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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Survey shows rapid technological changes are sleep killers for business communicators

What keeps agricultural business communicators up at night? Rapidly changing media channels – especially ever-expanding social media – can provide a nightly reason for insomnia, according to a survey of agribusiness communications professionals. Fortunately, in what’s perhaps a comforting sleep aid, the survey also shows the communications industry is quickly adapting.

Exponent PR surveyed 118 members of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association, Livestock Publications Council and American Business Media Agri-Council. As the number of communication channels increases each day and technology requires communicators to utilize more of them, journalists have more to do in less time.

The survey shows nearly 90 percent of respondents’ organizations have added social media to their offerings. While nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents say they work with social media on a professional level each day, about half (52 percent) of respondents reported feeling confident using it in their current positions.

“More than half of the respondents are confident using social media, and that’s a significant portion,” said Tom Lindell, managing director of Exponent and co-manager of the survey with Exponent counselor Sara Petersen. “This industry has always had an appetite for change and communicators continue to embrace change.”

In the midst of the changing media landscape, respondents also worried about budgets (65 percent), competition for audiences (47 percent) and the impact of consolidation on the agriculture industry (35 percent).

Multimedia technology skills are another concern for communications professionals as technology blurs the lines between the types of media. For example, about half (46 percent) of respondents reported using broadcast skills in traditionally print-only jobs.

With increased responsibility comes less comfort. Only about half (51 percent) of respondents say new media has had a positive impact on their jobs, and similarly, only half say they believe new media gives communicators an advantage.

Lindell and Petersen say the survey results are another reminder that job responsibilities in business-to-business communications, including the agricultural industry, have changed dramatically and will continue to change.

“It’s up to communicators to improve their skills to meet the demand for faster, better and more accessible information,” said Lindell. “And it’s up to employers to provide employees the tools and training necessary for keeping up, or even better, leading the change.”

Optimism for the future was reflected in respondents’ responses. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of the survey-takers, 26 percent of whom are under the age of 35, believe they’ll still be employed in the communications industry in the next five to 10 years, but 79 percent acknowledge that they’ll need many more skills in order to remain in their professions.


Rapidly changing industry
  • 86% of organizations now deliver social media content
  • 73% of respondents asked to add social media to daily work
  • 61% of organizations offer broadcast tools

More responsibility, less comfort
  • 86% say traditional media changes have affected their jobs
  • 52% feel confident using social media (23% not confident)
  • 51% believe new media positively impacts their job (20% disagree)
  • 50% believe new media gives communicators an advantage (18% disagree)

More skills needed
  • 73% say they’ll still be employed in profession in 5-10 years
  • 74% feel equipped to do job well today, 79% say they’ll need many more skills to remain in profession

Top challenges
(Respondents each picked top 3)
  • Funding/budgets (65%)
  • Competition for audiences (47%)
  • Impact of agribusiness industry consolidation (35%)
  • Shifts in agribusiness industry (35%)
  • Personnel time availability (23%)

Job necessities
(Agreement whether each of following was a necessity or somewhat of a necessity)
  • Latest technologies (98%)
  • Stronger network in agriculture (88%)
  • Continuing education opportunities (85%)
  • Social media communication (84%)
  • Current information about agricultural issues (83%)

(Zoomerang survey was distributed the week of May 24, 2010, to 118 agribusiness professionals at American Agricultural Editors’ Association, Livestock Publications Council, American Business Media Agri-Council.)