Corporate communication makes the company visible and gives its products an image and reputation a customer can identify with (Canary, 2010). Customers and employees also get to know and feel good about the company they are working for and doing business with. Customers need to know about the company; its management; its method of manufacture; its mode of functioning, and the company’s philosophy and values. They need to know its products and services so that they can trust what the company stands for and confidently buy, consume and use their products. Stakeholders investors, shareholders partners and suppliers, employees, government, NGO’s, local community, industry and customers any individual or group which can affect or be affected by an organisations activities need to feel a sense of involvement with what the company is doing, the more they know, and the more open the communication with them, the more they trust, and feel involved and responsible for the company in which they have a stake (Schultz, et al., 2005). Employees are most important to the organisation; without them the company’s cannot run. Both the management and employees must appreciate this interdependence. So, both management and employees at all levels must develop a sense of inclusion, a sense willing cooperation and a united pursuit of the company’s values and goals. This is done through two-way internal communications up and down the hierarchy (Cornelissen, 2008).
Corporate Communication is the method by which large and medium size companies communicate with customers, stakeholders and employees. The reputation of a company and its products are built through the messages disseminated by the company to employees, customers and the public (Christensen et al., 2005). The corporate communication department is a source of information to journalists and vice versa from the media to the management. Corporate communication department is a guide and influence to top management about image management, it co-ordinates between the PR agency and the MD in creating and maintaining an image of the company (Bronn & Wiig, 2005).
It is the liaison between the top management and the marketing department in the preparation of product advertisements and marketing communications. The Corporate Communication department is custodian of the brand image, and briefs and supervises the production of product literature and advertising, coordinates with printers, AV makers, film producers, creative agencies so that the standards of the company and its corporate identity are followed (Martin and Hetrick, 2006). In internal communications, the corporate communications department edits the house journal, newsletter, email messages from the top management which have to be vetted and rewritten, notice boards have to be kept busy and the intranet has to be updated enough for two way communication between management and employees to maintain morale and to further their identification and purpose with the company. The corporate communication department works along with and under the overall direction of the Managing director in providing policies and guidelines in corporate image, corporate identity and corporate culture (Shirky, 2008). The Corporate communication department works closely with HR in inculcating corporate culture and two-way communication in the company through internal/employee communications. The corporate communication department also works with the marketing department on marketing communications and also with the finance department in disseminating relevant financial information. Corporate communication plays a major role in creating and maintaining the business image of any corporate entity (Moloney, 2007). It is an effective strategy to communicate the brand value and reputation to its customers, stakeholders and the target audience. There are many processes of corporate communication with which manager can create the desired business impact. Many reasons mark the importance of corporate communication in today’s business world (Fombrun and Harvard, 2003).
Rapport building is the key motive of any corporate communication strategy; this can be internal and external, as well. When there is a constant rapport with employees and customers, the business image of the company will also get higher. It is for this reason many big companies like coco cola and IBM follow effective corporate communication strategies (Morsing and Beckman, 2008).
Nothing other than frequent communication like newsletters and posters can effectively highlight the performances of the company. This will again have a positive impact on the business image of the company (Larkin and Palgrave, 2005).
Regular means of communication will help in easy reach of new products and services to the consumers. So, corporate communication becomes highly essential for advertising new products and services of the company (Hatch & Schultz, 2009).
Be it new product launch, news update or any other message; it promotes the business image of the company when it is communicated via proper channel. Many organizations carry out social activities in the interest of public and also to emphasize its brand presence (Schultz et al., 2003).
If money is the life blood of business, communication is the nervous system. Communication between colleagues, through command channels and with the public is key to getting things done in a corporate environment. This communication takes many forms, ranging from the informal break room chat to the multi-million dollar publicity campaign (Argenti and Forman, 2006).
Corporate communication for publicity is aimed at increasing business profitability. Sometimes this means direct advertising. Other times it means press releases or public statements to improve corporate image. Some examples of publicity based communication include advertising, press releases and executive interviews. Some corporations will also give to charitable organizations without making a public announcement, relying on the charity or the press to communicate their actions to the public (Canary, 2010).
Information is the basis of all corporate communication and in fact the basis of all communication in general (Martin and Hetrick, 2006). Corporate employees communicate information about project specifications, employee needs, meeting times, accounts coming due and upcoming vacations (Schultz, et al., 2005). These communications come in all forms. Some examples include face-to-face talks, informal emails, formal memos, phone calls and published documents.
