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European Communication Monitor: key findings

Mistrust in times of fake news and a volatile environment

Despite the persisting debate about fake news across Europe (agreed upon by 55.8 per cent of the respondents), this does not filter into the day to day experiences of communication practitioners (24.4 per cent). The most affected by fake news are government-owned, public sector and political organisations (44.6 per cent have been affected at least once in 2017/2018). Professionals based in Russia report the strongest impact of fake news on their organisations (53.2 per cent), followed by Serbia, Slovenia and Poland (all more than 40 per cent). The sources of fake news follow the origins of the debate with social media being the main source of misleading content (81.3 per cent), but mass media (59.6 per cent) can also originate this form of information. Most communication departments and agencies are not sufficiently prepared to identify fake news: Only 12 per cent of affected organisations have established advanced routines.

Information insights for decision-makers

In today’s digital and mediatised world organisations face a plethora of rapid-fire information that is ubiquitous. Hence, it needs algorithms for data processing and interpretations. Collecting and preparing such information as well as keeping decision-makers and (internal) clients up to date with useful information is a core task for communicators and helps them to fulfil their role. The results of this year’s monitor show that providing information to decision-makers is indeed a common practice across Europe. For 64.7 per cent this is a core task that helps to gain recognition for communications (68.0 per cent agree) and it offers great opportunities for positioning their unit (56.8 per cent).

By far the most important and most frequently provided information by communication specialists is about news in ‘gate kept’ media (mass media with professional journalists) and social media. Media monitoring reports and curated news briefings are provided regularly by respectively 74.6 and 59.6 per cent of the communication departments and agencies.

However, only monitoring reports about the published discourse in print outlets (newspapers, magazines) are provided on a daily basis in the majority of organisations (54.8 per cent). Daily insights on what is going on in social networks or on television are delivered less often (by just over 36 per cent). Only 28.4 per cent of the communication departments and agencies in Europe provide executive news briefings on a daily basis, i.e. advanced types of reporting with edited or curated content that delivers deep insights for decision-makers.

Job satisfaction and work stress in the communications profession

Longitudinal comparison with previous ECM surveys in 2010 and 2014 reveals a slow decline in overall job satisfaction. 28.9% of the surveyed practitioners would like to change their current employer within the next twelve months, and 5.2 per cent want to move out of the communications sector all together. However, three quarters of the communication professionals in Europe are satisfied with their job. Overall satisfaction is the strongest in consultants or agencies (79.0 per cent) and in countries like The Netherlands (86.2 per cent), Finland (81.5 per cent) and Germany (81.2 per cent). The strongest drivers for job satisfaction are interesting and manifold tasks, career opportunities and appreciation by superiors and (internal) clients.

Communication professionals are often expected to be high performers in a hard-working culture. No wonder that four out of ten communication professionals (39.0 per cent) in Europe feel tense or stressed out during their working day. At the same time 25.0 per cent do not have the appropriate resources to manage this experience. A cluster analysis reveals that one in four (27.9 per cent) has serious stress problems (reporting stress and not being able to manage it). Following this theme, Portugal, France and Austria report the largest proportion of communication professionals with serious stress problems.

The most important drivers of work stress are the need to be constantly available outside working time to access emails and phone calls, too heavy a work load, the lack of opportunity for growth or advancement, information overload, as well as long working hours. The latter is most significant for professionals working in consultancies and agencies.

Leadership makes a difference

A supportive work environment enables practitioners to exploit their competencies and accomplish organisational goals. The study measured the status in communication departments and agencies across Europe by assessing organisational culture, trust in the organisation, leader performance, overall job satisfaction, and work engagement. Advanced statistical analysis shows that engagement is the key factor that links strongly to all other aspects. Engagement can be influenced by leaders, so in the end leadership makes the difference: educating, mentoring and promoting leadership skills should be a priority in the field.

Enhancing leadership performance, however, is a continuing challenge for the profession. The study reveals that every fifth communication leader (19.2 per cent) lacks leadership skills. A lack of performance at higher levels is clearly visible – especially when noting that subordinates rate the strategic involvement, ethical orientation and knowledge of the highest-ranking communicators clearly worse than the leaders themselves.

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