Does communication really make a difference?

Guest post from #11ways co-creator Stephen Welch:

Billions of dollars a year invested in communication by organizations around the world in an effort to improve how they communicate, and make an impact with their target audiences.

Does it really make a difference?

Well to those billions and millions, we can add thousands. Thousands of minutes invested by communication professionals around the world to participate in the second version of the #11ways survey. And what do this year’s results reveal?  Does communication make a difference?

It seems the answer is “yes”.

Our research – covering over 100 organizations with over a million employees – tells us that there are some clear differences between high performing organizations and others in terms of their communications.

  • 89% of high performers align communications and strategy, but only 58% of average companies do.
  • High performing organizations (HPOs) are 3x more likely to rate their communications as excellent or very good.

Of course, correlation and causation are two separate things but a clear theme emerges in high performing organizations – a theme which is absent from the others:

They think about impact, not just output.

The high performers, for example, are more likely to keep their language simple, make emotional connections, and think about communication from the audience’s point of view.

In these organizations, we also see stronger connections between the communications team and the rest of the business:

  • In a HPO, communicators are over 2x as likely to claim that they have strong business know-how and operational understanding. Less than one in five communicators in an average organization would say this.
  • In an average company, only 12% of communicators rate the communication skills of line managers and business leaders as excellent or very good. This figure is 3x higher in a HPO.

However, despite these indications that there is a connection between being and HPO and being a good communicator, there is still some way to go if communicators want to really make a difference:

  • Across the whole sample, only a quarter of communicators would rate their organization as excellent or very good at communication.
  • Almost three in ten admit that some of their communication is not aligned to strategy and goals.
  • 53% keep their language simple and jargon free. Too bad the other half obfuscate.
  • 34% still measure their success by their number of twitter followers or facebook likes; and less than one in ten links communication to sales, profit or productivity.

Communicators still struggle to make an impact, it seems. Especially in a world where 96% of senior managers think they are good communicators. And when a communicator does come along – to give some advice or coaching – it is hard to make an impact if you only have a one in four chance of having business knowledge or operational understanding. As a business leader, why should I listen to you if a) I think I’m quite good anyway, and b) you don’t understand my business?

There are some hopeful signs, though. Since our 2014 survey, we’ve seen some positive trends:

  • While less than three-quarters say they align communication strategy and goals, this is at least significantly up from the 2014 figure (from 54% to 71%).
  • The number who aim for simple and jargon-free language has gone from 32% to 53%.
  • Almost half (47%) have processes for creating great stories, up from 31%.
  • 53% claim to regularly make emotional connections, up from 34%.

So there is hope, but still a long way to go.

Note: this is the preliminary report from the 2015 #11ways research, conducted April-May 2015, across 124 organizations. For fuller details, data and quotes, please get in touch.

For more information or detailed analysis, please contact:

Stephen Welch | Dana Poole | Michael Ambjorn

#11ways @ #IABC14 – TUNE IN


Whether you’re in Toronto in person – or attending remotely via Twitter – we would love for you to pitch into what @StephenWelch11 and I are aiming to be the most tweeted talk of Toronto:

#11ways @ #IABC14

There’ll be numbers for the data-driven, there’ll be mind-tricks – and quite a bit of banter.

We want you there – please add this to your calendar (.ics) and tune in, in person or via Twitter.

Meanwhile, here’s the official blurb – you can get it on the #IABC14 app as well:

#IABC14 App - click to download11 ways you can ensure your organization underperforms

Michael Ambjorn and Stephen Welch, two innovative presenters, are doing a double-act for the first time. Together they will take you on a journey looking at the power of cultural alignment in driving strategic business performance, to help communicators engage with leaders and deliver on the strategy and engagement elements of IABC’s Global Standard. Michael and Stephen will draw on their own professional experience and latest thinking, to explore how communicators have a role to play in increasing employee engagement, enablement and culture.

P.S. Want to help us get more data? Join our benchmark exercise (and retweet this whilst you’re at it – we’d be ever so grateful).

Follow @michaelambjorn and @stephenwelch11 for more of the above. You can also join the conversation: #11ways and of course #IABC14.

#11ways to under-perform? Take the survey

Cross-post from today’s Simply Communicate:

2014 IABC World Conference | 8-11 June | Toronto
At the IABC World Conference, Michael Ambjorn and Stephen Welch will run a session on the #11ways communicators can contribute to organisational under-performance. To add some spice to the presentation, they’ve knocked up a little survey.

The 2014 IABC – International Association of Business Communicators – World Conference will take place in Toronto Canada on 8-11 June.

IABC Board Director Michael Ambjorn and President of IABC UK Stephen Welch, will look at the power of cultural alignment in driving strategic business performance. They will explore how communicators have a role to play in increasing employee engagement, enablement and culture.

To help shape their presentation they are asking for feedback from communication professionals. They write: “We’re hoping for three minutes of your time. Please help us test our thinking by completing this informal questionnaire.

“It’s completely anonymous; a self-selected sample and if you vote twice, we won’t know. So please don’t. You can even pass it to people you know. This is a viral survey not a ‘random sample’ one.

“If, once you are done, you’d like a copy of the results, once we’re done, tweet us @stephenwelch11 or @michaelambjorn with the hashtag #11ways.”


For more news from Simply Communicate, here’s a host of places to keep up to speed with what’s going on in comms: 

    Find us on Google+ 

Meanwhile, please take the survey – and if you’ve got a moment to help spread the word, here are a couple of tweets ready made for an RT: