Internal Communications has long been seen as the poor relation to externally facing PR and so it comes as a surprise when a topic on IC is discussed by parliament. Well not so long ago a whitepaper by drp Group (a creative communications agency) was discussed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group. The paper is called Perception vs. Reality: The Gap Between Perception and Reality in Communications, Technology and Engagement in Modern Organisations.
I’ve summarised the contents of the paper below, with no commentary or thoughts of my own at this point as I’m still digesting it. Please feel free to add your own thoughts and questions into the comments, as it’s an interesting subject and will give me (and all of us) a bit more to think about.
As you can probably guess from its title, the paper argues that the way that most organisations talk about technology, or innovation, is very different from the reality of the investment and digital workplace offering. Communications professionals are caught in the middle of this contradiction, as they are the ones sharing the messages that don’t compare to their own experiences, let alone what they can see happening in the organisation around them. This means they are best placed to give a fair commentary.
The research statistics
These are the stand-out statistics from the report, which came from surveys that they conducted themselves:
- Organisations talk the talk
92% of organisations use language that suggests technology and innovation are vital to its future.
- Communicators have a lot of freedom…
Communicators surveyed said:
- 50% believe they have the tools and freedom to be creative and innovative
- 76% feel they have licence from their organisations to try new things
- 70% feel there is freedom for failure in their organisation
- …But communicators don’t have the tools to do it (despite what their organisation says)
Again this is shown by some stats, where the communicators surveyed said:
- 60% say they are not receiving the investment in technology they need to do their jobs today
- 56% indicate that there’s no sign of this investment coming in the foreseeable future
- 78% use websites, software and apps that are outside of the organisation’s architecture (including those expressly prohibited by their organisation)
The barriers to success
The paper focusses on three barriers to closing the gap between expectation vs reality. Again these were the top responses in their survey.
Internal processes (53%) – The paper argues that the hurdles ranked at 5th and 7th also have a part to play here: a lack of understanding of the communications discipline at board level and among wider teams. From the report, “This indicates that while our communicators can advise and recommend, confusion around the discipline is causing unfit internal processes to remain in place, hampering innovation and technological development.” (p. 14)
IT infrastructure (49%) – As the report says itself “Often, communication innovation and new technologies are ‘shoehorned’ into existing IT frameworks that are simply not fit for the modern, agile communications landscape.” (p. 13) There is also mention of research from Forbes that 84% of digital transformation projects in IT infrastructure do not meet their targets and fail.
Lack of technology (39%) – This has already touched on in the previous stats (above).
Closing the gap
The paper closes with some recommendations for closing this gap in organisations. However, it acknowledges at this point that budget hasn’t been raised as a barrier, and yet is probably at the forefront of most people’s minds (it certainly was in mine, but this is edging into my opinions which I’m trying to stay away from in this piece). Budget is therefore tackled as part of the solutions it suggests.
Budget source – The paper suggests using the R&D department budget to invest in tech, rather than necessarily IT. This is done by…
Budget planning – The paper says “Our vision, our business plan will often run five or even ten years into the future but, without budgets to match, distrust in these assertions will continue.” (p. 15) So, rather than budget planning for just a few years ahead, the paper suggests conducting forward planning by anything from 10 to 50 years. This will then “separate out our investment into a separate innovation budget for communications.” (p. 15)
Customer vs employee mapping – To identify exactly where the technology gaps are for employees, the paper suggests comparing a customer/client journey map with an employee journey map. Where there are disparities there are then areas for investment for internal tech. This approach will also help to identify internal barriers in the way of closing the gap. If neither area has a particular type of tech, such as AI for example, then this can become an area of investment for both groups.
Take risks – The paper acknowledges that there is a contradiction in some of its findings, in that 70% said they felt free to fail and 76% were empowered to try new things, but 42% viewed their organisation as ‘not innovative’. The paper argues this “problem centres around risk aversion and a desire to play it safe, rather than risk and fail.” (p. 17) It then urges communications professionals to take one risk. By taking a risk you can use the learnings to apply to your next project, either as a case study or as learning points from mistakes that were made. To do this it suggests budgeting as if the project will fail, to free yourself to be innovative.
“We believe that by understanding the issue as exposed by our research, using the frameworks and theories that already exist to support us as laid out in this whitepaper, and by taking one risk as the starting point, we can quickly close the gap between perception and reality and create communications teams that have the right tools and the belief in their messages to have continued meaningful impact on audiences.” (p. 19)
Finally, the paper itself
Here’s the link to the paper if you’d like to read it yourself: https://drpgroup.com/resource/the-communications-gap
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