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European Communication Monitor: CSuite recognition increases but are communicators underestimating the impact of AI?

The good news is that the communications function is becoming more appreciated in the boardroom, but this does not mean that PROs can become complacent, claims the latest European Communication Monitor. 

In terms of how they contribute to the business, nearly all heads of communications (87%) say they support operational goals and processes of other departments through communication activities. Most (77%) also say that their top management demands a wide range of activities from them, as top management expects communication departments to contribute to organisational goals by conveying and multiplying messages to stakeholders. However, many respondents believe that top managers are not aware of the full range of contributions that communication departments can deliver, underlining how important it is for comms professionals to prove their worth through better measurement.

Visual skills of communications professionals

Discussing how comms professionals are adding to the values of business, Dr Ansgar Zerfass, professor at University of Leipzig, lead researcher for the European Communication Monitor series, says: "The survey demonstrates that communication leaders believe they add to corporate success primarily in the fields of steering and managing their departments. From the CEO perspective however, departments are most often expected to align communications to corporate goals and contribute to business processes. This means that communication heads still have plenty of room for raising executives’ awareness of the significant role of communications as a strategic facilitator and business advisor. Ultimately, this can increase top management demand for professional communications.”

Particular visual capabilities of communications professionals

Key findings

  • There is growing recognition of the important operational and strategic contribution that communications makes to an organisation’s success.
  • Despite comprehensive awareness of the need to provide more graphics and videos, half of communications professionals have limited skills in this area.
  • Social bots are seen largely as a threat for society and organisations – this may explain why only a few organisations are using social bots.

Visual trends

Another key finding of the report is that despite the fact that we live in such a visual society, 53% of the surveyed professionals have low visual communication skills – compared to 12% with high visual competencies. That is also true at the organisational level. More than 80% of the professionals have implemented standard guidelines for their visual communication. However, only 37% have developed advanced guidelines and less than 5% have advanced management processes for visual communication.

I have followed the debate about social bots

No robots please!

A further discrepancy between societal shift and business is the reluctance to recognise the importance of social bots. Despite the growing commercial and political application of social bots, this phenomenon is largely neglected by many communication professionals in Europe. Only one third follow the debate about social bots and 16% have no idea about the topic at all. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of all respondents agree that social bots present ethical challenges for the profession.

Could do better

Although there is plenty of encouraging news from the latest Monitor, with greater recognition of the importance of comms, there are many areas where the communications function needs to focus its energy. For instance, by using better measurement techniques PROs can more easily prove their worth, and they could become even more invaluable if they make sure they are up to speed with latest visual media and social bots developments. 

Organisations with certified quality management processes for...


The ECM 2017 survey is based on responses from 3,387 communication professionals in 50 countries. Detailed analyses are available for 20 countries and different types of organisations (companies, non-profits, governmental, agencies). The study was organised by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD), supported by partner PRIME Research.

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