Home > PR > Controlled Chaos: 86 Comms Pros Explain How Communications Work Has Changed

Controlled Chaos: 86 Comms Pros Explain How Communications Work Has Changed

Comms Pros Explain How Communications Work Has Changed

90% of comms pros surveyed say their work has changed some, and of those, 50% say communications work has changed significantly

Most communicators say the volume of work has grown, but so too has the variety of work. Nine in 10 (90%) said reported that communications work has changed at least slightly – and of those, 50% said it has changed significantly (37%) or very significantly (13%).

That’s according to The 5th Annual JOTW Strategic Communications Survey for 2022, which polled 483 communications professionals – mostly in the US.

We wanted to understand the context – so we asked respondents “why?” in an open-ended follow-up question. Two hundred and seventeen respondents wrote in answers. A word cloud based on those answers is published above and a representative sample of verbatim answers follows below.

(click image for higher resolution)

Those who said communications work has “changed very significantly,” wrote:

1. Proven business value. “Taken more seriously by the C-suite.”

2. Harder to engage. “It’s even harder to engage people than before.”

3. More crisis work. “A lot more crisis work in addition to more duties usually shared between departments. Staff remains thin.”

4. Work environment changed. “A new emphasis is put on comms because of changes to how and where people work, but also the importance of communicating and the constant changes in society and the world.”

5. More types of content. “Communications professionals are now responsible for producing videos and podcasts, hosting live stream events, playing photographer, designing graphics, learning the back end of websites and more to keep up with changes in the ways people consume information.”

6. Old and new tasks. “Now need to produce videos and podcasts in-house – something that used to be a once-in-a-while activity and was outsourced – in addition to providing content for every social media platform and continuing all other ‘old school’ communication duties.”

7. Real effort into digital and social. “Digital is no longer an afterthought, social media has gained prominence.”

8. Semi-controlled chaos. “The addition of marketing, analysis, trade show consultation, managing professional organizational memberships and everything else has made every day a whirlwind of tasks, to-do lists and semi-controlled chaos.”

9. Many platforms for collaboration. “It comes at you from multiple platforms, especially if you are connected to multiple clients and partner platforms. I have to use Teams, Wrike, Kapost, Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Data Studio, Sharepoint, Salesforce, Oktopost and Slack to communicate with clients and teams. I have colleagues who also layer on Trello and other content management systems as well. It’s a lot to keep track of and to recall where a message was sent through.”

10. Moral champions. “It’s changed to encompass a moral champion-like role. The role has required expansion of the previous need to be a generalist who is knowledgeable on business topics, to being one who can effectively take on a business leadership role where needed.”

11. Jack of all trades. “Lines between what constitutes PR and content marketing continue to blur. Clients now expect PR people to also be search experts, content experts, working knowledge of Google Analytics, knowledge of all sorts of tracking tools to measure effectiveness, while filming, producing, and editing video and managing multiple social media accounts.”

12. Additional duties. “More and more, I see comms positions advertised as comms + (fundraising, design, content development, etc.”

13. All things to all people. “We now do everything for all stakeholders. Faster. In multiple mediums.”

14. Taking a stand. “More responsibility given the pandemic, working remotely, leadership being asked to speak out on social issues, DEI, and ESG.”

15. Force multiplier. “Technology has enabled me to do the work of five people and has enabled me to do that work in far less time.”

16. Demands of immediacy. “The increase in digital comms, which has telescoped timelines and increased ‘immediacy.’ The pandemic, current political, and socio-economic environment in the U.S., considering international relations, have caused Communications professionals to be evermore careful with comms content. Proactive yet current with events and (e.g., political, socio-economic, etc.) climate.”

Those who said communications work has “changed significantly,” wrote:

17. Actual and perceived crisis 24/7. “A vast increase in demand and 24/7 availability to address: Actual and perceived crises or emergencies and inquires and requests made by all elected officials and community members.”

18. More internal comms. “Being asked to do more internal communications and business communications usually left to other departments like HR, finance.”

19. Broader remit. “Broader remit, more engagement across the company.”

20. Other duties as required. “Changed with respect to the type of services expected. Increasingly, we are asked to do things which fall under ‘other duties as required which tends to take away from the mission at times.”

