Communications Strategy Survey Results Show Struggles & Opportunities

The results from the Communications Strategy Survey are in. And while they indicate many organizations are struggling to develop a communications strategy, they also indicate many people within those organizations see the value of a communications strategy and are motivated to improve or develop theirs.

No Strategy

The most notable finding is that only 25% of respondents indicated their organization has a written communications strategy.

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That means 75% of organizations are sailing their communications ship without a map. No wonder so many communicators are feeling confused and overwhelmed by all the communications options now available!

Breaking It Down

As we delve into the specific aspects of communications strategy, respondents feel best about their understanding of their target audience(s), with 43% rating their org a 4 or 5 compared with 29% rating their org a 1 or 2.

In all other aspects of communications strategy, more people rated their organization negatively than positively.

  • On defining & understanding their communications goals, 31% were positive and 38% negative
  • On defining & understanding their communications tactics, 31% were positive and 36% negative
  • Respondents felt least confident in their tracking of metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of their communications goals with only 17% rating their organization positively and 62% negatively.

Motivated to Improve

Overall it’s clear that the people who responded to the survey are not satisfied with their communications strategy. When asked “Overall, how would you rate your organization’s communications strategy?” only 16% rated it positively while 47% rated it negatively.

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On a positive note, though, when asked, “How motivated are you to help your organization develop a better communications strategy?” 70% indicated they are highly or extremely motivated.

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I’m encouraged by this because it shows many people see the value of a communications strategy and the potential impact a good communications strategy has to improve communications and dramatically impact the effectiveness of the organization.

Biggest Barriers?

When asked, “What is the biggest barrier to your organization developing a better communications strategy?” respondents were fairly evenly divided between busyness (29%), lack of understanding (25%), and lack of leadership (21%). 17% of respondents indicated “other” on this question, but a closer look at those other reasons revealed nearly all could be categorized as time, understanding or leadership issues.

communications-strategy-survey-5b

Where do we go from here?

Based on the survey results, I see at least 3 things we can do.

1) Develop Resources. It’s clear that organizations need and want help developing better communications strategies. That presents an opportunity for the development of better communications strategy resources and guidance – books, webinars, tools, conferences and coaching.

2) Provide Examples. An additional type of resource that would be helpful is examples of communications strategies. Some survey respondents indicated they would like to share their communications strategy online either as an example or for the purpose of receiving feedback. We hope to post and discuss as many of these as possible.

3) Parse Data Demographically.  More insight may be gained by parsing the results by demographic factors – type of organization, number of employees, role in the organization or years of experience. We’ll be looking into that ourselves. And if you’d like the raw data (excluding email address) to do your own parsing, just let us know.

For more on communications strategy, read What Is a Communications Strategy? and How to Develop a Communications Strategy – with 6 Words

Discussion

  • What comments or questions do you have about the survey results?
  • What could be done to help your organization or other organizations develop better communications strategies?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

40 Responses to “Communications Strategy Survey Results Show Struggles & Opportunities”

  1. Paul, many organizations have not yet prioritized the need for a written communications strategy. Once it moves to the top of the to-do list, then more organizations will allocate the resources.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 13, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Lanie. Without a written communications strategy to guide day-to-day operations, organizations waste a lot of time and resources and get off track. My hope is that leaders and communicators will see that if they don't have a communications strategy that should be at the top of their to-do list.

    • Hi Paul, forgive me, I've been ill, but I did comment under the name Lanie. I'm looking at it now: Paul, many organizations have not yet prioritized the need for a written communications strategy. Once it moves to the top of the to-do list, then more organizations will allocate the resources. – See more at: #sthash.tA44QZDK.dpuf">http://blog.ourchurch.com/2013/06/13/communicatio…. I hope this reply gets everything sorted out.

