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Is communications valued at senior management level?

27 May 2011

Claire Keuls discusses the implications of recent research into how communications is viewed by charity colleagues 

More than a third (38%) of senior communications professionals in the voluntary sector feel that the role of comms is not valued by their organisation. 

This was what we discovered as a result of our research in partnership with the CIPR’s Fifth Estate group looking at whether charities value communications as a function, and whether comms professionals feel that their voices are being heard at a senior management level. 

The ‘Get Heard’ report, based on qualitative and quantitative research of over 120 comms professionals, highlights some great individuals who have worked hard to earn respect and understanding by demonstrating how their work makes all the difference to fundraising, campaigning and business development.

But it also includes too many examples of charities that are failing to recognise the value their communications team brings and as a result are making decisions without understanding the reputational implications.

Hello? Can you hear me?

A third of respondents (32%) feel their voice is only heard by senior management some of the time. One in eight (12%) say their voice is not heard at all. Not being involved in strategic decisions was given as the clearest indication that respondents felt they are not being heard (92%). Two thirds (65%) feel this lack of involvement could damage the reputation of their organisation because they would not be aware of, or be able to manage, risk situations. 

The role of the chief executive

We found that the attitude of the chief executive is key to how valued communications professionals feel, and how they are viewed by colleagues in other departments. More than three quarters (78%) of those who feel their voice is heard within their organisation attribute it to the CEO understanding the importance of communications. Similarly, amongst those do not feel acknowledged, 83% say this is because the chief executive does not understand communications and the role it has to play.

Listening to each other 

Communications is about listening and engaging. It is just as vital that we as comms professionals are able to demonstrate the value we can add as it is for the senior management of an organisation to listen to what we have to say.

A charity which respects the communities it serves and understands the importance of good relationships with stakeholders, is a healthy, honest organisation, grounded in reality. Which means it is well positioned to secure maximum funding, increase levels of support, influence real change and benefit more people. 

Within a struggling economy, it is hard to remain open and communicative. But it is even more vital. Over the next few years, charities will need to be more effective and efficient than ever. This will only happen if senior managers and communications teams listen to each other and work together, strategically and creatively.

Does your comms team have a strong relationship with senior management? If so, how did you build it? You can download a free copy of the Get Heard report at

Claire Keuls

PR & media officer, Macmillan