct better
outreach. Pitching analytics is one example, and I think there’s more to be developed here.
Note to readers: I write about the PR technology community often under three different categories: a) PR Tech Sum: this a monthly summary of news
related to the vendor community; b) PR Tech Briefing: this is write-up based on a business presentation and a brief web demonstration of a product,
Q&A and my own research. Product Reviews: this is an in-depth review based on hands-on in a production environment.
Organizational structure and reporting
“Global Leadership Office, which is different from HR
(includes meetings & events, and the PMO).”
“Executive Vice President (who reports to President and
CEO).”
“Chief digital officer. Although we may move to HR.”
“External affairs.”
“HR for internal comms and CLO for external comms.”
“Chief marketing and communications officer, a VP, who
reports to the president.”
“SVP, Marketing & Communications .”
“Chief of Staff.”
“I believe that with the integration and blurring of the lines between
communications and marketing, I think there should be a Chief Marketing and
Communications Officer, who would have direct reports - VP of Marketing and VP
of Communications with a requirement to integrate and work more closely
together.”
“Should report to the respective business leaders that they support (in larger
orgs).”
“Chief Public Relations Officer.”
“Wish a bit more consistent or semi centralized. So, a strong comms unit at the
bureau level.”
Analysis:
Frank: These two questions build on the results of last year’s survey. It’s not surprising to see that most comms pros desire to recognized as an
independent department reporting to a c-suite level officer. Indeed, the pandemic may have added credibility to that notion.
However, in business, organizational structures shift as executives' leaders come and go, and where communications reports can ebb and flow. In B2B
technology, particularly in startups and young companies, comms often reports to marketing. That’s a good way to ensure PR is aligned with marketing,
but it often comes at the expense of internal communications, which demonstrates the broad range of responsibilities PR and communications
professionals fufill.
Demographics
“Employed full-time and looking.”
“Forced into retirement, looking for projects.”
“Self employed but looking for position in-
house/non-agency.”
“Government - how could
you leave us out!”
“Local government to
business.”
Survey methodology
This survey was a joint effort between Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW) and Sword and the Script
Media, LLC. Subscribers to both organizations were solicited to take the survey through mentions in
the weekly newsletter, dedicated email requests and social media.
In total 305 respondents took the survey online, using Survey Monkey, from April 14, 2021, until May
14, 2021.
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).
This year the survey was confronted with survey bots that threatened to skew the results. These bots
can complete surveys – and even generating answers to opened ended questions.
However, survey responses by bots contained multiple characteristics, or tell-tale signs, that
distinguish those answers from genuine answers by human beings. We manually reviewed every
single survey answer and removed any answer from the sample that matched bot fingerprints. We
removed in excess of 200 answers this way which left us with the 300 responses detailed on these
pages.
Because of the laborious effort we put into reviewing each and every answer, we are confident in the
integrity and utility of these survey results.
Have a position to fill? Looking for a new gig?
Send a note with a job listing or to
subscribe to Ned’s Job of the Week or by
contacting Ned directly at
lundquist989@cs.com.
http://www.nedsjotw.com/
Need a topic for a webinar, session or virtual event?
