Recently the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD) published its annual European Communication Monitor. The survey measures key concerns of communications professionals throughout Europe. For the 2019 edition, a total of 2,689 communicators from companies, non-profit organizations, governmental organizations, and agencies were surveyed in 46 countries. 

With the majority of our network members in one of the countries where people were surveyed, we thought it useful to take a look at a handful of the results and ask different members to comment on the findings.

Trust in the communications professionals

Throughout Europe, trust in communications professionals, whether they are in-house or at third-party PR firms, is remarkably low. 67.2 percent of top executives trust their communications professionals. While that is not a spectacular number, it is still a majority. The numbers, however, quickly deteriorate when looking at other key stakeholder groups. Only 47.5 percent of influencers and bloggers trust the communications professionals. When looking at the journalists, we see that only 39.1 percent of them trust of the profession; and, finally, only 27.6 percent of ordinary citizens trust the communications profession.

Piotr Czarnowski, President of the Polish member First Public Relations: “Only 20 percent of the Polish journalists trust the professional communicators. The reason for this is that both the media and the PR sector still need to mature in this country. What makes things even more challenging is that public opinion does not trust the media and that over 75 percent of people are not able to distinguish true information from fake news. As building and maintaining trust are the most important challenges that now lie ahead for us in Poland, we need to continue to educate people about professional communications and the media.”

Trust in organizational advocates

It should be noted that professional communicators are not the only ones who communicate on behalf of organizations. The survey mapped the trust that ordinary people (again, as perceived by the communications professionals who were surveyed) have in different organizational advocates.

Of the organizational advocates that enjoy the most trust from ordinary people are “external experts in the field,” meaning academics and consultants. Across Europe 70.3 percent of the citizens trust these external experts. Organizational leaders come in second at 66.7 percent. Client fans and other supporters come in third place with 63.9 percent. Employees occupy fourth place with 61 percent and communications professionals follow on fifth place with 60.6 percent. Worth noting is the fact that marketing and sales professionals take second to last place with 43.2 percent and activist groups who are believed to have their own agenda score the lowest with 31.6 percent.

Alexis Noal, VP of the French member ComCorp: “None of this is a surprise to us as we entered the era of “peer recommendations” some time ago now. People trust peers more than corporations and the more “independent” somebody is perceived to be, the more trust is bestowed on that person. Nobody nowadays would book a restaurant or a hotel without researching what fellow diners or travelers think of the place. That trend has percolated throughout our economy. But as communication professionals increasingly turn to these trusted peers as additional communication channels, the question now becomes how long “ordinary people” will keep on trusting their peers.” 

Strategic priorities for communicators till 2022

What are the strategic priorities for communicators is a question asked in every survey. Just like last year, building and maintaining trust takes the number one place.

After building trust (37.9 percent), dealing with the speed and volume of the information flow is the second most important priority for communicators (32.5 percent). What follows are exploring new ways of creating and distributing content (31.6 percent), matching the need to address more audiences and channels with limited resources (30.3 percent), and coping with the digital evolution and the social web (29.8 percent)

Sam Howard, founder of The Comms Crowd, First PR Alliance’s UK member, notes: “Trust is the most valuable asset a firm can have, and it needs to be earned ultimately with deeds, not words. A good communications professional holds a mirror up to an organization and enables it to see itself as others see it and then helps it best articulate to its stakeholders why, even if it is a work in progress, it is worthy of their trust. It is not the job of a communications professional to whitewash over the cracks, though sadly enough too many that have gone before have done exactly that, hence our own low trust rating.”

Creating and distributing content

Every company has become a publisher of content, whether that is shared (social media), earned (through the media), paid (advertising) or owned (the blog, website, etc.) The survey asked communications professionals how they saw the changing importance of these four types of media in the last three years.

77.5 percent of respondents saw greater importance for shared media. Earned media was believed to have become more important by 57.9 percent. Owned media was more important for 54.1 percent of respondents and paid gained importance for only 37.6 percent. Paid also saw a significantly large amount of respondents (36.1 percent) saying that it had become less important.

The numbers shown are consistent with predictions made in the 2015 ECM report. Communications professionals have clearly seen this trend coming for a while.

Beatriz de Andrés, General Manager of Spanish member Art Marketing: “In Spain, we have seen the strong rise in the last year of one important form of earned media, and that is influencer marketing. Brand ambassadors who will at times charge astronomical amounts to mention a product for a few seconds on YouTube, micro-influencers who have established themselves as connectors and subject matter experts and who are not that much after money as they are after special experiences, and finally nano-influencers, who help content become viral through quick dissemination in their small networks, are all very important actors for us in Spain when we design campaigns for our clients.”

The full version of the report can be found on the website of the European Communicator Monitor.