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The European Communications Monitor Results

Let me start by simply copying the entry on the press release (yes I can do this...):

The European Communication Monitor is the most comprehensive research into communication management and public relations worldwide, with almost 2,200 participating professionals from 42 countries in 2012.

It is organised by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA), the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD) and Communication Director Magazine. The research is conducted by a group of professors from 11 renowned universities across Europe, led by Professor Ansgar Zerfass from the University of Leipzig, Germany.

Now let's go through the highlights of the findings...

Our ethics:

Public Relations professionals feel regularly challenged when it comes down to ethics in their line of work. When we ask the question; did you experience ethical challenges within the last twelve months? 35% of us say yes, several times...

The top 3 fields of our practice where this is most often the case are Public Affairs, Online Communications/Social Media and traditional Media Relations and it are our "in agency" colleagues who are most likely to experience ethical dilemmas... Just 29% of us will turn to or use a professional Code of Ethics from our profession to solve the problem.

Our job:

We are so misunderstood... sniff... At least that's the feeling I get when I see that 84.2% of my colleagues say that there is "a lack of understanding of communication
practice within top management". But then more than 75% also say that they experience difficulties to prove the impact of communication activities on organisational goals. Now that's bad and since one goes with the other...

At the EACD Summit - where these results where discussed - we had a good chat about the "accreditation" topic. Would an accreditation improve the professionalism of our industry and peers ? Well, 70% of us think that national or international accreditation can help improve the recognition and reputation of the communication profession. I am one of those and would definitely support a good accreditation system.

Our work:

We also feel a bit lost... 43% of us think that compared to five years ago, we have less control over our message and we have more touch-points with our publics (more than 80%).

And maybe we spend too much time on the operational side of things... 37% of our time is spent on operational communication (talking to colleagues and journalists, writing press releases and print/online texts, producing communication media etc...) and 29% on managing communication activities and co-workers... But we only spend 19% on aligning communication, the organisation/client and its stakeholders and 14% on coaching, training and educating members of the organisation or clients.

Our challenges:

And yes we still have a long way to go on certain topics. Social Media is there of course: coping with the digital evolution and the social web is an important strategic issue for the next 3 years for 46% of our colleagues and linking business strategy and communication for 44% of them.

Now there is a whole chapter on social media and I will definitely blog about it soon but you can already check out the best highlight from the study here on YouTube:


Study: Europe is lagging behind in Social Media... Here's why in my honest opinion.

OK so according to a recent study by InSites Consulting, European companies are lagging behind the United States in the use of Social Media.

Let's compare some of their numbers:

  • USA: Facebook 61% - Twitter 39% - LinkedIn 29% - YouTube 24%
  • Belgium: Facebook 59% - Twitter 39% - LinkedIn 35% - YouTube 20% (hey, not bad !)
  • United Kingdom: Facebook 61% - Twitter 44% - LinkedIn 30% - YouTube 23%

So where's the problem you would think...

Now, Steven Van Belleghem, partner at the research agency InSites Consulting, is the kind of guy who asks the right questions and that's when the trouble for European companies starts...

The key question is: How well do you integrate social media in your overall strategy.

According to Insites' research:

A mere 12% of the companies are integrating their social media approach into their overall corporate strategy. 15% are mid integration. 44% are currently experimenting or taking their first steps on the social web. 29% of the companies are not even doing anything on social media.

And that's where most organisations go wrong, the integration part.

In my honest opinion (and from experience) there are a couple of fundamental reasons for this:

No clear strategy.

Most organisations do understand the power social media brings with regards to direct contact with their constituents. Be it media, consumers, business partners etc...

But what they often fail to look at is the bigger picture, the integration model. What will all these nice "conversations" bring to the company or organisation ? Will it drive sales ? Will it improve customer support ? Even increase innovation output ?

It is like most internal social media projects which often start with "let's allows everyone to blog, tweet and use wikis inside the company"... After the roll out and the tools training a lot of employees think "so how do I use this for my day to day job ?".

Defining objectives and possible integrations for any kind of social media channel is paramount. And it doesn't always have to be "the big social project". If customer service is crap and your audiences communicate (among other things) via Twitter - maybe it is worth to start there, and integrate a social engagement platform with your customer service department next to what you already use.

No online monitoring

But how can you know if, in this case, Twitter is a possible solution for your business problem ?

Monitoring !

