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What General Managers say about strategic communications and public affairs

Date: 10/17/2016

Author: Elena Badea, Partner & Senior Consultant, Sfera Business

Strategic Communication within an organization is the way communication is being integrated in the area of business challenges. This means communicating a concept, a process or information in order to achieve a long-term strategic goal, based on systematic planning.

In an organization, strategic communication is a function that deals with both external and internal communication processes. Complementary to this function is that of public affairs, a variation of public relations that is much more specialized and focused on both European and governmental relations. In Romania, according to the study conducted by McGuireWoods Consulting and Sfera Business, 6 out of 10 companies say they have a Strategic Communication Department and only 4 out of 10 say they have a Public Affairs & Government Relations department.

„Strategic Communication and Public Affairs are a relatively recent acquisition in Romania. Foreign companies are the ones who promoted these functions within their local branches. Their purpose is to facilitate the company’s relations to their clients, the community and the authorities. In the past several years, an increasing demand for specialists in these fields can be seen on recruiting websites. And all of it seems like “work in progress”. Any work getting started needs good organization. This means strategy design, purpose, goals, objectives, tactics to result in the input of specialists and from the decisions of the managers, and the road to excellence is a long one in Romania”, says Elena Badea, Partner and Senior Consultant, Sfera Business, co-author of the study.

1. The collaboration between Communication and Public Affairs. It is interesting to note the fact that, upon analysis of the data, according to the respondents’ positions, 38% of general managers say there is good collaboration between Strategic Communication and Public Affairs & Government Relations. The percentage though, goes down significantly to only 15% in the case of the answers coming from the members of the board. On the other hand, even if only 33% of the answers coming from marketing specialists / PR / communication specialists say there is good collaboration between these departments, 8% say they do not collaborate at all, an aspect which is completely overseen by general managers and members of the board who did not check this answer.

2. To have or not to have a Communication Strategy. If 69% of general managers say that their company has a defined communication strategy, only 8% of them say this strategy exists at a formal level, unlike the Marketing/PR/Communications specialists, 13% of whom stated that the company they are part of has a formalized communications strategy. No less than 92% of general managers say the communications strategy is an integral part of their business strategy, unlike the other oard members, only 69% of whom answered in the same fashion. The percentage goes up to 79% in the case of Marketing/PR/Communication specialists from within the companies, which can show that a tighter collaboration between the general manager and strategic communications officer, but also show the slight disconnection of the board members regarding this matter.

3. To involve Communications and Public Affairs in the planning of business strategies or not. If 85% of General Managers say the Communications and/or Public Affairs Officers are involved in the company’s strategic planning, only 38% of them checked the relevant answer box. A possible explanation can be that top executives might have an approach that does not give communication specialists the impression of really being involved in the company’s strategic planning.

4. Outsourcing Communication and Public Affairs functions. Most of the general managers (30%) say that they would outsource communication and public affairs and government relations functions in order to have reduced costs relative to the prospect of hiring a specific person for that role, this being the highest percentage registered for this answer option. The other board members (23%) stated that the most important benefit from outsourcing is that of the extra strategic thought that comes with it. For all the respondents, specialists’ expertise is still the main motivation for outsourcing.

5. Target Audiences for external communication. To the general manager of the company, the target audience are clients (54%), followed by the community that the company identifies with (38%) and the general public (8%). The three external audiences important to the board members are the same. Marketing/PR/Communication specialists put clients as their first choice (44%), followed by the general public (23%), the community that the company identifies with (13%) and the journalists (12%).

6. Top 3 functions of Strategic Communication. From the point of view of general managers, the main function of communication is business growth (23%), followed by client interaction (18%). Board members consider the main role of communication is client interaction (23%), followed by reputation management (25%). Marketing/PR/Communication specialists put reputation management as their first choice (25%), followed by client interaction and business growth (both tied at 19%).

7. Top 3 roles of Public Affairs functions. To general managers, the three most important Public Affairs & Government Relations activities are: participating in events (28%), advising to top management (21%) and meetings with local authorities (23%). Board members consider as of utmost importance the meetings with local authorities (23%), while Marketing/PR/Communication specialists consider event participation to be the most important (21%).

8. The most important types of Strategic Communication activities. General managers consider the most important activities to be events (22%), followed by the company’s presence in social media (21%) and employer branding initiatives. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Marketing/PR/Communication specialists consider the relationship with the media as being the most important (21%), followed by the company’s presence in social media (14%) and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives (11%).

9. The most important types of Public Affairs activities. From the point of view of the general manager, the main role of Public Affairs & Government Relations actions is that of determining an improvement of the business environment (20%), unlike the board members who put reputation management as their first choice (16%) and Marketing/PR/Communication specialists who consider stakeholder relations as the most important (16%).

Bringing it all together. The democratization of real-time access to information via Internet through mobile devices led to the growth of the consumer’s power. He no longer is passive or reactive, but involved-participative. The consumer co-creates and offers feedback to the products and services of the company. While interacting with brands, he has an increasing realization of his own rights as an individual and as part of a community. He wants to be treated fairly and he punishes first through criticism and then by abandoning the brands that do not confirm value promise. In this context, communication is vital for the company’s relationship management with the consumer and the community, the organization’s reputation being at its core.

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About the Report

The report, “How Romanian companies communicate strategically” is based on a survey administered between February 24 and April 9, 2016. The report analyzes the responses gathered from 141 respondents to an online questionnaire with 24 questions. Of the 141 respondents, 26 percent were top executives and 34 percent were local marketing and communication professionals. Companies reflected in the research are Romanian (38%), foreign (50%), and those with both domestic and international operations (12%). Of the companies participating in the research, 35 percent have posted revenues of over EUR 100 million in 2015, 11 percent had reported revenues between EUR 50 and EUR 100 million, 12 percent fell between EUR 10 to EUR 50 million, and the remaining 24 percent fell between EUR 1 to EUR 10 million.

About McGuireWoods Consulting

Founded in 1998, McGuireWoods Consulting LLC is a public affairs firm which offers its clients integrated government relations, strategic communications, and business development services at the federal, state, local and international levels. McGuireWoods Consulting is a subsidiary of McGuireWoods LLP, an international law firm, with more than 1000 attorneys. Since 2010, McGuireWoods Consulting has been ranked in the top 20 among the 1,900 government relations firms in Washington, DC, by the National Law Journal in its annual report. For more information, visit: www.mcguirewoodsconsulting.com

About Sfera Business

Sfera Business is a training and consulting company founded in 2010. We are a training and consulting firm focused on providing integrated solutions in sales, management and customer relations. We work alongside our clients to find practical solutions by which they obtain the desired growth. We always work from personalized customer needs. Each program is dedicated to a single company. As we quickly understand the specific business challenges, we ensure that we achieve the results consistent with management’s expectations. Discover more about us and our team on www.sferabusiness.ro

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