In what way is their role changing? The question was asked in a qualitative survey conducted by Proches Influence & Marque among 30 communications managers from Paris businesses and institutions. The study shows how much work is required to bridge the gaps.
What about digital information for communications managers? Has its role developed as quickly and as well as it might have following the revolution in this field? Not quite, according to a qualitative survey (see below) conducted by Proches Influence & Marque among 30 Paris businesses and institutions (*). Although they recognized the urgency of the situation, many of them have a long way to go before mastering global digital information, as stressed by the authors of this study: “Several comments show that it is experienced as a real difficulty or even constraint and that communications managers do not know how to go about changing the way they work”.
This is normal, since digital technology and social media both fascinate them and inspire fear, bringing them back to several unresolved technical and people-centered problems. First, because although it is a wonderful tool, it is misunderstood making it a source of stress. In addition to this, it is more prevalent in advertising than for winning a battle of ideas and creating advocacy. Lastly, it raises the question of recruitment and how to introduce these new skills and new professions.
Letting Go to Organize Co-Creation
The practice is in its infancy if not risky. “Except in companies of the new economy influenced by a strong digital culture and led by a new generation of general managers, who have a keen sense of the problems of reputation and brand image arising from social media,” observe the authors. And, naturally, where they have greater leeway and dare to use them. Unlike all the others who are happy with the first level of engagement (like, comment, follow, etc.), and who must learn, once and for all, to let go in the face of digitalization and steer away from a form of counter-productive schizophrenia.
Community managers are ready for this, because they are conscious of the 3 major changes that influence their work, since, first of all, global digitalization and the importance of dissemination channels are the most disruptive areas of their work and originally understood in a completely different way to communications. Second, in dealing with the information overload, it is important to know how to promote a brand through interesting and differentiating content. Lastly, the increasing amount of information sources and acceleration of time require instantaneous management of this continuous feed.
Continuing professional development is vital to address the shared realization of the need to change, and, to maintain the communications manager’s important strategic role, training should ensure that they communicate meaningfully and relay messages effectively both in-house and externally, as well as co-creating and contributing to the business’ intangible value. While businesses and all their services in-house need to think of this new order as essential. How? By thinking about communication for a predominantly generation Z, by really organizing co-creation, and by demanding real expertise from partners and agencies, ready to challenge the status quo, that provide sufficient inspiration and useful practical relations, and, of course, by having a perfect grasp of the new technologies that are changing the way we work.
Fight (again) to Communicate Ideas Across Departments.
This is fundamental, because “Despite strategic recognition and their professionalization, they still feel obliged to prove themselves constantly”, which was another conclusion of this study on digitalization. Communications managers are naturally inquisitive, flexible and diplomatic. Increasingly, their role is seen by the company and its staff as multiple (HR: 20%, marketing: 17%, R&D, finance, sales, legal, investor relations…: 11%), as well as top management, i.e. managing director(s) (17%) – whatever the circumstances, crisis or not, confidence or not. What is more, 80% of them are part of the general management, 35% work with them and 65% have a seat on the executive board.
However, although this key strategic manager is capable of establishing a relation of trust by acting on all levels as a bridge between the external and internal public, their position reveals different realities depending on the companies and institutions they work for, where in some cases their ideas lack recognition across departments. Communications managers are the reputation keepers (31%), influencers (21%), content writers (16%), image professionals (12%) and experts in digital information or public opinion strategists (10%). The task is multiple and all the harder with digital technologies, which bombard them with a constant accelerated feed of information and which give free rein to growing criticism from public opinion. Down playing, controlling, embodying and humanizing this relationship with digital information, to achieve greater brand and stakeholder maturity, is definitely the way forward.