21. Responsive to emerging issues. “Comms has had to be more responsive to social justice issues that integrate with the business.”

22. Digital is different. “Comms professionals are now expected to help execute digital marketing work, which is significantly different from traditional PR.”

23. Short staffed. “Communications is not the major focus. Picking up the slack from other departments has become the norm as full staff capacity is not no longer a reality.”

24. Pile up of issues. “COVID, labor issues, economic issues, and crisis issues piled on top of each other.”

25. Crisis after crisis. “COVID, remote work, social distancing and social justice issues of the last two years have dramatically affected the work.”

26. Remote work. “Currently, everything is being done remotely, which is significantly affecting how we work and what we’re doing.”

27. Blended media. “Everything from PR, social, and owned content are starting to bled together into one job.”

28. Retention and restructuring. “Heightened customer reputation, improvements to retain customers, reorganizations.”

29. More internal comms. “Higher demand for internal coms due to max telework schedules.”

30. Design skills required. “I’ve found that employers expect not just one skill like writing, but design skills as well.”

31. Communicating to two worlds. “Inclusion of BOTH in person and virtual, so the post-pandemic world has the need for both options simultaneously at all times.”

32. More channels. “It’s critical to be engaged across all channels, both traditional and digital.”

33. Expanded duties. “It’s expanded to include public affairs and government relations as the norm.”

34. Expanded expectations. “Someone with a PR background or degree is now somehow expected to know graphic design, videography, web design and development, photography and social media and more.”

35. Transactional not strategic. “It’s become much more transactional and less strategic in focus.”

36. Dynamic content and regulations. “Less static content. Adherence to privacy regulations.”

37. Acting like a publisher. “Many more surveys, much more understanding of the power of thought leadership and publishing to sell the business.”

38. Crisis interrupted. “More and more crisis communication events that interrupt the general flow of work in our area.”

39. Constant state of alert. “We are in a constant state of alert, waiting to see if it’s ok to run our campaigns or manage the latest work/US/world crisis.”

40. Comms as compensation. “For internal comms, leaders are relying more on communicators and less on sound leadership skills or courage.”

41. PR is more credible. “Advertising trusted less and less and PR and earned media are seen as more credible.”

42. Giving voice. “Importance of companies having a voice on social justice and other policy issues.”

43. So-called influencers. “More emphasis on social media. The explosion of questionable, greedy so-called ‘influencers.’ Crisis/DEI/CSR have become more front and center.”

44. More with less. “More expectations of producing more with less resources increased focus on CSR, DEI, etc.”

45. Change management. “More focus on change management and hybrid work environment –reaching 100% remote colleagues.”

46. More marcomms than comms. “More focus on marketing/development communications than on the organization.”

47. Absorbed into other departments. “More integrated with other departments or absorbing functions of other departments.”

48. Workload has grown. “More need for change management and deeper understanding of stakeholders. Increased workload with no increase in resources.”

49. Pressure on measurement. “More pressure on metrics, more KPIs to track, lack of unity in client leadership for comms objectives, more channels for which to create content and more content needed due to the number of channels.”

50. Tech-driven change. “More strategic questions arise due to changes in technology.  greater need to keep up with the field.”

51. Comms more valued. “More value placed on communications due to the pandemic and guidelines changing so quickly.”

52. From print to digital. “Moved from a quarterly magazine publishing to a bi-weekly electronic newsletter.”

53. Through leadership and content. “Much more emphasis on content creation and thought leadership via commentaries.”

54. Managing LinkedIn for executives. “Much more posts on social and creating thought-leader pieces for LinkedIn.”

55. Navigating hot topics. “Need to maneuver more political and ‘hot topics’ among both internal and external stakeholders.”

56. Managing the conversation. “PR needs to manage the social conversation and also, now, manages, paid influencer relationships.”

57. Virtual increased engagement. “Public engagement opportunities were thwarted by COVID. We went virtual and engagement has actually increased.”

58. Strategic advisors. “Communicators have moved from being the newsletter writers and PR pitch people to truly becoming strategic advisors to our organizations.”

59. Blurred lines. “The blurring of earned and paid content as well as the digital marketing aspects of all communications and how / where / when to reach audiences is a rapidly moving target. Not to mention, trying to determine the most effective use of limited resources when using social media remains a growing challenge.”

