This is the first article in a new series of thought-leadership pieces entitled “IABC Research & Insights.” Each month, volunteers and staff authors will share a perspective, based on proprietary IABC data and the views of the authors. We hope this inaugural piece, and the ones that follow, sparks discussions at the chapter, regional and international level.
According to recent proprietary research and insight from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), communications professionals who are knowledgeable about multiple business functions within an organization, and able to develop relationships with those executives, are likely to thrive in the coming years.
The quantitative research included almost 200 global participants offering assessments of their largest professional challenge, while the qualitative research analyzed six global trends impacting the communications field. The work was central to IABC’s strategic and operational planning process and resulted in Stronger Together: IABC2025.
IABC Research: New Approaches, New Skills Needed in a Changing World
A majority of respondents (56%) cited fragmented audiences and an increased workload, requiring new ways of working and new skills, as their single biggest challenge. Even before the pandemic, stakeholders were seeking information from numerous sources, through multiple communications channels. To meet stakeholders’ expectations, professional communicators were stretched thin trying to capture attention and deliver information. The pandemic has made the situation more challenging, rearranging teams and adding responsibilities for crisis and change communications — in a mostly-remote environment — to an already full portfolio.
This quantitative finding was supported by two significant global trends: the increase in the number and speed of text/audio/video platforms and how technology is creating competition for communications professionals now that everyone can be a “communicator.” While some communications professionals see this a challenge, others see an opportunity to demonstrate their strategic value to organizations by moving from pure communications skills toward being an effective persuader and coach in adopting new technologies, processes and ways of working.
A significant minority believe that competing organizational priorities have reduced resources for those communications teams (13%). This is particularly problematic at a time when four significant global trends require heightened communications:
- Distrust toward leaders, institutions and the media is on the rise.
- The availability of free online content puts pressure on communications professionals to offer more strategic counsel.
- Workplace diversity and adapting to hybrid office/home environments will be key to a thriving workplace culture.
- Personalization and consumer experience will be the next competitive battleground as marketing and sales channels merge.
IABC Insight: Communications Professionals Who Understand Multiple Business Functions in an Organization Can Provide the Most Strategic and Valued Counsel
Research and experience demonstrate that professional communications today is as demanding as it has ever been. The speed, complexity, mistrust and fragmentation of communication requires a myriad of skills. A few years ago, organizations had almost absolute control over mass communications through websites, traditional media and marketing. Now, communications runs in every direction: from organizations, of course, but also from every stakeholder with a social media handle to … almost everyone in the world.
To operate in this new world, communications professionals must do more than simply apply the technical tools of the trade. While they must stay current with advances in communications platforms, their most strategic value to the organization will be to understand and cooperate with all the other functions — legal, human resources, finance and the different business units — to deliver value and ensure organizational success.
In developing and honing these skills, communications professionals can understand the organization from multiple points of view: through the lenses of colleagues with specific responsibilities and through the eyes of all the organization’s stakeholders. Consistent interactions between the communications function and the other units enable communicators to learn the depth and breadth of the organization, develop key allies and obtain strategic and tactical lenses on operations. Through design and effort, communications professionals can better understand and better influence their organizations.
One organization that exemplifies this approach is Pfizer, the world-renowned pharmaceutical company. Sally Susman, Pfizer’s executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer, has noted that she purposefully integrates staff from her department with other functions. The result of the arrangement is that she and a colleague “have managed, by structural design and through their personal relationship, to arrive at a system that maximizes cooperation and minimizes conflict.”
IABC Value: Programming, Products and Services for Communication Professionals in a Changing World
IABC is committed to helping communications students and communications professionals, at every stage of their career, learn and lead. The proprietary research and the insights contained in this article are woven through all that IABC offers — locally, online and internationally. Most importantly, IABC is always innovating to meet the evolving needs of its members and changes in the profession.
For more information about the local and international network, as well as opportunities like the Career Fair, the Career Assessment, Gold Quill Awards, professional certification and the annual World Conference, please visit IABC’s website at iabc.com.
Danielle Bond, SCMP
Danielle Bond, SCMP, is an award-winning marketing executive with expertise in the professional services sector. Bond is the group director of brand, marketing and communications of Asia Pacific engineering, design and consulting company Aurecon. In 2020, the Australian Financial Review named Aurecon Australasia’s most innovative company and most innovative professional services firm. In 2021, Aurecon was again recognized as one of the Top 20 Graduate Employers in Australia and one of Australia and New Zealand’s Best Places to Work. Prior to joining Aurecon, Bond led the marketing team at Ernst & Young in Oceania and several Australian law firms, including Corrs Chambers Westgarth. Bond is also a member of IABC’s Victoria Chapter and has served as an evaluator of the IABC Gold Quill Awards for several years. She joined the International Executive Board in 2019. View Danielle’s LinkedIn profile and follow her on Twitter @DanielleBond16.