Report finds communicators fall short on trust and emerging areas of practice

Report finds communicators fall short on trust and emerging areas of practice

The thirteenth edition of the European Communication Monitor examines the challenges facing modern communicators.

The European Communication Monitor (ECM) 2019 explores trust in the public relations profession and organisational advocacy. The report finds that both fall short of expectation.

ECM is a long-term study now in its thirteenth year. Other issues explored by the study include strategic issues facing the communication profession, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI), and content creation and distribution.

The report finds the profession challenged by the speed, distribution and volume of modern media but also slow to embrace AI solutions.

The survey polled 2,689 communication professionals in 46 countries. It’s the most detailed and robust benchmarking study available for the public relations profession.

Trust in the communications profession and organisational advocates

ECM reports that practitioners experience low trustworthiness in their profession. Communicators are only trusted by two thirds of top executives and a minority of influencers and bloggers (47.5%) and journalists (39.1%).

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Practitioners believe that most other organisational advocates are more trustworthy than themselves.

External experts such as professors and consultants are the most trusted (70.5%) followed by leaders of the organisation (66.7%). Other employees achieve a similar trust level as communication professionals (61%).

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Challenges of building trust and transparency

Openness and transparency are critical to an organisation building trust with its publics. Transparency includes information sharing and enabling stakeholders to take part in decision making.

Building trust in their organisation is the greatest challenge cited by ECM respondents (89.3%). Enhancing trust on the institutional level of the market, business or sector ranks second (82.0%). Enhancing trust in organisational leaders comes third (79.1%).

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Strategic issues for the communication profession

ECM reports that trust is the most important strategic issue facing professional communicators.

Dealing with the speed and volume of information ranks second (32.5%) followed by new ways of creating and distributing content (31.6%). Both topics are new in the top three.

These issues replace digital disruption, social media and the alignment of business strategy and communication.

Artificial intelligence (AI) in communication

Three quarters of the ECM respondents (77.3%) think that AI will change the communication profession. One-in-three third respondents believe that AI will have no impact on routine work and individual jobs.

My view is that professional communicators are sleep walking around the issue of AI. It's a view shared by ECM. Few communication professionals in Europe use intelligent assistants or devices at home. Exploring new technologies is a good way to understand their potential impact.

Content creation and distribution

Professional communicators are no longer providers of information for journalists and mass media. I’ve long argued that was never the sole goal of excellent communicators.

ECM reports that modern communication teams have become content producers and distributors. It identifies the rising importance in Paid (37.5%), Earned (57.9%), Shared (77.5%) and Owned (54.1%) media.

About ECM

Follow this link to download a copy of ECM. The document opens as a PDF.

ECM is produced by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD). It was originally published in May 2019.

The team of lead researchers includes: Ansgar Zerfass, Leipzig University; Ralph Tench, Leeds Beckett University; Piet Verhoeven, University of Amsterdam; Dejan Verčič, University of Ljubljana (SI); and Ángeles Moreno, University Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid.

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