Ned Lundquist and Frank Strong are
available to present the data in this
survey. Contact us to learn more:
Ned Lundquist:
lundquist989@cs.com
Frank Strong:
frank@swordandthescript.com
Suggested reading
2020 JOTW Communications Survey
Presentation: The 2020 JOTW Communications Survey
Blog: Code of PR Ethics? The Gray Area of Communicating a Point of View
Blog: What Does “Storytelling” Mean to You? 105 Answers from Communicators
Blog: The Top PR Challenges and Tips for Overcoming Them
2019 JOTW Communications Survey
Presentation: The 2019 JOTW Communications Survey
Blog: Corporate Communications is Taking More PR Work In-House, finds Survey; Media Relations Gets Even Harder
Blog: What is PR? 141 PR and Comms Pros Explain What They Do for a Living
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2021 Strategic Communications Survey

  • 1. The JOTW Strategic Communications Survey for 2021 4th annual survey of 300 professionals working in communications, public relations and public affairs. Conducted in Partnership between Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW) and Sword and the Script Media, LLC
  • 2. The 2021 JOTW Strategic Communications Survey provided professional communicators a chance to sound off. Since we do this each year, we can look at what communicators are telling us and note trends they reveal. Such is the case again this year, but this has not been an ordinary year. We’ve had both collective and solitary experiences working our way through the pandemic. It seems that we are emerging from the veil of COVID 19, and so we bring you this report with a sense of hope. If we can get through this, we can get through anything. We thank the 300 professionals who responded to our survey. Most of them are subscribers to my Job of the Week newsletter (not because they’re out of work, but because they keep a keen eye of the state of the profession and career opportunities). We also thank the communication thought leaders who analyzed the results and offer their thoughts. And we want to hear your thoughts about the results we’ve obtained. Feel free to connect with us and tell us what you think. Ned Lundquist, ABC, IABC Fellow Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.) Editor and Publisher The Job of the Week Network LLC Over my career I’ve noticed when businesses face a problem they don’t know how to solve, they turn to one of two departments for help: legal or communications. By the looks of these survey results, that’s never been truer than today. Businesses have faced problem after problem since March of 2020 and the people they relied on the most to help navigate unchartered waters has been professional communicators. As such, the value of PR and communications has grown in the eyes of business. This recognition, while welcome, doesn’t come without challenges. Media relations is still difficult, political and social issues add complexity to public communication and we face too many priorities. That reminds me of a time when I commanded a company in the Army National Guard, and my First Sergeant used to say, “Sir, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.” With all the change we’ve faced over the last year or so, we made two dramatic changes to this survey. First, we completely re-wrote many of the questions to understand the impact of change on our profession. Second, and for the first time ever, we invited a panel of esteemed contributors to help shape the questions and analyze the findings. They are all experts and likely names you’ll recognize. Frank Strong, MA, MBA Founder & President, Sword and the Script Media, LLC frank@swordandthescript.com
  • 3. Table of Contents • Meet the contributors: slide 4 • Executive summary: slide 5 • The pandemic: comparing the before and after times: slide 6 • The top challenges facing communications and PR: slide 11 • Media relations: it isn’t getting easier: slide 17 • Paid media for earned media’s sake: slide 21 • Views on politics and social issues in communications: slide 26 • Communications and PR measurement: slide 34 • Communications and PR technology: slide 38 • Organizational structure and reporting: 42 • Demographics: 45 • Methodology: 51
  • 4. Meet this year’s contributors 1. Karen Swim, PR, Marketing and Social Media Consultant, Words For Hire, LLC and President of Solo PR Pro 2. Michael Smart, CEO, Michael SMART PR, LLC 3. Michelle Garrett, PR consultant, Garrett Public Relations 4. Stacey Miller, Senior Director, Communications, Auto Care Association 5. Shel Holtz, Director of Internal Communications, WEBCOR Builders and Co-Host of the For Immediate Release podcast 6. Shonali Burke, President & CEO, Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc.
