Magazine article Communication World

Analyzing the Data: Some (Not So) Random Thoughts on IABC Profile 2002

Magazine article Communication World

Analyzing the Data: Some (Not So) Random Thoughts on IABC Profile 2002

Article excerpt

Provocative. That's the word that comes to mind when exploring the results of IABC Profile 2002, the most recent version of a study that through the years has been a continually evolving bird's-eye view of the health of the profession--and its members. Some eye-opening trends popped out.

It became clearer than ever that the United States, which likes to believe it invented the use of public relations/communication as a management tool, and has historically believed it led the world in the stature and use of communication, has been matched, if not surpassed by the world at large. To wit:

* U.S. communicators are less likely to report to a president/CEO, compared to those in Canada and outside North America.

* Unlimited access to senior management is more common outside the U.S.

* Increases in staff are more likely to be seen this year outside the U.S.

* Communicators in the U.S. believe they are playing a less significant role in their organizations than their counterparts around the globe.

* Support from top management also appears to be greater outside the U.S. borders than within them.

* Communicators outside the U.S. are significantly more likely to have measurable objectives in place for their programs and projects. In fact, measurement of performance against these objectives is actually on the decline in the U.S., while rising elsewhere.

* And, finally, Canada has clearly fared better than the U.S. during the recent recession, having experienced definitive increases in budgets for communication.

BEHIND THE NUMBERS

What does all this mean to the working communicator? Among other things the survey points out that the United States of America better be paying attention to what it can learn from other countries on techniques, strategies and execution of programs. IABC's Gold Quill awards program is another case in point. More than 120 Gold Quills were awarded this year; 55 of them--the highest level ever--went to organizations outside the U.S. Gold Quill would seem to give proof to the Profile data.

Does all this mean the U.S. is standing still when it comes to the use of communication? You be the judge. One thing for sure, an important message arises for an international association of communicators. Sharing and benchmarking have never been more required for all businesses. Even if a U.S. company doesn't have an international audience, ignoring the world at large is not feasible. Important global lessons can be learned at every level of communication.

IABC itself has struggled to find an appropriate balance of "internationalism" for its members. Maybe the results of the latest Profile will encourage further thought and action for the association.

Other trends--some surprising, some not--uncovered by the survey may give U.S. communicators pause for thought.

How about this one: Reliance on technology has changed. And, for the first time, change doesn't mean increase. This study found that technology, while being used more widely than ever for such traditional purposes as presentations (Can anyone imagine a world without Microsoft's Power Point?), has seen an overall decrease as a tool for communication.

It doesn't rake much imagination to understand why this may be true. Communicators everywhere have experienced management's love affair with the perceived advantages of using technology to get messages out to audiences of all types. It certainly would appear less expensive to use e-mail to get information around a company--no printing, no postage, speed and more. However, management is now finding out that just because a method is less expensive or faster, it doesn't translate into better communication. Thus excursions into technology are being rethought. Communicators everywhere are quick to say, "I told you so."

Recent research of employees would corroborate that. Five years ago, Internet/e-mail/intranet rated highest of all techniques in credibility for communicating within an organization. …

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