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The Volume and Variety of Communications Work is Shifting, Finds 5th Annual Survey of Comms Pros

The volume of comms work has grown and changed. More than three-quarters of respondents (78%) say the volume of work has increased – and one in three say it’s increased significantly.

More than three-quarters of respondents (78%) say the volume of work has increased – and one in three say it’s increased significantly. The type of work has also changed with 90% reporting it’s changed at least some while 50% saying it’s changed significantly.

The volume of comms work has grown and changed, according to the 483 respondents to the fifth annual JOTW Strategic Communications Survey, which is being released today. More than three-quarters of respondents (78%) say the volume of work has increased – and one in three say it’s increased significantly. The type of work has also changed with 90% reporting it’s changed at least some while 50% saying it’s changed significantly.

In what ways has the nature of work changed? Owned media is the top area of emphasis, according to the findings. Respondents said their organization is placing more or much more emphasis on owned media (60%), like blogs, newsletters and websites.

Owned media is also the only area that has a consensus majority. Shared media (44%) was next, followed by earned media (43%) – a traditional bailiwick of communications — and paid media (33%). When asked, “Why?” respondent answers varied widely with some describing growing difficulties around media relations and a lack of strategy and planning.

“The silver lining in intensified demand and volume for comms expertise in the wake of the past several years’ events is certainly validation for the ROI of our profession,” wrote Stacey Miller, Vice President, Communications, Auto Care Association and one of five contributors to the report. “The challenge will be in properly allocating long-term headcount and budget – how long will these needs be amplified? It’s hard to predict.”

In open-ended comments, respondents cite digital, internal comms and a greater focus on comms by leadership as among the underlying reasons. Some of those comments include the following:

  • “Significantly more related to internal comms and recruiting.”
  • “Taken more seriously by the C-Suite.”
  • “More and more crisis communication events that interrupt the general flow of work in our area. We are in a constant state of alert.”
  • “More digital communications; not in person anymore.”
  • “The need to debunk or even “pre-bunk” mis- and dis-information has risen.”

(Right-click and open image in a new tab for higher resolution)The volume of comms work has grown and changed. More than three-quarters of respondents (78%) say the volume of work has increased – and one in three say it’s increased significantly. The type of work has also changed with 90% reporting it’s changed at least some while 50% saying it’s changed significantly.

The survey was conducted in partnership between Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW), which is edited and published by Ned Lundquist, ABC, IABC Fellow, and Sword and the Script Media by yours truly. We were joined in fielding and analyzing the survey this year by five contributors including:

  1. Gini Dietrich, Founder & CEO, Spin Sucks
  2. Karen Swim, PR, Marketing and Social Media Consultant, Words For Hire, LLC and President of Solo PR Pro
  3. Michelle Garrett, PR consultant, Garrett Public Relations
  4. Stacey Miller, Vice President, Communications, Auto Care Association
  5. Shonali Burke, Chief Marketing Officer, Arena Stage

To that end, we owe a special thanks to Gini and Karen who also polled their respective communities – Spin Sucks and Solo PR Pro – for the survey this year.

Key findings and executive summary

Here are the highlights of the survey from the executive summary, though I’d encourage you to review the entire report because it contains nuance and detail that will bring context and better understanding.

  • Comms budgets are up. About one in three (34%) say budgets are up this year, but more (38%) say budgets will remain the same. Another 20% see budgets decreasing (12%) or decreasing significantly (8%) The last time this survey asked this question, in 2020, just 18% expected budgets to rise and 52% said they would remain flat. About one-third (34%) indicated their organization has hiring plans.
  • Top three comms challenges. Respondents identified the top comms challenges as 1) cutting through the noise (35%); 2) too many priorities (31%); and 3) lack of employee experience (25%). The lack of employee experience is a new challenge near the top of the list for the first time.
  • DE&I is the top comms activity. Some 59% of respondents said their organization will place a greater emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) activity this year. It was the only activity among more than a dozen listed to earn 50% of the votes. DE&I was followed by thought leadership (49%), data & analytics (48%), storytelling (48%), comms strategy (46%), measurement (46%), internal comms (44%) and ESG programs (43%).
  • Most common comms measurement methods. The most common ways communicators are measuring results are web traffic (56%), impressions 51%, and the number of placements (50%). The order of precedents of these methods is very similar to the last time this question was asked in 2020.
  • A mix of internal and external resources. About one in three (31%) say they are taking more comms work in-house – while 22% say they are taking less work in-house. However, 36% also said they will send more work to outside resources such as agencies and freelancers. Execution or “an extra pair of hands” is the top reason respondents say they hire an agency. It’s the only choice with a majority (53%) of the votes. Agencies and freelancers were asked separately about the potential for new business this year – 70% said new business would increase (62%) or increase significantly (8%).
  • Organizational trust in traditional media. More comms pros say their organization trusts the traditional media than do not; still, it’s less than half (49%) while about 1 in 5 (22%) say their organization does not trust the traditional media.
  • Concerns about bias. Bias in media of all forms – from social media to search algorithms to professional journalists – is very much on the minds of communications professionals. Social media earned the lowest marks for bias, while traditional journalists earned the best marks. More than half (54%) are very or extremely concerned about bias on social media – compared to 28% who are very or extremely concerned about bias among professional journalists.

The full report is freely available on SlideShare: The 5th Annual JOTW Strategic Communications Survey for 2022 and can be viewed or downloaded without registration. A copy has also been embedded below for easy viewing. Finally, here is a PDF copy of the report for anyone that prefers that format.

About this year’s survey:

This survey was a joint effort between Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW) and Sword and the Script Media, LLC. Subscribers to both organizations were solicited to take the survey through mentions in the weekly newsletter, dedicated email requests and social media. Gini Dietrich and Karen Swim also solicited respondents from their respective communities at Spin Sucks and Solo PR Pro. In total 483 respondents took the survey online, using Survey Monkey, from Friday, May 6, 2022, until June 14, 2022. Survey takers were incentivized to take the survey with an offer to be entered for a chance to win one of three gift cards ($100, $50 and $25).

Most are based in the U.S. (76%) and 70% have 11 or more years of experience. Sixty percent are in-house communicators; another 15% work for agencies and 25% are self-employed as consultants or freelancers. Detailed demographics are included in the full report.


Reports and analysis from the JOTW survey in prior years:

2021 JOTW Communications Survey

2020 JOTW Communications Survey

2019 JOTW Communications Survey

2018 JOTW Communications Survey

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