UK Technology Leaders Pulse: 2020 Challenges


The last quarter of 2020 saw the launch of Diffusion’s new Enterprise Technology Division, and with it some intriguing new insights into how the year’s events changed UK technology leaders’ approach to marketing communications. With another year of change and uncertainty ahead, let’s take a closer look at what B2B tech leaders told us about how the year’s events impacted their businesses and communications strategies.

Managing external perceptions…

While the technology industry fared better than most in real terms last year, it was far from insulated from turbulence – especially when it came to customer perception.

A whopping 97% of UK enterprise tech leaders (including all CEOs) say that perception of their company has changed during the Covid-19 crisis, with almost half (43%) of marketers agreeing their reputation with customers has been negatively impacted as a result of external comms and marketing taking a back seat in 2020.

…as well as internal ones

And while marketing communications professionals clearly have some work to do to regain customer trust this year, our data suggests they also need to pay closer attention to internal perception management and effective measurement.

Marketing and PR heads consistently rate the effectiveness of marcomms more positively than the rest of the leadership team, with 92% saying their brand positioning was successful last year – while only 78% of CEOs agree, and 22% of them say it was poor to neutral. Half of Heads of Marketing say that customer perception improved due to successful marketing & communications campaigns, but only 18% of Sales Directors and 27% CEOs agree.

The missing link to sales

The perception disconnect continues when it comes to the link between communications and sales. Not one PR or marketing person agreed with the 10% of sales directors who believe sales enablement isn’t up to scratch in their organisation, and only 2% of marketers agree with the 18% of sales directors who believe the delivery of sales leads is inadequate.

Can these organisations be doing more to ensure marketing communications outputs are delivering sales outcomes in 2021? Heads of PR are most likely to rate Social Media & Internal Comms positively (100%) and Driving Sales Leads negatively (15%), suggesting an awareness and desire for PR to demonstrate its impact on sales more effectively.

In addition, Heads of Sales are most likely to rate Internal Comms positively (100%) and Events Management (27%) and Driving Sales Leads (18%) negatively, suggesting the sales function has suffered most from the lack of in-person networking opportunities.

Shifting media sands

Anyone working in media relations over the past year knows that the landscape has altered significantly. In fact, 99% of UK enterprise technology leaders say that their organisation’s relationship with the media has changed during the Covid-19 crisis.

While a fifth of leaders say their business has not had as much earned coverage this year as usual, only 8% of Heads of PR support that statement. Likewise, while 9% of CEOs say their organisation’s media coverage was poor this year, no marketing or PR leaders agree. Yet more evidence that PR needs to sell back its achievements to the rest of the business more effectively?

It’s true that the pandemic has thrown up new challenges when it comes to media relations. While nearly half (46%) of Heads of PR agree it’s tougher to secure earned coverage now than at the start of the year, only a quarter of respondents overall and 9% of Sales Directors recognise this. PR leaders should be asking themselves whether they are successfully communicating the challenges surrounding earned media to the rest of the business.

So what does all this mean for 2021?

In the next blog, UK Technology Leaders Pulse: A Positive Outlook for 2021, we take a look at what technology leaders say they’re planning to focus on next year. We’d love to hear your thoughts! Drop our Head of Enterprise Technology, Lucie Bickerdike, an email: [email protected]