Printer Friendly

The number one issue for professional communicators: building management support.

The most critical issues facing professional communicators are management support for the communication function and credibility, according to the Issues Identification Poll at this year's IABC international conference in San Francisco.

Poll participants variously cited 'a lack of respect,' 'little understanding,' and 'a need to help management appreciate the role and potential' of public relations and communication. In their open-ended answers, they also connected the management support issue to a need to align the communication function with business issues and to do research to prove the value of communication programs.

The need to build management support emerged as the number one issue in two of four areas when professional communicators were asked to identify critical issues in the poll sponsored by the IABC Research Foundation. In identifying major issues for the profession and its future, the issue most frequently raised was building management support, named by 38 percent of the 138 communicators polled. Management support also ranked as the leading issue for internal communication: It was raised by 27 percent. Approximately one in 12 (8 percent) also said management support was a major issue they face in doing external communication.

Research and strategic business thinking are the keys

Often tied to management support was the need and ability to assess impact and prove the value of communication programs. Proving value ranked the highest of 15 issue statements that supplemented the open-ended questions and that poll participants rated. Some 83 percent agreed that assessing impact and proving the value of communication programs was an important issue today: They rated the issue an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale, which yielded a mean rating of 8.8.

In open-ended answers, others said that communication must ultimately add value and that the profession must prove that communication adds to the bottom line. Additionally, 66 percent agreed that communicators will need to develop new skills in research and measurement.

Also tied to management support communicators needs to understand strategic goals of management, business issues in general, and to become strategic business thinkers. Some 20 percent of those polled cited these as major issues for the profession and its future.

Issues related to strategic business thinking also received high marks as poll participants rated their agreement about the importance of the 15 listed issue-statements:

* 73 percent agreed that if communicators do not increase their role in providing strategic planning and counsel for management, there will be more cutbacks in communicators' jobs.

* 68 percent agreed that globalization will require communicators to understand more about international issues and trade, as well as other languages and cultural differences.

Of all business issues requiring strategic business thinking, two emerged high on the agenda for internal communication:

* 24 percent said a major issue in internal communication is promoting or communicating quality, often linked with changing the corporate culture and developing new corporate values and identities.

* 17 percent said a major internal communication issue is building and managing a diverse, worldwide, multicultural work force, which was often linked to maintaining a common mission while respecting individual differences.

Professional communicators are attuned to multicultural issues

The top-of-mind concern about building a multicultural work force, raised by 17 percent of those naming various issues for internal communication, shows that cultural and societal issues rank high on the professional communicator's agenda.

When later asked to name major cultural issues that will affect the ways professionals communicate:

* 59 percent raised the issues of managing and building cultural diversity,

* 22 percent cited literacy and education-related challenges.

* 20 percent said new cultural challenges will require use of new communication technology, including more use of video, computer networks and satellite feed.

* 15 percent said communicators will have to be ready to deal with new issues brought about by globalization, worldwide sharing of resources and environmental interdependence.

Thirteen percent also raised several work/family issues, including issues involving working mothers, child care, parental leave, and the creation of new work environments that will be more family-friendly.

Many also mentioned the gender gap, sexual harassment, racial diversity, dealing with an aging work force, and conflicts arising because of more apparent disparity between the rich and the poor, both within the United States and between nations around the world.

A matured time-worn concern: getting the complex message across

While new cultural challenges are leading many professional communicators to re-think their reliance on old print technologies, many of those polled also expressed concerns about getting increasingly complex messages to employees, external audiences and others.

It is harder to "communicate corporate values instead of picnic info," to explain how competition affects organizations, especially now that the media are becoming both more plentiful and more simplistic, according to many of those polled.

In dealing with the challenge, 22 percent say that professional communicators must provide faster, more timely information, in part through use of new technologies, particularly for internal communication work.

The problem of getting across a complex message also surfaced when poll participants identified major issues in external communication:

* 21 percent say a major issue is targeting and adapting messages for different audiences and different technologies,






* 18 percent say a major issue is one of building more effective relations with the media,

* 15 percent raised the issue of media "clutter" -- too much information and too many different sources.

Given the perceived need to communicate more complex messages, professional communicators readily accepted new extensions of communication functions and techniques:

* 68 percent agreed that communication issues today will require communicators to become more involved in training and support for interpersonal communication in the work place,

* 66 percent agreed that communicators will have to use more two-way communication in communicating with the public.

Credibility and trust are critical

A major theme -- often interwoven with the issues of management support, communication across cultural divides and getting complex messages across -- was the issue of trust and credibility. The theme emerged in three issue areas.

In external communication, building credibility with the public was the number one issue, raised by 30 percent of poll respondents. They mentioned a current lack of trust, a climate of distrust, and the need to address "public concerns" and "real issues."

