Senior managers have better external than internal comms skills

Professional communicators say senior managers have better external than internal communication skills, with more than half of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that they are good at presentation/public speaking (71%), media relations (64%), networking (59%) and stakeholder management (58%).

PR Academy reportBy comparison, more than a third disagree or strongly disagree that their senior management team is good at coaching (40%), internal communication (37%), listening to employees (37%) and employee engagement (35%). 

These results have just been released by PR Academy here in the UK, which is made up of practising communicators, as part of their annual research.

Does this match with your experience?

About the survey
This is the fifth year PR Academy has run its annual Qualifications for Communicators Trends Survey to find out more about its students’ status and views on professional qualifications.

The survey was first conducted at the end of 2010 with the results published in Q1 2011. The fifth and most recent wave of the report was conducted online using Survey Monkey in November and December 2014. The results are based on 123 respondents – all past and present students of PR Academy, who are practising communicators.

PR Academy is the largest provider of PR education in the UK with almost 1,000 communicators choosing to study with them each year.

They sent me the results to look through and I think they make interesting reading. You can download the full report here.

A range of skills
For the first time this year, in addition to questions about their status, views on professional qualifications and skills gaps, students were also asked if they agreed their senior management team was good at a range of different communication skills.

Kevin Ruck PR Academy Director Kevin Ruck @Academykev (pictured) says: “With more than a third of respondents disagreeing or strongly disagreeing that the senior management team in their organisation is good at internal communication, listening and engagement, this is a clear indication that there is room for improvement. (Tweet this)

“It is surprising that senior manager communication is a standout area for improvement given that we are now five years on from the MacLeod and Clarke ‘Engaging for Success’ report that established the importance of senior managers for employee engagement and business success. That said, this does provide an opportunity for communicators to use their training, or to obtain the necessary training, to advise senior managers to be more visible and approachable and to listen more to what employees have to say”.

Further reading: Find out more about the Engaging for Success report via my blog

There are lots of areas I could highlight from the report, but I particularly like this graph showing the top skills comms pros say they need to address in the next 12 months. I’m not surprised to see measurement came out top as the biggest skills gap.

Further reading: Find out more about measurement of internal comms, posts tagged measurement, plus the CIPR Inside measurement matrix.

PR Academy results

This year’s study also included a new question on whether respondents perceive senior managers as understanding that communication management is not just a tactic. The findings show that more than a third of respondents think they do not.

Sigh. That’s a whole other blog post!! Anyone care to take that baton?…

Other highlights from this year’s survey:

  • Almost 90% of respondents are studying to enhance their skills, while almost 80% are studying to improve career prospects.
  • Three quarters (74%) indicated that holding a professional qualification has led to career progression or that they are confident that it will.
  • More than half of respondents (52%) see their careers developing down a specialist path.
  • Measurement is the top skills gap for the second year running, cited by 53% of respondents – followed by budget management (44%), crisis management (37%) and digital communications (35%).
  • For the second year running, digital communications is the number one skills gap that respondents would like to address.
  • The number of respondents who indicated that they have funding for qualifications available through their employer has increased this year to a five-year high of 76%.

I’m so encouraged to read funding for qualifications is on the rise. Best of luck if you are studying communication at the moment. I’m contacted by students regularly and am always heartened to discover the appetite for professional development in the comms world.

Want to know more about this PR Academy research? You can download the full report here. Want to know more about PR Academy? See their website.

Further reading about comms careers via my blog

Glossary of internal communication
All you need to know to develop your IC career
New to IC? Welcome – here’s some resources to get you started

See my comms calendar for a round-up of events taking place around the globe for comms pros to attend. It includes training courses, awards to enter and conferences.

Don’t forget you can save 10% off tickets for PR360 conference by PR Week just by being a reader of my blog. See my article for all the info you need.

Want to know even more? See my Rachel’s Resources page.

Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on All Things IC blog 5 March 2015.


  1. […] all businesses, and internal communication skills are as valuable as external communication skills. The research shows that many communicators believe that senior management have failed to get to grips with […]

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