Communications challenges face UK firms

10 September 2012

LONDON: Gaining the trust of consumers, delivering consistent brand messaging and managing the "always on" media environment are the main communications challenges facing UK companies, a report has argued.

Brands2Life, the agency, and PRWeek, the trade title, polled 100 communications directors, 59% of which agreed maintaining public trust was among the biggest issues firms must tackle at present.

A further 58% said making sure brand messaging was constant across different channels had assumed this status, while 54% pointed to dealing with a media culture that is global and "24/7".

Similarly, 72% of contributors suggested that PR activity was becoming increasingly integrated with marketing and sales, and 52% spent greater amounts of time working with international teams and offices.

For 56% of participants, the more joined-up nature of communications posed a challenge, while 46% supported this statement for engaging a highly diverse selection of stakeholders.

Indeed, only 27% of interviewees said they thought corporate output across social media was fully integrated in their organisation, with just 9% taking the same view for digital marketing and 6% for advertising.

"The challenges in this environment are to ensure you source complementary skillsets and people for whom collaboration is second nature," said Sally Osman, European director of corporate communications at Sony, the electronics group.

Social media management has also seen a substantial change in strategy. While 72% of firms left their PR department in charge of this discipline in 2011, this total had dropped to 28% in 2012.

"Ultimately, the conversation about where responsibility lies should focus on where it is most effective, not internal hierarchies," said Alex Pearmain, head of PR and social media at O2, the mobile group.

Some 78% of communications directors looked to an in-house team for PR ideas, while 62% tapped up their marketing department, 59% briefed PR agencies and 31% turned to ad agencies.

However, when discussing which partners delivered the most ideas, PR agencies logged 47% and ad agencies 35%, ahead of in-house PR teams on 33%.

The average relationship between clients and PR agencies now stands at only 11 months, the report added. In terms of budgets, 43% of the panel expected spending to decrease, and the same number forecast that it would remain flat.

Data sourced from Brands2Life; additional content by Warc staff