To protect and promote: the challenges facing corporate communicators

About the author

Richard Bailey Hon FCIPR is editor of PR Academy's PR Place Insights. He teaches and assesses undergraduate, postgraduate and professional students.

Research from VMA Group among corporate communicators published today has revealed a maturing industry gaining influence within organisations.

66% of teams surveyed had a reporting line to a board member and 64% felt that communications would have more influence within the organisation in the next 12 months

Yet budgets had remained static in the past year even while demand for communication had increased: communicators are therefore expected to be more creative with their approaches.

‘Demand for communications is growing. An effective strategy brings together a broader communications mix behind one clear sense of brand and purpose to help an organisation achieve its goals. That this now includes digital is a given. The strategy needs to be flexible so that teams have space to adapt and change in the face of new digital opportunities, as well as more dynamic business challenges and opportunities.’ Tom Glover, Communications Director, TES Global


Yet comms teams have difficulty demonstrating return on investment on digital and social media.

The use of external consultancies remained stable. The most common reason for seeking external support being the need for specialist skills beyond those of the in-house team.

Pay and recruitment

The best paid corporate communications professionals were in banking and financial services; professional services; and IT and telecommunications. LinkedIn was the most common source for finding out about vacancies and opportunities.

‘The survey flags the challenge of grappling with the fast fragmenting “traditional” media landscape and trying to harness social media, while facing budget constraints. It also underscores that people/team are the best part of the job. I think this all means the way to successfully tackle the future is, ironically, a return to basics: namely, you need good people with excellent relationship building skills, media savvy and personal credibility who can understand the core strategic priorities of the business they represent. By doing that, the corporate story can be told to all appropriate audiences in a way that adds true value to the business – and that’s something that will always stand the test of time.’ Simon Steel, VP Global Media Relations, GSK


58% of respondents were not affiliated to any professional body. Of those who are, CIPR membership was the most popular (20%), followed by CIM (7%), PRCA (5%) and IABC (1%).

Top ten skills/competencies for a communications professional

  1. Communications planning
  2. Crisis communications
  3. Influencing
  4. Media relations
  5. Proactive communications
  6. Writing (corporate messaging)
  7. Stakeholder relationship management
  8. Creativity
  9. Business acumen
  10. Corporate messaging

Top ten skills/competencies that candidates are lacking

  1. Business acumen
  2. Writing (corporate messaging)
  3. Creativity
  4. Writing (online)
  5. Political awareness
  6. Measurement
  7. Communications planning
  8. Writing (publications)
  9. Strategy development
  10. Coaching senior leaders
‘The media landscape is becoming increasingly disparate, generating competing demands on an already stretched resource and making it harder for communicators to know where to direct their efforts. While communication teams are getting a grip on digital communications, we’re still struggling to quantify ROI in this space, particularly to a generation of senior leaders who don’t understand the power of social media. Helping businesses to navigate Brexit communications will undoubtedly be the key challenge of 2018. Irrespective of the politics, the lack of certainty will be the key thorn in our side as we seek to protect and promote our businesses.’ Oliver Walker-Jones, Head of Communications, Aerospace, Rolls-Royce plc

The View research report is available from VMA Group (registration required). Over 400 corporate communication managers were surveyed in 2017.