Attitude in communication: aspiration vs. reality

The new PR trend monitor from News Aktuell and PER shows: Attitude is becoming increasingly relevant in internal and external communication - but there is a gap between desired and actual attitude communication.

Image: Unsplash; Volodymyr Hryshchenko.

Stance is becoming increasingly relevant in both external and internal communications: The majority of PR professionals think it is important for their company to take a stance on sociopolitical developments. Sustainability, equality and diversity are top priorities for them. A large proportion of companies are already responding to this wish and positioning themselves. The greatest discrepancies between desired and actual attitude communication can be seen in the areas of inclusion, racism and equality. These are the findings of the PR trend monitor by news aktuell and PER.

60 percent of respondents think it is very or rather important that their company shows attitude to the outside world; two-thirds think attitude to the inside world is very or rather important (67 percent). The majority of companies recognize the great importance of attitude communication and are responding to the wishes of PR professionals. Thus, 75 percent are already positioning themselves internally, 68 percent externally, quite clearly or occasionally on socio-political developments.

Environment, equality and diversity most important topics for PR professionals

In particular, respondents call for internal and external stances on the environment and sustainability (71 percent), equality (64 percent) and diversity (54 percent). The areas of economy/tax/finance (13 percent), foreign policy/EU policy (8 percent) and religion (3 percent) are rated as less important. Only 7 percent of communications professionals state that their company should not show any attitude, either internally and/or externally.

This relevance of attitude communication already coincides in many areas with implementation in companies and PR agencies. For example, the environment and sustainability, equal rights, and diversity are the top three topics on which companies in Switzerland and Germany are already demonstrating attitudes in their internal and external communications.

Biggest gap between aspirations and reality on inclusion, racism and equality

In some sociopolitical areas, however, there are clear differences between desired and actually demonstrated attitudes. The greatest differences can be seen in the areas of inclusion, racism and equality: For example, inclusion in external communications plays a role for only 23 percent of companies, whereas 48 percent of respondents consider attitude in this area to be important. On the subject of racism, only 28 percent say that their company shows a stance here externally, but 51 percent would like it to. The issue of equal rights plays a role for 43 percent of companies, but 64 percent of respondents would like their company to show a stance here.

But in the areas of digitization, diversity and education (difference in percentage points: 12 in each case) as well as the environment and sustainability (difference in percentage points: 10), there is definitely still room for improvement in external attitudes, if the PR professionals have their way.

Claim to political neutrality biggest hurdle for attitude communication

The biggest obstacle to communicating posture, both externally and internally, for the respondents is that a political positioning contradicts the corporate values (externally: 52 percent, internally: 42 percent). Another hurdle for external attitude communication is the concern about offering a target for attack (24 percent). In addition, 17 percent say that management rejects positioning, and the same number cite the fact that the company itself does not yet act accordingly as an obstacle. In turn, one in six respondents lacks the time required to develop a stringent external stance (15 percent). However, a negative external image does not seem to be a valid reason - only 4 percent each cite fear of loss of trust or reputation, negative reporting and non-identification of employees with this attitude, which is negatively reflected in the external image, as possible obstacles.

The picture is similar for internal communications. For example, 23 percent state that management rejects internal positioning. Another 23 percent see a hurdle in the fact that there is no time to develop a stringent internal position. 19 percent are of the opinion that no attack surface should be offered and a further 15 percent each believe that the fear of loss of trust or reputation and the fact that the company itself does not yet act accordingly are decisive factors. The fear of not striking the right tone and the fear of a bad working atmosphere or unrest in the company, on the other hand, are at the bottom of the table with 8 percent each. As many as 19 percent of respondents say they do not know the reasons for the company's reticence in internal attitude communication.

297 PR professionals and managers from Switzerland and Germany took part in the survey.

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