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Corporate Communication in the Dark. Why We Prefer Screaming to Listening

We are talking to Paweł Bylicki about corporate communication in Poland and its future development.

Michał Szapiro: Everyone talks about changes, new trends, a revolution taking place in the world of Public Relations, and you did a study which showed what appeared was widely known. Or perhaps, perversely, it’s a bit like our reality: everyone knows everything but for some reason nothing ever works as it should?

 

Paweł Bylicki, CEO at Public Dialog: I think it’s worth discussing this study at least at several levels. The first one is going somewhat against all the experts who rely on intuition in their day-to-day dealings. We wanted to conduct the first studies on the Polish reality concerning corporate communication and collect specific, current data. And then to take a shot at interpreting the future, treating the opinions of the stakeholders as a starting point.

 

MS: Your report shows that not many brands follow the principle of dialogue in practice…

 

PB: A well-managed brand is able to adjust swiftly to the new realities in which it functions. At the same time, it must remember about being authentic, because every message can be easily validated. As it turns out, however, just over half (55%) of organizations identify and verify stakeholder groups at least once a year. In every fifth company, it is believed that if the stakeholder group is once defined, it does not require any subsequent verifications. And every tenth responder in charge of communication in a company does not have a marked opinion on this topic. And so the following question arises here: How can you effectively maintain a dialogue with your stakeholders without listening closely to their postulates, checking the quality of your communication efforts and the extent to which our communication is understood? This is a huge space for PR advisors.

The vast majority of activities in the communication space resembles a wild ride: only one in ten companies measures the level of understanding of corporate messages among their stakeholders, while almost as many don’t measure the effectiveness of corporate communication efforts at all. This means that many brands still operate in a system from the 1990s, we shout to the consumers, instead of talking to them.

This is also the case with employer-employee relations. According to the responders, the employees’ opinions about their company is one of the key elements of reputation. And only 58% of companies carry out regular studies concerning the brand’s internal environment, designed to help streamline internal communication processes. The least often measured area of corporate communication is Public Affairs. Measures in this area are evaluated in only 23% of companies and usually not more often than once a year.

MS: So what DO they measure?

 

PB: We still rely on simple measures such as media breakdowns (72%), social media analytics (50%), or the infamous AVEs (40%). These are methods, which, apart from a positive/negative context, mainly show us numbers and address key issues: understanding the message, level of engagement or behavior changes. And in the end, these are the measures which determine a brand’s success. So, there’s still a lot of room for improvement in the area of delivering specific measures showing the impact of corporate communication on the brand.

MS: And we are now moving to what can be done in the future. How did your respondents assess it?

 

PB: As for the future, there are grounds for a great deal of optimism. Nearly 75% of researched companies declared that the importance of corporate communication improved over the last three years. According to the respondents, it is mostly due to the improving importance of brand’s reputation, the fact that the management boards started to see communication as the key area for their companies and the development of communication channels. A total of 80% of respondents indicated that the importance of external advisors dealing with different aspects of corporate communication will remain unchanged (37%) or will increase (43%). These figures show that jobs in the sector and the demand for this type of services are stable.

MS: Will corporations start responding to the needs of consumers more boldly in the nearest future?

 

PB: There is great faith and fascination in activities on the internet. Corporate communication has started to be determined by and based on owned and paid media channels. As the respondents’ replies suggest, the role of the following media is bound to grow within the next 3 years: social media (82%), Internet (77%), mobile (58%), and own corporate channels (45%). The first ones were especially frequently mentioned by representatives of international companies (95%). On the other hand, considerably fewer people mentioned traditional media, like press (13%), TV (10%), and radio (5%).

Our study and report resulted in two core conclusions. First is the need for actually analyzing what we do, why we do it and what are the results of our actions. These questions may seem trivial, but as it turns out, corporations often do not look for answers, creating their image without even looking at the recipients of their messages. The second thing is the growing importance of owned and digital media, which also shows how the role of comms specialists has evolved. Instead of just passing on the message, they will have to focus on comprehensively creating and managing their communication.

The full report is available at www.komunikacjakorporacyjna.pl or www.publicdialog.pl