  2. Agreed with Lanie. Not enough have prioritized this but once they do it will be better all the way around.

  3. valeriebloomberg Jun 13, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    You can't and won't prioritize something you don't understand or are overwhelmed by, you will continue to put it off and put it off and put it off and most organizations just don't have the funds to have someone come and enlighten them.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 13, 2013 at 3:07 pm

      Thanks Valarie. That's why I'm writing blog posts like…

      How to Develop a Communications Strategy – with 6 Words http://blog.ourchurch.com/2013/05/21/how-to-devel

      …and posting the survey results publicly. Hopefully with resources like these understanding will increase, anxiety will decrease, and even those orgs who can't afford a consultant will be able to develop a good communications strategy.

    • i think Valarie is on to something here! Great to see that you are educating and bringing your vast experience to the table Paul.

  4. sweet post

  5. Breaking it down, and then improving it…I love these kinds of simple, yet insightful posts.

  6. anguswordpress Jun 13, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    For a lot of smaller businesses the rate of change in communications is a challenge – as, by the time they get their communications strategy put together – their own business strategy has changed and they then need to rethink the communications strategy.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 15, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Yeah, things are continuing to change rapidly in business and communication. That's why an important part of an organization's communication's strategy is having a plan for how often it will be evaluated and tweaked.

  7. Meredith Gould Jun 13, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Did N =138? If so, frequency distributions are probably more useful than percentages but setting aside that pickiness, I'd love to look at the cross-tabs for "don't understand" and "lack of leadership." I suspect that embedded in that is this truth: leadership doesn't understand strategy development and therefore cannot lead it. Feel free to ignore me getting all social science-y!

    Focusing on what needs "to be done," I believe that providing a clear, easy-to-understand information about what constitutes strategy, why it's important, and how to develop one is a good place to start. And oodles of prayer that communications efforts be viewed as an essential ministry!

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 14, 2013 at 9:23 am

      Hi Meredith, yes, it looks like there were 138 total responses. It would also be interested to see how "don't understand" and "lack of leadership" correlate with the role the person has at the organization. My guess is that senior leaders are more likely to say the biggest barriers are too busy and don't understand, while people further down the org chart are more likely to say lack of leadership.

      I gave you access to a copy of the data so you can slice, dice, filter and parse it to your heart's content. :)

  8. The most striking thing about the results of the survey is that organizations havent made it a priority. Lack of leadership, lack of understanding, and being too busy all add up to 75% of the reason it's not getting done. and in my view these are unacceptable excuses. After all, it should be a one time deal to pull everyone together, come up w/ a strategy, and lay it out in writing .

    This is exactly what was done during my time as a labor organizer. We would plan, test, and tweek until we came up with a written plan in regard to communications, and overall campaign strategy. Due to this we had a good rate of success. However, my first job out of undergrad, was with a company that didn't commit anything to writing. There were no written procedures or decent communication strategy to speak of and the amount of things that slipped through the cracks were abundant.

    Paul, I'm curious about whether there was any difference depending on the type of organization? (Public, Private, etc.)

    Also, thanks for sharing the survey results!

    Troy Mickjns

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 14, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Thanks for the comment, Troy. I agree… "Too busy" is usually an excuse for not making something a high enough priority. "Lack of leadership" tends to mean "I can't do this on my own and the people above me are not doing their part." I wrote about these and a couple other barriers to creating a communications strategy in this post a couple weeks ago:
      http://blog.ourchurch.com/2013/05/16/4-common-bar

      I'm also curious as to whether there are any differences depending on org type. I'm going to take a look and if there are some interesting differences I'll do a post on it.

  9. Dr. Hansjörg Leichsenring Jun 14, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Intersting results. I wonder, if so many People are Aware of the importance of communication why it is still so bad in some companies.

    Cheers from Germany

    Hansjörg Leichsenring

    ___
    Have you seen my latest blog post?
    Mobile Wallet, Kundenanalyse und Markenbildung
    Lesenswertes über Banking KW 24-2013 http://www.der-bank-blog.de/?p=9990

  10. Kornowski Consultingdienste Jun 14, 2013 at 9:55 am

    shows – once again – how important strategy is. also and especially on internal and external communication. yes, there is a difference.

