Every two years, the New York-based Corporate Communication International (CCI), conducts an in-depth survey of senior PR and communications officers at Fortune 500 companies about global PR trends. As a sort of “state of the communications field” analysis the CCI Corporate Communication Practices and Trends Study 2017 offers fascinating insights about the PR landscape today.
Perhaps the most striking trend is the speed of the news cycle and pace of business. Since the digital mediascape is constantly changing, communicators must be agile and always ready to engage in a digital-first environment. Yet they’re aware that the cost of a mistake or a simple overreaction can be high. Any crisis communications team must be ready to respond at any hour to an escalating event, and that speed is vital. Communications professionals must act decisively to safeguard corporate reputation, and many worry that they may miss something.
“Corporate communication functions as the conscience for the business and as a vigilant lifeguard for the brand.”
The Age Of Uncertainty
The speed of the news cycle is compounded by today’s environment of mistrust and uncertainty. And the rules for wading into controversial or political issues are less certain than they once were. Economist Milton Friedman famously said that corporations’ only purpose is to make money, and that they therefore have no social responsibility. Fifty years later, the pressure on corporations to take a stand on politically charged issues is growing. The current Delta Air Lines vs. the NRA and state of Georgia saga is a perfect example of the delicate balancing act of creating and maintaining a company’s ethos – and the real world ramifications of doing so.
“ You must assess a situation quickly and determine a course of action quickly, often ahead of all the facts being known. That requires a high level of trust among senior leaders to launch without all the approvals knowing there is a desire and expectation to own and guide the story.”
C-Suite Turf Battles
As the external environment has grown more challenging, so has the corporate environment. The overlapping roles of corporate communications and marketing and dissolution of silos in some organizations have not always been smooth. CMOs and CCOs (chief communications officer) jostle for influence within the corporation. Marketing departments often have significantly larger budgets than communications, yet the CCO’s voice must be just as persuasive. Moreover, CCOs cannot control those functions that have the potential to exert a large influence over corporate reputation, like HR and advertising. Since corporate reputation has a large role in the success (or failure) of the enterprise, the CCO must serve as a strategic business resource and counsel to the CEO, even when in reactive mode.
“Reputation management as the #1 perceived role of corporate communication.”
Another global PR trend in the Fortune 500 companies is the increased focus on internal communications. Corporate leadership recognizes the critical importance of getting everybody on the same page – no easy task in organizations with 20,000 employees. And since a single employee can talk about the company to thousands of external stakeholders at once through social media, the company must take steps to control its narrative. Over 80% of companies now have an employee social media policy. Companies realize that its employees should be the first line of brand ambassadors; therefore they must understand corporate brand values and how they translate outside the organization.
So you want to be a PR executive?
The good news is the communications profession is flourishing. Staffs and budgets are increasing. Corporate recruiting of communications professionals is now a priority. But what talents do publicly traded companies value in public relations pros? It’s not enough to be a well-trained expert communicator; you had better know business and the language of business. About 25% of the communications executives surveyed have MBAs. Because communications now bleeds into so many departments, the higher-ups must have a firm grasp of business strategy. It’s not just press releases and media training. It’s also about globalization, data analysis, and PR as a strategic business function.SHARE