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Not being able to prove their value is the greatest threat to comms directors, claims research

Comms directors believe the greatest threat to their professional success is having to prove what they do has a positive return for the business. This is according to a recent survey conducted by recruitment firm Whitney Murray with the help of insights company The Pulse Business.

Over a quarter (28%) of comms directors say having to prove their value is a professional threat, and the next two biggest threats are dealing with a renegade C-suite (18%) and the difficulty of managing the reputation of the business (16%).

In their own words
Discussing why it is so hard to prove the value of the communications function, one comms drector discusses how the comms role is under greater pressure: “This has been a constant thread of discussion throughout my career. It is a very polarised issue. C-suite and exec either 'get' comms, or don't. With increasing competition, uncertainty and shifting goal posts, our value is coming under increased scrutiny.

Intangible asset
“Marketing communications and internal communications produce tangible products that are always on message and interact directly with the end user. Its value is easier to demonstrate. Classic corporate communications is far less tangible and more difficult to demonstrate value in business terms, particularly now AVE is no longer best practice. Explaining the sentiment of press coverage is a tough sell in value terms. Explaining results to investors and shareholders is the only area that is more clear cut – as that impacts future investment/growth plans and confidence in exec.”

Data rules
Another director says pressure comes from the pervasive belief in the power of data: “There is an increasing expectation that meaningful and actionable data can and should be generated on anything.”

No budget
Whilst another comms professional complains that there are not enough resources to prove their worth: “The cost of supplying the relevant data is not within my budget.”

It appears communications directors are worried about their positions and are expected to deliver measurable results. There has been discussion for some time about whether the comms director should sit on the executive committee and in the last few years we have seen a trend towards them being made board directors. However, this elevation may increase scrutiny into their roles and lead to more pressure to prove themselves.

As Rebecca Whitney, managing director of Whitney Murray says, “The insight this Pulse gave is that communications directors feel the need to justify their existence, which is intriguing when you consider the many other challenges they face in their roles. For me, it begs the question, why do they feel their position is so precarious? Surely the comms director is needed more than ever to provide effective and consistent communication across any corporate business today. We will be pulsing again to look at what is driving the focus on ROI shortly and specifically, to gain a better understanding of what good looks like for a FTSE 500 company.”

Despite the revolutions in measurement, the age-old problem of proving the worth of communications remains.

The sample size was c430 UK-based communications directors. The Whitney Murray Insight Pulse was run by The Pulse Business from 1st - 4th May 2018

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