Often tied to that was the need to build community support, in part by ensuring corporate responsibility and management accountability -- an issue raised by 12 percent of those polled. Sixty-eight percent also agreed that it is important to demonstrate the responsible citizenship of organizations, in part because of growing concern about environmental issues.

The issue of trust and credibility also emerged as respondents identified major issues in internal communication. Twenty-one percent said that a major issue for internal communication is building trust and credibility with employees -- "being open and honest with employees," "tackling the tough issues," "giving straight answers to hard questions," and "trusting employees with empowering knowledge."

When respondents identified major issues for the profession and its future, trust and credibility surfaced in another form: 30 percent raised the issue of maintaining professional standards, honesty, integrity and a code of ethics.

Not many, however, saw the issue of professional credibility solved by accreditation or licensing. Only 22 percent agreed that widespread criticism about the actions of some communicators will necessitate some form of certification or licensing.

Overall, the poll suggested that the credibility and trust issue -- for communicators, their messages, as well as the profession -- is intertwined with broader issues of professional integrity, relevance to managerial, public and employee concerns, and clearly apparent importance and value.


This self-administered, computerized survey of 138 professional communicators was sponsored by the IABC Research Foundation and conducted by L.C. Williams & Associates, Chicago, with Vectra computers courtesy of Hewlett-Packard. The survey consisted of open-ended inquiries about the major issues for each of four communication areas: internal communication, external communication, intercultural communication and the profession and its future. Poll respondents also rated their agreement about the importance of issues addressed in 15 issue statements. The survey was conducted during the IABC international conference in San Francisco, May 24-27, 1992.

Dennis M. Corrigan, Ph.D., is vice president-research for L.C. Williams & Associates, Inc., Chicago, Ill.


The discipline of business management has mastered the allocation of capital, resources and technology -- but one resource remains largely underutilized: people.

Management is realizing that the successful deployment of human resources will be the edge in the world market ... Driving this is management's need for strategic help with issues such as downsizing, regulatory compliance, benefits, pay for performance and overall strategic realignment of the work force to new quality and productivity initiatives.

But while management has begun to embrace greater employee involvement and empowerment, the longstanding contract of "loyalty for job security" between employer and employee has dissolved, and the result is a strained relationship.

Management's view of communication is that it must improve, not because good employee communication is "nice to have," but because communication creates measurable value for the organization.

Excerpted from Communications for Management, Inc. International president Frank Corrado's forthcoming book, "Getting the Word Out, How Managers Can Create Value with Communication," to be published in October.


There are a number of reasons why CEOs have been slow to embrace the importance of communication:

* CEOs have not perceived that communication is important to their success.

* They have wrongly seen communication as a cost that does not produce a measurable return.

* Communication has been thought of as a technical skill, not a strategic activity.

* Senior managers have had a long-standing fear of any process they fear cannot be totally controlled.

Excerpted from Communications for Management, Inc. International president Frank Corrado's forthcoming book, "Getting the Word Out, How Managers Can Create Value with Communication," to be published in October.


In today's marketing world, the aura in the firmament is "marketing public relations." This refers to the maximum use of the news media to help sell products.

The amazing growth of marketing public relations is happening largely because the marketing community has found that, in an age of overcommunication and great scepticism, advertising alone cannot successfully bring products to market.

A combination of other factors has resulted in the increasing use of public relations in marketing:

* Today's public is more likely to link companies and products with issues like health, safety and the environment.

* The growth of cable television and the resulting erosion of network television dominance have splintered the mass market.

* Marketing professionals realize that advertising's credibility has eroded and that third party endorsements in the media can restore some of that credibility.

Marketing has become dependent not only on public relations but on strategic corporate communication to help address serious public issues that can directly impact sales. Recent examples include the StarKist policy on dolphin-safe tuna, beer company advertising that promotes safe driving, and McDonald's decision to end styrofoam hamburger packaging.

Excerpted from Communications for Management, Inc. International president Frank Corrado's forthcoming book, "Getting the Word Out, How Managers Can Create Value with Communication," to be published in October."
COPYRIGHT 1992 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:includes related articles
Author:Corrigan, Dennis
Publication:Communication World
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:Effects of recession on PR/Communication.
Next Article:Employee communications - fracture for success and security.

Related Articles
How to build credibility with senior management.
Managing work-place diversity ... the wave of the '90s.
Predictions from a decade ago - revisited.
A communication office in the year 2010.
Next 25 years will be stranger than fiction (for communicators).
Integrated communication?
Surviving the amputation of corporate communicators.
Strategic communication: dead or in demand as never before?
Knowledge management: do we know that we know?
IABC Research Foundation Think Tank reports on issues affecting the future of the profession. (Foundation Findings).

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters