What's keeping senior executives up at night: Analytics and new platforms

So says a survey of the Arthur W. Page Society's Future Leaders group conducted this week in Southern California. Bob Feldman explains.

I was privileged this week to host the Arthur W. Page Society’s Future Leaders group for a three-day immersion into the world of social and digital media. Nearly 40 senior corporate communications and agency executives came to Los Angeles and gathered on the University of Southern California campus to see best practices, learn from case studies, and share how everyone in our field is trying to stay on top of the near constant change in the communications landscape.

While my firm’s colleagues and I were pulling together the curriculum for this session, we polled the Future Leaders themselves. We wanted to know about their priority needs: keeping place with new platforms, trends in content creation and syndication, analytics, gaining buy-in, and so much more.

Here are the results of what they told us. Perhaps you might measure your own organization against these findings. Some show substantial progress over the past few years; some still show a need for greater focus and resourcing.

Many of the industry’s best people want to learn much more about best practices in analytics, employee engagement, maximizing budgets, increasing bandwidth, and securing management buy-in.

They felt very good about their teams’ skills in content creation and providing customer care; indeed, these attributes ranked highest.

Specifically, 53% of respondents to our survey said their team’s expertise in digital and social media was either high or very high. Only 3% said it was low or very low. Nearly four-in-10 said their company leadership values the comms team’s digital and social expertise as high or very high. About one in five rated the expertise low.

Most skill gaps appear to be in analytics capabilities and knowledge of new platforms; 56% of all desired skills fell into these two categories. Other popular desired skills include better employee engagement and the ability to create engaging, platform-optimized content.

Perhaps no surprise then, survey respondents said investments in the next six to 12 months will be primarily in analytics and employee engagement; 55% in analytics and 15% in employee engagement.

So what does this all add up to?

It suggests a communications function across corporate America that is getting better and better at core skill sets, but still trying to quantify its business impact.

The Page Future Leaders program covered a wide swath of the issues raised. For content needs, the program covered how to properly leverage insights, internal subject matter experts, emerging trends, and governance to create compelling, credible, and on-message content at scale.

For crisis management in the digital age, my colleague Jeff Hunt, author of a book coming out this fall called Brand under Fire, explored the five communications principles of crisis management – transparency, authenticity, speed, agility, and creativity – and showcased their applicability in an all-digital world.

Employee engagement focused on three pillars: content, delivery and channels, and control and governance. The examination included a wide range of best practice examples.

The session also explored the importance of analytics and the unique challenges communications leaders face in getting, analyzing, and sharing data for strategic decision-making.

Signs of confidence in the competency of communications organizations are encouraging, and apparent expertise in content creation and customer care are admirable.

But the need to do better with analytics, budgets, resourcing, and management support all reflects hard dollar costs and the need to quantify impact.

Reasonable progress is being made in this regard, and we shared highlights of that this week with the Future Leaders. I’ll share some more of that content with you in future columns.

Bob Feldman is cofounder and principal of PulsePoint Group, a digital and management consulting firm. He can be reached at bfeldman@pulsepointgroup.com.

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