  • 5. Executive Summary Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW) newsletter and Sword and the Script Media conducted the fourth annual JOTW Strategic Communications Survey to understand trends in the field of communications. About 300 professionals took the survey: 97% of respondents are based in the U.S.; 88% report having 11 or more years of experience; 62% of respondents are in-house communicators; and respondents come from more than a dozen different industries. Detailed demographics are included at the end. • Organizations value communications more than ever. In the wake of a tumultuous year, 80% “agree” or “strongly agree” organizations place a greater value on communications. When asked about specific functions, respondents overwhelmingly said employee communications (93%) grew in importance compared to pre- pandemic times. More than half (64%) of respondents anticipate their organizations will adopt a hybrid work environment. • Too many priorities. The top three challenges facing communications and PR professionals are 1) “too many priorities” (40%), “cutting through the noise” (37%), and working with “leaders that don’t understand communications” (36%). This is a change from the top challenges in prior year surveys where budget and ROI were the top challenge. More than half (54%) of respondents think more work will be shipped to outside agencies to help relieve the pressure. • The media relations struggle. 60% of respondents say media relations is harder or much harder compared to last year, while about one-third (35%) say it’s about the same. The multi-year trendline on this question suggests it’s not getting any easier. About one in three (29%) say their organization is investing more in media relations, while most (60%) will put about the same investment into this effort. • Credibility of sponsored content. Sixty-two percent say sponsored content, like posts from the Forbes Communications Council, can be credible some of the time, depending on the source. Forty-one percent of communicators say their organization has at least dabbled in sponsored content – about the same number (40%) that has “never” purchased a paid piece. • Brands taking stands on political or social issues. There’s greater support among communicators for brands to take a stand on social issues versus political issues. About one in five (21%) say brands should take a stand on political issues “often” or “always” while 43% say brands should take a stand on social issues “often” or “always.” In both cases, another 40% said “sometimes” depending on the issue, context and relevancy to the organization. • DE&I programs. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents said their organization has a formal DE&I program in place. Many of these have been in place for years – just 13% of respondents said their organization created a formal DE&I program in response to the social unrest in 2020. • Making an effort to measure is half the battle. More than half (60%) of respondents say they measure their comms efforts “always” or often.” Another 30% measure their efforts some of the time, while 10% rarely or never make any effort to measure results. Although the question was worded differently in prior year surveys, this looks like an improvement. • Communications technology. Respondents give both themselves and the industry remarkably good grades on technical skills. Nearly three-quarters (74%) say the tech skills of comms pros across the industry are somewhere between “good” and “excellent,” however, one in five lack technical chops. • Reporting structure for communicators. Most respondents report to either the CEO (21%), CMO (20%) or chief communications officer (22%) currently. Many would prefer to be independent of marketing and report to either the CEO or CCO.
  • 6. The pandemic: comparing the before and after times
  • 7. In the wake of a tumultuous year, 80% agree or strongly agree organizations place a greater value on communications.
  • 8. 59% 31% 34% 47% 17% 42% 17% 34% Greater than 50% say “more important” or much more important.”
  • 9. “No company-wide policy; Individual option to work fully remote, in office, or hybrid.” “Self employed.” “Always been hybrid.” “Expect some expanded WFH policies.”
  • 10. Contributors’ Analysis: Karen: This is a pivotal moment for PR and communications professionals to get out of the media relations spin cycle and demonstrate the breadth and depth of our value. Organizations saw the impact of well-rounded strategic programs and we must lean into that. Michael: Executives found their employee and customer comms teams last year! Not surprising that media relations isn’t keeping pace in perceived importance, as organizations realize they can reach stakeholders directly. I am somewhat surprised by the lag in influencer marketing – there is no pandemic-related reason why that would have slowed down, and I look for it to continue to grow as an alternative to traditional media relations. Michelle: Communications took center stage during the pandemic. It became clear that ALL organizations need to prioritize communications with their audiences, and in this particular case, communicating with employees and customers. If organizations don’t prioritize communicating with employees, it will be yet another reason for them to look elsewhere. With competition for talent stiffer than ever, an organization that communicates clearly and puts employees’ needs first will be more successful in keeping current employees – and recruiting new ones. Of course, it’s ALWAYS important to communicate with customers, but the pandemic only underscored that. Another important point here is that. as more was expected of communicators during the pandemic, burnout also became an issue. Communications pros need to be sure to take care of themselves and employers need to try to be supportive. One statistic I saw was in a survey by Blind: 83% of marketing and communications pros reported experiencing burnout during COVID-19 – more than any other job function. Stacey: Comms has spent basically all of eternity working to prove their worth to stakeholders in their organization. With a renewed focus on more communications to key stakeholders, this presents an opportunity for companies to reexamine their comms strategies and put talent in place that will fortify their brand now and into the future. It would be great to see a flood of companies hiring for communication roles as a result. Shel: The hybrid model, which will look different from organization to organization, needs to be communicated as an organizational change initiative. While superficially this model appears to accommodate the desire many employees have to continue working from home at least part of the time, it has already drawn criticism from a number of quarters, including Apple employees, who sent a letter to CEO Tim Cook asking him to reconsider. The key issue is around whether leaders will trust employees to be in the office on days their work requires it and work from home when the nature of their work is primarily solitary. This internal communication needs to be proactive and address the vision the company has for the hybrid model and the reasons your employees may resist it. Shonali: I echo what Karen said; it seems to me that the opportunity for PR pros is to really demonstrate their value across the length and breadth of an organization, not just as publicists. They also have an opportunity to advocate for employee and work environment best practices, if they use data to demonstrate equal or more impactful outcomes during the pandemic and help build a more trustworthy and productive company culture.
