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Sustainable Business Reearch Institute

Developing and influencing global communication management practice

Improving individual and organisational equality and sustainability, by raising awareness of unfair practices such as gender pay gaps, and highlighting possible technological advancements and reputational challenges.

Developing and influencing global communication management practice

The Challenge

In the early 2000s, there was a growing recognition that good quality strategic communication was an essential component of business success. But the industry was still relatively young, largely unregulated with huge variations across Europe and the rest of the world in terms of professionalism, access to education, peer support and training. For researchers and practitioners there was little comparable primary data to draw on. The European Communications Monitor (ECM), launched in 2007, is the largest longitudinal co-produced research programme in public relations and strategic communications globally. It is a collaboration between private sector funders and academic collaborators and led by Professor Tench, Leeds Beckett University from the UK, alongside specialists from the universities of Leipzig (GE), Amsterdam (NL), Ljubljana (SI) and Rey Juan Carlos Madrid (ES).

 

The Approach

Funded since its inception in 2007 by the private sector, our annual European Communication Monitor (ECM) survey of over 80,000 communications professionals from more than 80 countries is the most comprehensive analysis of communication management worldwide.

Prior to the ECM, trans-European research was restricted by paradigmatic barriers (different research cultures) and pragmatic limitations (language differences and lack of contact data). The research team created an empirical study to produce a comparative picture of the state and structure of communication management in Europe and later worldwide.

Constructed around a core question bank, the data allows researchers to longitudinally track characteristics and explore variation across regions, undertake country-to-country comparisons and benchmark organisations, enabling the identification of issues and areas for practice improvement. The ECM series has increased understanding across the profession, identified areas for improvements and created resources to support this as well as creating a worldwide information network.

Some of the issues affecting communication management highlighted by the data included:

  • Inconsistencies in communications performance, practices and standards in the EU
  • Capacity and knowledge gaps
  • Need for further training and support
  • Sustainability of the sector limited by inequality of opportunity

European Communications Monitor

The European Communication Monitor is the largest transnational study on strategic communication worldwide. It has been conducted annually since 2007 with more than 30,000 participating communication professionals.

Impact

LBS’s ongoing analysis of ECM data has contributed to the development of global communication management practice. Research insights have directly supported the sustainability of the global communications industry by helping it to prepare for new sector-wide challenges; to identify trends in practitioner skills to inform training and education; and prompting action to address gender equality. The research has benefited industry associations, professionals in large multinational corporations through to small operators, by enabling global sharing of best practice and academic / industry knowledge exchange. The ECM’s findings are regularly shared via its website (viewed by 31,264 people between 2014-2020), academic conferences, professional presentations, webinars, podcasts and videos on YouTube (that have been viewed a total of 32,681 times between 2014-2020).

The ECM has created a worldwide network of 80,000 communication professionals, practitioners and academics in over 80 countries. This network is contributing to sector development by identifying and sharing best practice, monitoring and benchmarking strategic priorities and enhancing cross cultural co-operation.

The ECM research team established a competency framework to standardise role requirements across the sector and devised a framework of excellence as a blueprint for quality. These tools model high-performing communications characteristics, enabling organisations and individuals to identify training and development needs to address inconsistencies in communications performance, practices and standards. The tools have been used widely across the sector to inform practice and to decide what training opportunities to offer.

The research team developed benchmarking tools, based on the capabilities of over 50,000 (European) communication professionals from 48 countries. It enables individuals and organisations to benchmark their own capabilities in key areas such as AI, cyber security and fake news, and to review and adapt their processes to ensure they are competitive and ethically astute. Since 2019 the benchmarking tools had been accessed by over 746 practitioner organisations in 25 countries.

ECM findings also raise awareness of workplace conditions and one of the issues highlighted is persistent gender inequalities within the sector and in every region. This has promoted UK industry members to initiate change within their organisations to increase transparency to reduce gender gaps.

The findings from the GCM have influenced communications sector teaching within higher education. Evidence from an evaluative survey of the ECM indicated that 66% of academics who took part agreed or strongly agreed that the ECM findings improved understanding of key issues affecting communications practitioners, helping to equip students for work in the sector.

Professor Ralph Tench

  • Business and law
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