  11. Aviva Burstein Jun 14, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I wonder what tools do the companies use to evaluate their communications. There should be a strategy that puts accent on this important issue and measure the results after trying to improve the values. This will bring awereness of importance to everybody

  12. This is a positive comment, please!
    I am not sure that -particularly in religious organizations- people hold the kind of skills or training that grasps the need for strategic business thinking in terms of communications, organization, etc…
    The survey's results certainly reflect the above fact. Vic

  13. Harold Gardner Jun 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I worship in a very large (2,500 attendance) traditional church that has Joel Osteen's Lakewood in our backyard. I suspect that has driven our congregation to be focused on effective communication. I am not saying there are no struggles, but the elevator speech is well rehearsed. Our website, TV strategy, social media, and print efforts do a decent job working together.

    It is a shame to see congregations struggling because I know that means wasted resources. Here is a hope and a prayer that this survey prompts folks to create effective strategies for their church communications.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      >>It is a shame to see congregations struggling because I know that means wasted resources.

      Thanks Harold. I feel the same way.

  14. I think that if you want your business to be successful, you need someone in charge of communications, including written. like the saying goes 'Fail to prepare – Prepare to fail' Before they know it, it gets put to one side and then forgotten about and are then reminded that the did too too late when it hits the fan.

  15. I agree with Amidiaetic but its not just someone in charge, more so an involved effort and strategy based communications "fluid" effort. This would result in complete symmetry of communication analytic's and relieve back end burden on all communicable departments in the org.

  16. The 3 businesses and organization I am involved with do not have a communications strategy, 2 of them barely have a website! Inventory is taken on paper and I sent mine via excel and they printed it out! So communications strategy is a mute point!

  17. Insightful results. Hard for me to be too critical as my organization falls right into the middle of this. Unfortunately, urgent trumps important . . time and time again. But not tomorrow. . . tomorrow, we will tackle important over urgent. :)

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 15, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      Matt, that is the big challenge – not allowing the urgent to displace the important.

  18. Very informative. I learned early on, that you have to focus on your communications as well as your marketing strategy

  19. we do, but the hard thing for me is that we were just acquired by a company that does not – so I am fighting an uphill battle

  20. Bill Whetstone Jun 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks Paul I will share this with my daughter who has founded a Ballet school in a depressed sector of Birmingham. Many organizations want to help but without a written communications strategy, my daughter is shouldering a massive load that my overwhelm her.

  21. beeitsolutions Jun 16, 2013 at 2:31 am

    I have seen a lot of compagnies that did not have a strategy! I helped them to break down the "old" thinking and build up from scratch. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Paul

  22. greatpoetrymhf Jun 16, 2013 at 2:54 am

    Plan your work Work your plan. Communications is the key Well done to ask the questions. It is now up to us to incorporate the suggestions and like my friend beeitsolutions to build up from scratch. AmaZing thing to teach us that we are now aware that we were not aware.

  23. nice post

  24. Praboda Madushan Jun 16, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Wow. Many reports and informations. A great and a valuable post. Keep up!

  25. A very good post with thorough and convincing analysis and already feel interested. Will read more of your blogs!

  26. laurindanyintro Jun 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Sad but true. I deal with small businesses / non-for-profits and with most there is no "communication strategy" "marketing strategy" or any strategy. It is hard for many small businesses to comprehend the need for a "communication strategy" What they see/believe is… it is too daunting, takes too much time. Just this morning, I was asked to speak (at the last minute – literally, the last minute) at a group event. So I ended speaking about marketing strategies, social media primarily. Out of about 25 people, 20 of them had no idea how to even begin to put one together for their company. Hopefully, my phones should start ringing with more questions from them or simply more people needing help. Thanks for the survey.

  27. normaleebeaton Jun 17, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Communication is golden, when it is done with politeness and making the other person(s) your focus.
    When building a business with respect for all, open communication is a must.
    Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is a very good example to follow.

  28. Great publish, carry on the great exploration!

  29. Thanks so much for the insight and wake up call, Paul. I am sharing this with my daughter and her non profit org as well as following, RTd, G+ etc. I appreciate your follow up reminder that my post had failed to register. Hit a weak wifi spot and lost my place but rest assure your inspiration and keen observation is much appreciated!