  • 11. The top challenges facing communications and PR
  • 12. Challenges: chart 1 of 3 “We've built great credibility at the exec level through the year of COVID, recurring racial injustice and now workplace reset.” “Absurd hunger for ‘influencer’ outreach... and failure to understand that so-called ‘influencers’ are largely just seeking monetary reward.” “Business leaders who think great comms can solve poor leadership.” “Complete dearth of true diversity - ethnic and experience, in particular.” “Connecting newly remote workers to organizational culture, values.” “Comms leaders don't understand how to be proactive, and strategic and just SIT at the table. They are order takers too often.”
  • 14. Rank 2021 Top Challenges 2020 Top Challenges 2019 Top Challenges 2018 Top Challenges 1 Too many priorities (40%) Measuring the impact; proving value; demonstrating ROI (50%) Budget (59%) Budget (63%) 2 Cutting through the clutter (37%) Executive team doesn’t understand comms (45%) Limited staffing or headcount (55%) Ever expanding duties (57%) 3 Leaders don’t understand comms (36%) Cutting through the clutter and noise (40%) Ever expanding duties (52%) Proving ROI (54%) 4 Ever-expanding duties [i.e. social media, content, etc.] (35%) Budget (40%) Balancing priorities (49%) Limited staffing or headcount (52%) 5 Not enough staffing (99%) Ever expanding duties [i.e. social media, content, etc.] (35%) Measuring impact of comms (49%) Measuring impact of comms (51%) 6 Not enough budget (26%) Complicated or prolonged review and approval process (31%) Proving ROI (48%) Balancing priorities (44%) 7 Scope creep (24%) Balancing priorities among diverse stakeholders (30%) Gaining executive buy-in (45%) Gaining executive buy-in (40%) Challenges: chart 3 of 3
  • 15. If too many priorities is the top challenge, 54% of respondents think more work will be shipped to outside agencies to help relieve the pressure. This suggests a broad reversal of the trend in years earlier where clients were taking more work in-house. Other surveys have suggested this is also true across related fields in marketing and creative.
  • 16. Contributors’ Analysis: Karen: Partnering with solo PR Pros and micro-agencies is an important strategy that allows in-house team to stay focused on core priorities. Michael: Take yourself back to March or April of 2020; who would have thought that budget would be a lesser concern? The exploding economy means our budgets are back, but we have too much to do. Educating and persuading executives to focus is the 2021 superpower (especially if this strong economy turns out to be an inflation bubble, which I fear). Michelle: There is a PR boom right now. From my perspective – and from the perspectives of those I’ve talked with – agencies can’t hire fast enough to keep up with the demand, and they’re turning to freelancers to help fill the gap. I think it’s going to be a BUSY year for consultants. Stacey: This is absolutely fascinating to see the shift of top challenges move from needing more resources and proving ROI to there being just too much to manage. I believe part of that comes from leadership not fully understanding the workflow of comms and the time and effort behind campaigns. Those who are responsible for both internal and external communications must be absolutely overwhelmed. Now that comms has proven their value (previous charts), we should start positioning an agency partner or solo PR pro as a necessary element to achieve our goals in-house and to continue or improve the success of the department. Shel: It's interesting (and not in a good way) to see measurement/ROI at the bottom of the list. If we can demonstrate with numbers that we are having an impact on the bottom line, it can lead to higher budgets to address the issues that ranked higher than measurement. If we have truly moved the needle, it's easy to make the case that we could move it even further if we had more staff or money to address multiple priorities, cutting through the noise, etc. Measurement should ALWAYS be a top priority for communicators. After all, numbers are a language leadership understands. Shonali: I think there will be a significant uptick in hiring (I’m already seeing that), which I intuitively link to the issues of too many priorities, scope creep, etc. However, I’m also fairly certain that, as things “normalize,” the measurement/ROI issue will regain ground as a top issue, unfortunately. So, if PR pros really want to get ahead, that is (still) what they need to focus on.
