Companies’ digital intentions do not match their capabilities says latest report

Businesses are keen to ramp up digital and social media communications to their key audiences, but this does not match their understanding of how to use the channels.

This is the finding of a research report from Gather, a strategic corporate communications consultancy, which shows how companies’ digital intentions do not match their capabilities.

Two-thirds (65 per cent) of business decision-makers say they plan to use more digital communications in the next two years and increase their use of social media. However, nearly one third (30 per cent) of those responsible for investor comms admit that they don’t actually use any of the main digital and social channels, and 30 per cent of those responsible for employee comms say the same.

In which, if any, of the following ways does your business communicate with each of the following groups of people in your business?

The study also highlights how businesses struggle to keep up with the changing preferences of today’s digitally savvy consumers. Julian Gorham, head of brand at Gather, points out how the pressures to keep up with consumer’ use of technology can be overwhelming for brands: “The era of ‘my media’ or ‘screens-everywhere’ has created an insatiable appetite for round-the-clock high-speed information in and out of organisations. This constant scrutiny and the feeling that there is nowhere to hide is placing extraordinary demands on their communications departments. The power has shifted. Technology is giving stakeholders multiple ways to communicate with brands, businesses and each other, and organisations are struggling to maintain the conversation in balance.”

In general, how well, if at all, would you say you ‘personally’ understand how each of the following groups use digital channels (e.g. websites, intranets, extranets, but excluding telephony) for business communications?

“In scrutinising their own methods of communication, many businesses admit they are not as up to speed with digital and social media as they should be. Corporate managers lack confidence: they are unclear about their audiences’ precise behaviour in social and digital channels and feel (perhaps as a consequence) they lack understanding of how to use social and digital media effectively themselves.”

Gorham highlights ten key findings of the report and offers recommendations to those who wish to improve their digital comms:

1. Brands are built on the conversations people have online.

2. Place the stakeholder, not the channel, at the centre of everything.

3. Find the motivating truth at the heart of the organisation.

4. Seamlessly integrate channel with content.

5. Strong, clear writing makes a difference.

6. Don’t just react. Resist the temptation to test and learn on an ad hoc basis.

7. Focus your efforts. The more messages you broadcast in an unfocused way, the less control you have.

8. It’s good to stay silent. There’s no harm in staying silent sometimes, then what you say is more likely to get noticed.

9. There are no silos, it is no longer possible to communicate discretely with one particular audience.

10. Some of the old rules still apply. Transfer the comms knowledge you already have.


This feature is based on the Gather report: We’re Going to Let This Run, But We’re Not Sure How to Keep it From Running Away: How corporates feel about digital and social media. All figures are from research company YouGov. Total sample size was 712 B2B decision makers. The survey was carried out online in August 2014. Further qualitative research carried out by Gather consisted of 12 in-depth interviews.

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