Study reveals challenges to the communication industry
ECOPSI (the European Communication Professionals' Skills and Innovation Programme) is an intensive 15-month research programme based on survey data from more than 40 countries and 53 in-depth interviews with chief communication professionals from organisations such as Shell, Henkel, McDonalds and Daimler AG. It is led by Professor Ralph Tench at Leeds Met and includes partners from institutions in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Turkey.
Speaking about the study Professor Tench commented: "The context for this project is a communication sector in Europe, which has grown and developed significantly over the last 20 years. This expansion has been influenced by political, economic and cultural shifts, which have seen profit, and non-profit organisations equally, recognise the role and significance of communication in achieving organisational goals. This project contributes to the development of the communication practice across Europe by mapping and evaluating the current and future communication management skills of practitioners across Europe."
Six major conclusions have been drawn from the research, which, if not addressed, will serve as significant challenges for European organisations over the next ten years:
1. There is little organised life-long learning or evidence and the value of formal undergraduate and postgraduate education is questioned. The profession needs to challenge both what Communication and PR education currently consists of and how it is delivered.
2. Social media knowledge is acknowledged as a weakness people feel they need to improve in.
3. The industry needs to look closely at how it can foster intercultural relationships and cross-cultural working by setting up accredited and recognised programmes of exchange/secondment/internship with different companies in different countries. Existing student exchange programmes, such as Erasmus, are held in particularly high regard.
4. Models of coaching and mentoring within the sector need to be devised and shared in an attempt to offer more formal, organised and supported career development.
5. The value of observing others and learning from them is noted. Networks and Forums are a recognised support for practitioners at senior and lower levels but there may well be a gap in the middle ranks where professionals are more guarded of sharing knowledge, experience and weaknesses.
6. Finally, there is evidence of an emerging future need to be a 'generalist communications specialist'.
Professor Tench added: "In order for organisations to gain a competitive advantage in the market in the future, practitioners will need to understand and make sense of the competency gaps we have identified in many areas. For example, in addition to the obvious technology transformations, an emerging trend is the growing importance of working as a member of a virtual team, which brings both opportunities and threats. We need to build teams with the skills and competencies to manage this kind of practical change."
The ECOPSI research report is freely available at www.ecopsi.org.uk