What Do Your Fellow Professionals See As The Top Communications Challenges? It Might Not Be What You Expect.


With the unprecedented events of the past three or four months, Reputation Partners conducted a survey recently of more than 2,900 potential respondents.  Some of the results were confirming.  Others, given the timing of the survey, were quite surprising.

We’ve talked before about how important communications are in dealing with the pandemic and related issues. All of our respondents apparently agree.  Nearly three out of four (73.5%) said leadership at their organization views communications as more important today than ever.  The need to engage a variety of stakeholders – in a variety of ways – about COVID-19, the economy, racial issues and so much more have become critical for organizations to get through these challenging times.

The remainder (26.5%) all agree effective communications are essential to deal with specific situations, likely including the above.  This positive response is affirmation that organizations must continue to invest in and nurture communications as a critical function, while effectively communicating with and listening to a wide variety of internal and external stakeholders.

A more surprising result came when we asked “what would you say your and/or your organization’s #1 communications challenge is right now?  Our survey launched when protests against racial injustice and police brutality were widespread and dominating the news.  Surprisingly, and by a fairly sizeable margin, our respondents cited “Resuming normal operations after COVID-19/full return to work” and “Driving increased revenues” as their top priorities (26.5% each).  “Developing and implementing a new/enhanced Diversity and Inclusion strategy” was the next highest at 17.6%.

Even when we asked their second biggest communications challenge, respondents cited “Resuming normal operations” as their top choice (29.4%), with “Dealing with budget cuts” second at 20.6%.  The diversity question held steady at 17.6%.

Does this mean our respondents think diversity and inclusion are unimportant?  No. Should organizations ignore diversity and inclusion?  Absolutely not. But, instead our respondents said getting people back to work and restoring those lost revenues warrant the highest priority focus.

A few comments bring this home:

  • “Revenues are down and it’s unlikely business will rebound exactly as it was and certainly not for the foreseeable future.  Thus, we may need to unearth some new revenue streams.”
  • “Knowing things will NEVER really return to ways of the past!”
  • “The biggest communications challenge in our research department is coordinating return to campus efforts for faculty, staff and student workers.”
  • “Staying on top of money owed, and bringing employees back to work while downtown (Chicago) still looks like a war-torn city.”
  • “Specifically, getting sales reps back in front of customers. Video conferencing only goes so far.”
  • “Making sure (our) four plants are always clean of Covid for our employees.”

Looking ahead, we asked: “What do you think your biggest communications challenge will be three months from now?”

Here again, the responses ran the gamut, but seemed to be most focused on the viability of their organizations:

  • “Dealing with a second wave of layoffs to middle managers.”
  • “I think the issues will remain the same for some time – keeping employees engaged and inspired, making sure you address diversity and inclusion challenges internally and also making sure you communicate often and with transparency.”
  • “Continued employee engagement and positive culture building around new norms.”
  • “Continuing to keep the workforce engaged – both internally and externally.   Communicating in an effective way that people want to “consume”.”
  • “Attracting consumers to return to theatres, based on wherever the country is at with COVID three months from now.”
  • ““Knowing our audience”. As we approach individuals and companies to donate/ sponsor (generate our revenue) the roller -coaster climate makes it difficult to know HOW they are (company in crisis? Job loss? Kids school upended? Doing fine and grateful to help?).”
  • “Defining where the business is going.”
  • “Covid and/or racial equity initiatives.”
  • “’Feel good messages’ to all employees regarding safety, inclusion, and business moving forward.”
  • “How the continued impact of COVID-19 will impact salary increases and staffing levels in 2021.”
  • “PTSD among our employees.”
  • “Remaining focused on top priorities to drive improved performance and profit. Taking non-value-added work out of the equation.”
  • “Two items – 1. Continuing to manage the nuances and unknowns of COVID-19 (if/when it returns), and 2. the 2020 US Presidential Election and the associated political scrutiny, topical firestorms and issues that it is likely to bring.“
  • “Having the right resources and talent to help drive changes.”

Clearly, there is no shortage of issues lying ahead.  But, fortunately, organizational leaders have seen how critical having an effective communications function is to getting through whatever is thrown our way.  Are you ready for whatever tomorrow holds?