2013 Communications Competency Study

New 2013 Communicators Career Growth Survey shows how, and where, skills are growing:

  • Three years of data show most employers have competencies in place; but most don’t apply competencies to professionals
  • Size of organization appears to determine tools, specifics and processes for growth
  • 2013 survey shows which communications competencies employers have identified; writing/editing tops the list
  • Most-requested training areas for communicators are social media and leadership


STAMFORD, CT — With three years of data from more than 500 professional communicators, North Star Communications Consulting today shared results of its 2013 Communications Competency Study, and three-year trends the consultancy has collected.

2013 Communications Competency Study

Approximately 200 professional communicators participated in the 2013 survey in June and July of this year. The vast majority of them (82%) report their employers have identified specific communications competencies that professionals should continuously develop. As in previous years survey results, the detail that goes into those competency descriptions is far less disciplined. Only 58% of communicators this year report that they understand how to progress through their competencies – meaning the details in the definitions don’t give them clear guidance on how to move from basic proficiency to more advanced capabilities.

“Again we see that corporate, agency and other employers of professional communicators are doing a solid job of putting some big-picture headlines out there for employees,” said Mark Dollins, president – North Star Communications Consulting. “The heavy lifting in talent development really comes in applying those competencies to individuals, and only 41% report their employers have tools that help apply the competencies to individual performance. And only 57% say they actually talk with their managers about how they’re doing with those skill sets.”

New to this year’s survey, North Star asked respondents to specify which competencies had been identified for them by their employers. Writing and Editing (75%) and Internal/Employee Communications (74%) were identified most often as competencies identified by communicators’ employers. The next-most-often-mentioned competencies included media relations (54%), stakeholder engagement (49%) and social/digital media (49%). (See attached infographic for full list of specified competencies.) Communications Career Skills Infographic

When asked to identify the training and development area where they needed the most support, survey respondents identified social and digital media as the number-one need, followed by strategic planning and leadership.

Size matters

The smaller the enterprise, chances are communicators will have fewer tools and fewer specifics on how to progress in their careers, the 2013 study shows. Those working for companies with annual revenues below $5B reported having fewer tools to assess their competencies, less detail on how to progress through their competencies and fewer discussions with their managers on where they are in their proficiencies.

Specifically, those working for companies with revenues between $500 million and $1 billion report the lowest scores for having specifics on progression through competencies and having tools to assess themselves. Conversely, communicators who work for companies with annual revenues between $10-$20 billion and $20 billion + report higher instances of having tools to assess their progress, and more often have discussions with their managers on their career growth.

Three-year trends

North Star began studying communications competency development with its first study in 2011, and now has two additional years of data to illustrate trends over time.

Versus the 2013 survey results, the three-year averages on several core questions are strikingly consistent. For example, 80% of communicators reported having competencies identified over the 3 years of data (vs 82% in 2013); and 54% of survey takers said their employers had articulated progression through those skill sets (versus 48% in 2013).

Where there is a larger variance is in the availability of tools to assess communications talent against stated competencies. The 2013 data shows only 41% of communicators having access to these tools, versus the three-year-average of 48%. However, more communicators report talking to their managers about their progression with skills development (57%) this year, versus the three-year average of 51%.

The largest variance is in the area of training tied to established competencies within the last three years. Communicators this year report more training (65%) versus the three-year-average of 54%.

About the 2013 survey

North Star Communications’ 2013 competency survey was administered from June 23 through July 30 to about 200 professional communicators from North America, South America, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The vast majority of survey respondents completed the survey at the 2013 IABC World Conference in New York City, June 24-June 26, 2013. For more information about the survey, contact info@ournorthstar.com.

About North Star Communications

North Star Communications is a communications consultancy with core capabilities in communications competency assessment, and training and development — essentially a people-focused/skill building service provider for communications and marketing teams. North Star Communications Consulting’s mission is to guide its clients to communications solutions and skill development that help them deliver optimal business results.