The overwhelming majority (85 percent) of the public globally believes that being open and transparent is the single most important factor in delivering an effective communications strategy in 2014. 

The first annual Effective Communications Index from MHP Communications, supported by international polling by Populus, has found that global consumers see honesty and transparency as crucial if an organisation is to communicate effectively.

The finding comes as the pressure is being applied to firms around the world to be more transparent: for example, the 2013 G8 meetings focused on clarifying ownership structures, while in the UK, the EU and US, the push for increased corporate transparency and governance in the boardroom continues to be the subject of hot debate by governments, media and other stakeholders. 

But while many companies have attempted to increase their levels of openness and transparency by reaching out directly to consumers through social media, the 2014 Index shows that having a social media presence is—for now at least—seen to be the least important part of being an effective communicator (39 percent).

But social media is rated far more highly in some emerging markets like Brazil and the Middle East, where the traditional media is perhaps not always seen as free or unbiased.

In Germany and the UK, retailers are seen as the most effective communicators, while in the United Arab Emirates, they languish in fifth place. Hong Kong residents voted transport companies as top of the crop, whereas in Germany and the USA they came in last place.

The research, which was conducted in UK, Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, UAE and USA also produced the following other key findings:
• 75 percent of respondents believe that being a good employer is the key factor in being an effective communicator; 69 percent said a company needs to have a connection with the community; 66 percent wanted to see strong visible leadership; 51 percent saw the key factor being a powerful brand
• Globally, retail companies are believed to have the best communications (46 percent), followed by food and drink manufacturers with 42 percent. In 2014 healthcare and energy companies performed the worst (28 percent and 24 percent)
• In a crisis, 58 percent of people thought a quick response was most important factor in communications; the same number of people prioritised plans on how to avoid a repeat. An apology in a crisis situation is more important in the UK than any other country polled

According to Gavin Devine, CEO at MHP Communications: "We are moving into an era of ever more responsible capitalism. and businesses need to be seen and heard to be believed. Business communications, no matter what the industry sector or geographic region, can no longer be an afterthought; instead it must be put at the heart of planning for 2014 and beyond. To set themselves apart in the coming year, companies must be open and transparent, operate as responsible employers and build meaningful relationships with the communities they operate in.”