  • 17. Media relations: it isn’t getting easier
  • 18. Answered: 281 60% say media relations is harder or much harder compared to last year. In year’s prior, here’s how that number looked: • 2020: 75% • 2019: 68% • 2018: 51% The trendline suggests it’s not getting harder, but then again, it’s not getting easier either.
  • 19. Answered: 265 About one in three (29%) say their organization is investing more in media relations. However, the most (60%) put about the same investment into this effort.
  • 20. Contributors’ Analysis: Karen: These results validate the importance of having a comprehensive strategy that does not rely on media relations. Michael: For various reasons – mostly inertia and tradition – organizations still place the same value on media relations, despite the fact that it’s grown much harder and – on average – delivers diminishing returns. Silver lining: the upside is greater for the relative few who excel. Michelle: What I found interesting is that in spite of all the pandemic related coverage, journalists continued to look for other stories to cover as well. In my mind, it underscores that a good story is a good story – and if you pitch a journalist for whom it’s a fit, they’ll respond well to that at any time. Stacey: Part of the challenge to media relations is the extensive time pros require for their craft, which it seems we are getting less and less of. Although investment remains the same in some organizations, it could be a point of leverage when asking for more resources if pros have been able to prove success over the past year with increased priorities. “If I was able to achieve these things during a challenging year with normal resources, imagine what we could achieve with 10% or 20% more?” Shel: The fact that media relations is harder does not diminish its value. Third-party validation is still more credible than all the content marketing and brand journalism in the world. A recent Pew Research study found more Americans now see the media's influence growing. That's just one good reason to redouble our efforts by employing the very best practices and avoiding the worst like the plague. Not too long ago, a consumer product company was contacted by the Washington Post, which sought interviews for a positive story on the company. The company's response: We're sorry, we don't have time. They were convinced their own brand journalism was adequate but building the goodwill you can get from earned media remains important; that company may regret its decision one day soon. Shonali: If an organization is investing less in media relations despite its importance being “about the same,” when half the respondents are saying “it’s harder,” the question is: why? Are they seeing results that matter from other marcom tactics? I don’t think media relations is “dead,” I’m seeing increased demand for that expertise. But if PR keeps tying results to tired and debunked metrics like AVE, then it’s probably likely to linger in this middle ground for a while to come.
  • 21. Paid media for earned media’s sake
  • 22. “It’s basically paid content; however, the general public does not always know that.” “The authors Forbes Council publishes are credible in their own right. The value Forbes adds is a platform that cuts through the noise and gets the attention of more readers.” “As long as it’s truly thought leadership, the content is useful. The second it turns to a hint of a sales message, all credibility is lost.” “It depends on who is sponsoring the content, and who is creating it. The audience makes the determination if either is credible.” “People are increasingly able to see these for what they are: overdeveloped advertising opportunities masquerading as quality content.” “Generally advocating for a particular POV.”
  • 23. 41% of communicators say their organization has at least dabbled in sponsored content – about the same number (40%) that has “never” purchased a paid piece.
  • 24.
  • 25. Contributors’ Analysis: Michael: Especially with earned media opportunities shrinking, we need to be open to alternatives. Influencer relations or sponsored content make some classically trained PR pros turn up their noses, but when properly labeled are wholly ethical and possibly effective. Don’t dismiss “paid” out of hand – try it and see if it resonates with your particular audience. Michelle: Pay-to-play scams are increasing, as publications struggle financially. What happens though, as in the case of Forbes, is that it takes away from the publication’s credibility. When anyone can pay to be published there, what does that say about the “news” it provides? And many of these pay- to-play “opportunities” are just plain scams. Use great care if you decide to go the paid route. Stacey: Part of the reason why sponsored content may be a turn off for communications professionals is because we are subjected to poorly executed articles on the daily. This doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a part of our toolkit. With the right outlet and neutral execution based on thought leadership, sponsored content can be extremely effective in a variety of ways: from awareness, to SEO and website traffic. Shel: When sponsored content was a new concept, Richard Edelman told an audience of communicators the window was closing quickly for PR to own the space. The window has closed, and marketing/advertising has clearly taken ownership. That does not mean there are no great examples of native advertising (another term for sponsored content). One of my favorites was a New York Times piece on the state of women's prisons in the U.S. -- paid for by Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" to promote its season premiere. It was a work of pure journalism; it was just one that the newspaper was not planning to produce. The sponsorship was clear, leaving nobody to think this was just a newsroom product. That's the approach to take: Be strategic and be sure the news outlet clearly labels the content as sponsored. Shonali: I do think there’s a place for paid/sponsored content in an integrated marcom program. But you must have quality content if it is to do anything for you. Let’s start there, with content that is valuable, and focusing on building a community for that content. Unless you do that first, sponsored content isn’t like to do much for you.