I am still baffled by how many PR colleagues are NOT doing online monitoring. In average, when I speak at a conference, less then half of the people in the room can tell me there and then what's being said about their organisation online.

And this is not only for reputation management purposes. Online monitoring allows you to determine if there is "room" for social media communications and if you can add value with your own engagement. At the end of the day, social media communications takes a lot of resources (time, money, people) and you will have to defend that budget to your management.

Even organisations who - after some online "market research" - make the decision not to engage should continue to actively listen about what's being said about their organisation - we call this "pre-emptive crisis management".

No access

And then there are those companies who will not allow employees access to the public web and to social media channels on the work floor... Now if you have been reading this blog you know I can get pretty exited about this (and not in a good way) but I'll keep it short. If you are using social media externally and closing the web for your employees you're "window dressing" and not being transparent. It is a simple as that.

Trust your employees (hey, you're hiring them for a reason right?) and give them a framework in which they can use social media. Good, open social media guidelines will answer 99% of your worries in this field.

On a final "promotional" note... Do read Steven's excellent book: The Conversation Company - the man gets it.

Here's a preview of what he explains in the book in detail.

Until the next time... Be safe and take care of each other.


An interview with the Head of Social Media at Belgacom's Consumer Business Unit

Here the first of a series of interviews with "people like me" - passionate about communications, public relations and social media.

Up first is Frederic Herzeele, Head of Social Media at Belgacom's Consumer Business Unit.

The Belgacom Group is the largest telecommunications company in Belgium, headquartered in Brussels. Belgacom Group is primarily state owned, with the Belgian state holding 53.3% + 1 share.

The company's offerings include fixed line communication through the Belgacom brand, mobile communications through the Proximus brand and ICT services to the professional market under the Telindus brand.

Q: Can you describe your position at Belgacom ?

As Head of Social Media, I’m reporting to the Consumer Business Unit's Communications/Branding Director.

I see my role as a “Chef d’Orchestre” to coordinate all the different initiatives in the different departments of Belgacom, using the “Hub & Spokes” organization model.

Today I am a solo player interacting with cross functional teams. My main focus is on embedding Social Media in our day to day marketing mix but also help, guide and support other departments as HR, Internal and Corporate Communications, the Enterprise Business Unit Marketing/Comms and others.

Q: What is the Belgacom strategy behind social media communications ? What are the main objectives ?

Social Media has drastically changed the way we interact and communicate with our customers by giving them platform to express themselves loud and clear about their experience as customers.

Word of mouth gets a new dimension versus classical marketing/communication approach. Comments from peers are becoming more and more important in the decision making process.

We see Social Media as an interactive media and channel but not, (yet ?), as a pure sales channel. We started in 2010 to help our customers via Eva. (an online persona which helps Belgacom customers through online forums).

Today, our main objective is to create a permanent dialogue with our customers trough Social Media. To do so we:

  • Listen actively to conversations about Belgacom
  • Help our customers via Eva, our virtual customer service operator
  • Inform about our products and services when it makes senses: primeur, innovative product or solutions and special actions (servicing).

We're also interacting with our customers by involving them into product launches, beta-testing... Reaction speed, quality of answers and coherence in the messages cross channels are key.

Q: Are you taking the centralized (a social media team being responsible) or the integrated approach (embedding social media throughout the company)

As Social Media is a media/channel used by different departments to reach different objectives and as Belgacom is a quite large company, we are trying to work in an integrated approach, embedding Social Media usage where it makes senses.

Our approach is to decentralize the conversations in order to ensure speed and quality and to manage coherence trough centralized guidelines and weekly coordination meetings.

Multiple hub & spoke "Dandelion"

Q: how are employees engaged in the process ?

We have launched several initiatives regarding employees but today only employees directly using social media for work have access. We are testing a more open social media policy allowing more employees to access these platforms.

The key there is to educate our employees about the best way to use it for the company and themselves. A pilot with 200 employees has been launched two weeks ago and we will launch a new HR project using employees as ambassadors in the coming weeks.

Q: What are your biggest challenges ?

To find the good balance to manage my time between structural and strategic projects versus day to day actions. Move faster and industrialize our approach as our customers are there talking about us, asking for more support, information and ways to engage with us.

Speed up our reaction time but ensure coherence of the messages in the same time. Find the right balance between centralization and decentralization.

Q: Any tips you want to leave us with ?

Move step by step, by trying things without forgetting to work to embed structurally the Social Media evolution in corporate culture.

You can follow Frederic on Twitter @fherzeele

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