60. Breadth of channels. “The breadth of avenues to publicize has grown via tech and complementary outlets.”

61. Faster turnaround times. “The work seems faster, both in terms of turnaround and review. Thankfully have spent much less time waiting on stakeholders to review comms.”

62. Growing risk in issues management. “When we think about PR life before the pandemic there were challenges in the world that every comms person had to navigate. However, in today’s world with a pandemic, increased societal unrest and geopolitics heightened strategic communications has become the most important role. The rise in risk and the possibility of issue management has changed the way comms professionals tackle each day.”

Those who said communications work has “changed moderately,” wrote:

63. Email deluge. “Breaking through the flood of e-mails [in pitching] is getting very difficult.”

64. Press releases…but not for the press. “Clients are far more open to press releases to just boost SEO vs. earned media, and they are more open to paid media opportunities. They also want more podcast opportunities.”

Note: Sorry, Press Releases Do Not Help Your SEO Anymore

65. Comms merged with IT. “Comms people have been increasingly integrated with the IT department for more than a decade, but in our case, we eliminated our in-house IT staff and guess which department now handles a lot of requests formerly handled by IT.”

66. More HR work. “Comms seems at times to be performing work that an HR person might ordinarily do.”

67. Great resignation. “With the great resignation, many people are doing more work to account for those who left and companies are not replacing those positions. Therefore, the work has increased moderately.”

68. Lack of civility. “Increased demands from the business, external challenges (Covid, politics, lack of civility) and fewer communicators, antiquated tools to meet the demands.”

69. Analytics and ROI. “Increased request for ROI metrics and use of analytics.”

70. Slimmer newsrooms. “Less people and more responsibility for the news departments means longer response times.”

71. Better targeting. “More appetite for targeting and influence knowledge.”

72. No default activities. “More crisis comms through the pandemic and more reliant on different strategies – not default to events. Need to think more about the environment and tone. More strategic. And a lot more internal comms.”

73. Cross-functional. “More cross-functional work, less specialization.”

74. Visual communications. “More focus on different products (finally) aside from the typical news release or web story. More focus on delivering a story map, video, moving graphic or other visual communication as the first product, and not the secondary.”

75. Intense deadlines. “More intense deadlines, more multiple tasks at once.”

76. Earned media potential drops. “More tech, less earned media potential, fewer boundaries on what comms encompasses.”

77. Frequent updates. “More vehicles, need more updates and more timely comms. Have the opportunity to have more frequently updated casual comms nuanced by audience group delivered via electronic tools rather than in-person.”

78. Virtual events. “More virtual events, remote employees require different channels of internal communications.”

79. Harder to pitch. “Much more attention on social media and SEO. Harder to pitch traditional media due to understaffing, and those working hide from the barrage of pitches.”

80. Part of the business. “Now expected to be part of the business providing consultation and deliverables for other departments such as HR, IT and R&D.”

81. Debunk and pre-bunk misinformation. “The trend toward diffusion in media and media consumption has continued, together with a rise in misinformation and disinformation. The space available for reasonable voices and debate has shrunk. The need to debunk or even ‘prebunk’ mis- and dis-information has risen.”

82. Overwhelmed. “Too many tasks and too many trends to follow.”

83. More owned media efforts. “Writing even more bylines and blog content to become our own media company rather than rely on earned mentions and features.”

Note: the above was true among the overall survey – most respondents said their organization is placing more or much more emphasis on owned media (60%), like blogs, newsletters and websites.

Those who said communications work has “changed slightly,” wrote:

84. Emphasis on messaging. “More emphasis on overall messaging that can be used across different platforms, rather than solely media-facing or employee-facing. Multiple constituents.”

85. No sleep ‘till Brooklyn. “Technology doesn’t sleep. It’s a lot to keep up with.”

86. Higher level work. “The marketplace has told professionals for close to a decade that technology would supplant the tactical, formattable and repetitive tasks they executed. The pandemic increased the pace of that change. Comm pros must perform higher-level work as a result.  Many have been caught off-guard.”

* * *

They say half of strategy is deciding what you aren’t going to do. That’s worth keeping in mind as the list of duties expands, and the depth of knowledge requited to do the job effectively grows. Better to be good at a few things that matter than to do many things poorly.

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