  • 26. Views on politics and social issues in communications
  • 27. “I think it is usually impossible to separate political and social issues. They tend to be intertwined.” 21% say brands should take a stand on political issues “often” or “always.” 43% say brands should take a stand on social issues “often” or “always.”
  • 28. Conveying a stand: chart 1 of 2; total responses: 123
  • 29. “By making sure to communicate two core messages: 1) How that position will strengthen the core business, employee health & well-being, and positioning in the market; 2) What the tradeoffs are and why the choice made was the best way forward.” “Clearly, forthrightly, grounded in shared values like democracy, justice, concern for the environment, etc.” “Aligning the stand to the company’s values.” “Companies should stay in their lane. If they take a stand they need to explain why and the relevancy to why they felt they needed to take a stand.” “Diplomatically. Not at the expense of jobs or mental health of employees.” “Direct and open communication from the CEO or other leadership member in a letter or other formal communication. They have a right to know why and how the decision was made.” “Don’t. Think about it first and stand firm.” “Organizations should carefully consider their brand before taking a specific or political issue. What might be popular today, may not be so tomorrow, and consistently changing your political/social perspective to fit popular opinion can lead to serious brand creep.” “If it’s hot button, very carefully worded would be the best. Hard line stances often drive people away.” “Organizations should have clear mission statements and guidelines regarding their stance on a particular topic. Organizations should hold strong to their convictions and explain their stances in a clear and definitive manner.” “They should be prepared stand up for what you believe; be willing to lose business; and understand people have the tendency to vote with their wallets.” “They should be clear and firm. Don't flip-flop.” Conveying a stand: chart 2 of 2; total responses: 123
  • 30.
  • 31.
  • 32. This question was only presented to those that answered “yes” to the preceding question (21% of the 66% with an ESG program). In other words, about 13% of all respondents said their organization created a formal DE&I program in response to the social unrest in 2020.
  • 33. Contributors’ Analysis: Karen: There is societal pressure for brands to take a stand and have a point of view. As communicators we must guide our organizations and clients in ensuring that taking a stand aligns with their mission, vision and values, and that is a practical next step of action. Michelle: The Edelman Trust Barometer has corporations now ranking ahead of other organizations, including the media and government. This means that it will be even more common for consumers to expect brands to step up to fill in the gap. It is important to use care when deciding which issues align with your brand. You have to be ready to walk the talk if you decide to put yourself out there. Shel: Mountains of studies find that employees and prospective employees want to work for companies whose purpose represents a higher calling. The Edelman Trust Barometers has for years been clear that the public expects business to solve societal problems. Brands may no longer sit on the sidelines. The role of PR is critical here, ensuring leaders don't step into a minefield, that their messages are carefully thought out and crafted, and that they align with the nature of the business and the company's values. As for CSR/ESG/DEI, the public and the media don't care about your plans; they care about your results, so they had better be substantial before you go touting them. Shonali: The alphabet soup of “DE&I” and “ESG” is being thrown around like no one’s business today. I’d like to see organizations do more than simply pay lip service to these extremely important, fundamental business values. I’m not sure I’m seeing that yet, or from these data.
  • 34. Communications and PR measurement
  • 35. 60% measure their comms efforts “often” or “always.”
  • 36.
  • 37. “Connect business goals with communications efforts. Still too much of a ‘just do stuff and hope it works’ mentality.” “More cross-functional alignment and shared understanding of execution.” “Having people actually care about the impact of comms and or actually be willing to find out if their programs and initiatives are working. Measuring comms can be dangerous because it may show the CEOs pet project/campaign/policy change is a dud.” “Access to client data to demonstrate impact.” “Clearly defined goals and audiences.”
  • 38. Contributors’ Analysis: Karen: Measurement is critical to the work that we do, but it is important to measure what matters to the organization. Establish success metrics in advance and secure buy-in from key stakeholders as part of the planning phase. Michael: Ninety percent of us measure the results of our communications. The problem is that we have no consensus on what “results” means. Only when it’s strictly defined as “impact on business objectives” will we get the respect and understanding of leadership that was cited earlier as one of our biggest problems. Stacey: Measurement can help with the prioritization of duties from leadership and enable comms to focus in on the projects or campaigns that align with organizational goals...and make the case for eliminating those that don’t. Partnering with marketing to show how communications efforts contribute to the marketing/sales funnel is an often-unexplored realm for pros but can pay dividends. Shel: Measure outcomes. Of course, you should measure output and outtakes as well, but that's for your own edification as a communicator, not for sharing with leadership. The only thing leadership cares about is outcomes and if you can demonstrate that communications delivered outcomes that are meaningful to the organization, your value will increase. And measure beyond collateral. For internal communicators, for example, measure the impact of your efforts to operationalize communication. Shonali: I think every single response of mine has tied back to the importance of valid metrics – this will be no exception. Michael hit the nail on the head: what exactly are communicators measuring? Do they even understand what “valid metrics” are? I still sit in meetings where “follower numbers” are touted as a metric of success. This is a HUGE growth area for the industry; if comms pros want to elevate their careers, this is where they need to focus.
  • 39. Communications and PR technology
  • 40. “External measurement support, advanced content analysis, traditional and social media stakeholder analysis.” “Agency support for media relations and monitoring.”
  • 41. 74% say the tech skills of comms pros across the industry are “good,” “very good,” or “excellent” but one in five lack technical chops.
  • 42. 84% say their tech skills are “good,” “very good,” or “excellent” but one in 10 say they lack technical skills.
  • 43. Analysis: Frank: The market is saturated with monitoring tools. Each claim their own special sauce, but they all do the same basic things in my view. If there’s a difference here it’s UX and ease-of-use, which typically comes with the newer tools built on modern software frameworks. For sure, most organizations will benefit from a monitoring tool, but these charts just underscore how little innovation has taken place in the PR technology market. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite with a handful of vendors making acquisitions, consolidating tools, and stripping out the pieces they want and leaving the remains on the chopping block floor. In effect this is removing innovative innovation in this market. So, I for one, welcome the new startups because they bring new thinking and challenge the incumbents to try harder. The survey results underscores what I think are three areas of opportunity for PR technology vendors: 1. Internal communications. It’s more important than ever and yet, I only see one viable solution provider in the space (SocialChorus), which is owned by a private equity firm. However, the trend clearly shows that internal communications is more important than ever, so the demand is there. In addition, it provides a new target audience in HR and the chance for the vendor community to be a bridgebuilder between PR and HR. I suspect this is a more viable target audience too, since the linkage is welcomed, where some corporate communications departments desire independence. 2. Online newsrooms. Years ago, online newsrooms used to be the most trafficked section of a business website, because it was the only section updated with fresh content and it attracted links. Today, many corporate online newsrooms are dismal and barren. Newsrooms are an opportunity for PR to make real progress for the business in owned media. Some SEO vendors have been moving into the PR space and this is an area where they have the expertise to shine, but their tools need more polish, and simplicity, to appeal to corporate communications. 3. Pre-analytics. Analytics in PR are weak. Most center on slicing up a list of media placements with dubious metrics like tonality, prominence and type of outlet. There’s very little value here – we know a placement in a solid publication is good – and PR doesn’t have to sell that to the executive team. What they need is help in getting more, so vendors should move upstream and strive to build analytics that helps PR conduct better outreach. Pitching analytics is one example, and I think there’s more to be developed here. Note to readers: I write about the PR technology community often under three different categories: a) PR Tech Sum: this a monthly summary of news related to the vendor community; b) PR Tech Briefing: this is write-up based on a business presentation and a brief web demonstration of a product, Q&A and my own research. Product Reviews: this is an in-depth review based on hands-on in a production environment.
  • 45. “Global Leadership Office, which is different from HR (includes meetings & events, and the PMO).” “Executive Vice President (who reports to President and CEO).” “Chief digital officer. Although we may move to HR.” “External affairs.” “HR for internal comms and CLO for external comms.” “Chief marketing and communications officer, a VP, who reports to the president.” “SVP, Marketing & Communications .” “Chief of Staff.”
  • 46. “I believe that with the integration and blurring of the lines between communications and marketing, I think there should be a Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, who would have direct reports - VP of Marketing and VP of Communications with a requirement to integrate and work more closely together.” “Should report to the respective business leaders that they support (in larger orgs).” “Chief Public Relations Officer.” “Wish a bit more consistent or semi centralized. So, a strong comms unit at the bureau level.”
  • 47. Analysis: Frank: These two questions build on the results of last year’s survey. It’s not surprising to see that most comms pros desire to recognized as an independent department reporting to a c-suite level officer. Indeed, the pandemic may have added credibility to that notion. However, in business, organizational structures shift as executives' leaders come and go, and where communications reports can ebb and flow. In B2B technology, particularly in startups and young companies, comms often reports to marketing. That’s a good way to ensure PR is aligned with marketing, but it often comes at the expense of internal communications, which demonstrates the broad range of responsibilities PR and communications professionals fufill.
  • 49. “Employed full-time and looking.” “Forced into retirement, looking for projects.” “Self employed but looking for position in- house/non-agency.”
  • 50.
  • 51. “Government - how could you leave us out!” “Local government to business.”
  • 52.
  • 53.
  • 54. Survey methodology This survey was a joint effort between Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW) and Sword and the Script Media, LLC. Subscribers to both organizations were solicited to take the survey through mentions in the weekly newsletter, dedicated email requests and social media. In total 305 respondents took the survey online, using Survey Monkey, from April 14, 2021, until May 14, 2021. 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). This year the survey was confronted with survey bots that threatened to skew the results. These bots can complete surveys – and even generating answers to opened ended questions. However, survey responses by bots contained multiple characteristics, or tell-tale signs, that distinguish those answers from genuine answers by human beings. We manually reviewed every single survey answer and removed any answer from the sample that matched bot fingerprints. We removed in excess of 200 answers this way which left us with the 300 responses detailed on these pages. Because of the laborious effort we put into reviewing each and every answer, we are confident in the integrity and utility of these survey results.
  • 55. Have a position to fill? Looking for a new gig? Send a note with a job listing or to subscribe to Ned’s Job of the Week or by contacting Ned directly at lundquist989@cs.com. http://www.nedsjotw.com/
  • 56. Need a topic for a webinar, session or virtual event? Ned Lundquist and Frank Strong are available to present the data in this survey. Contact us to learn more: Ned Lundquist: lundquist989@cs.com Frank Strong: frank@swordandthescript.com
  • 57. Suggested reading 2020 JOTW Communications Survey Presentation: The 2020 JOTW Communications Survey Blog: Code of PR Ethics? The Gray Area of Communicating a Point of View Blog: What Does “Storytelling” Mean to You? 105 Answers from Communicators Blog: The Top PR Challenges and Tips for Overcoming Them 2019 JOTW Communications Survey Presentation: The 2019 JOTW Communications Survey Blog: Corporate Communications is Taking More PR Work In-House, finds Survey; Media Relations Gets Even Harder Blog: What is PR? 141 PR and Comms Pros Explain What They Do for a Living Blog: PR Measurement: A Pulse Check on How Communicators Show Value Blog: The Top 10 PR Tech Vendors by Familiarity and Favorability 2018 JOTW Communications Survey Presentation: The 2018 JOTW Communications Survey Blog: New Survey Identifies the Hottest Trends in Corp Comm and PR; Announcing the 2018 JOTW Communications Survey