Many corporate employees work in teams to accomplish the goals of their department. The departments work together in much the same way to accomplish the goals of the corporation. Employees communicate in order to collaborate on their shared goals (Cornelissen, 2008).
Clarity is important in all communication. When poor communication can jeopardize a major account or risk a million-dollar lawsuit, clarity becomes extremely important (Christensen et al., 2005). For these reasons, corporate communication usually includes a written component in order to ensure clarity. Parties can always refer to the written document to remember what they had agreed to. In an informal disagreement, this serves to put the team back on the right course. In litigation, it serves as proof of one party’s claim (Bronn & Wiig, 2005).
Corporate brand communication covers the entire realm of how a corporation interacts with the marketplace (Fombrun and Harvard, 2003). Through effective brand communication, a company articulates what it stands for and the unique value proposition it offers to the marketplace. Typical approaches for corporate brand communication include public relations, investor relations and advertising. By effectively communicating with the marketplace, a company can achieve its business objectives (Shirky, 2008).
One of the techniques that corporations often use in their corporate brand communications is public relations (Moloney, 2007). Typically, a company will establish a PR platform that articulates key messages about its products and services. By communicating novel attributes to the print, broadcast and online news media, PR can help companies launch new products (Morsing and Beckman, 2008).
While the marketplace is an important communications target for companies, investors who supply operating capital represent a critically important audience (Schultz et al., 2003). For chief executive officers and chief financial officers who are seeking better relationships with existing and future investors, a strategic investor relations program is important. The company may look at investor relations as a way to minimize risks associated with poor performance in exchange for quality branding and honest communications (Larkin and Palgrave, 2005).
As corporations depict their corporate brands, they often rely on paid advertising (Argenti and Forman, 2006). This advertising, in the form of print, broadcast and online advertising, allows a company to control its corporate message in an atmosphere that is appealing to the audience with whom the company seeks seek to interact. Many companies today seek brand interactions with customers that entice the customer to learn more and engage with the company (Hatch & Schultz, 2009).
An analysis, report and recommendations assessing an organization’s communications process and proficiency based on (Canary, 2010):
Interviews with key executives
Surveys of key managers
Employee focus groups
Review of internal publications, materials and communication practices
Prioritized recommendations for improvement
In the Planning stage, manager will use our guidelines and templates to identify and articulate organization needs, the objectives of the audit, and the components and process needed to conduct an effective audit that meets needs (Schultz, et al., 2005). All the elements of the audit which may include some or all of the stages described here will be mapped out in advance at this stage so that a clear picture of the process and its results is identified. The Launching stage may involve a special communication campaign manager conduct to introduce the audit process to organization using current communication vehicles. The campaign will announce the audit in a compelling, credible way, explain its reasoning and objectives, and build employee support and commitment to it (Cornelissen, 2008). The program guides manager every step of the way, even giving manager possible names for audit process after explaining the reasons recommend that manager do not use the word audit for initiative (Bronn & Wiig, 2005).
This stage involves the observation of work culture based on a list of items we provide manager and what it communicates to its inhabitants. It also involves conducting a review of existing communication policies, publications, reports, vehicles and processes and organizes the results to be included in the Audit Report (Christensen et al., 2005).
Managers are provided the set of criteria, procedures and questions manager can use in an interviewing of top executives. With the right questions, interviews can generate significant information about the organization, its culture, its goals, and how communications fit in all of these (Martin and Hetrick, 2006).
The program offers manager the set of criteria, procedures and questions manager can use in selecting and conducting the focus groups that are representative of audiences. Focus groups can generate more useful information than surveys alone because facilitators, with the questions provided by the program, can probe the feelings behind the opinions (Shirky, 2008).
The do itself Communication Audit Program provides manager with the format and questions of a comprehensive yet focused and easy to manage, employee or stake holders communication survey (Fombrun and Harvard, 2003). The survey asks participants about every key aspect of organizational communication, including the culture, the communication vehicles, and supervisor employee relations. Manager can either reproduce the survey, print and distribute it to audience, or add the questions to one of the available online survey services at low cost (Moloney, 2007).
In the Reporting stage, manager can follow the structured process provide for analyzing the information and data manager summarized from the previous phases of the audit. Manager will be able to produce a comprehensive report that includes recommendations for actions that can significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of communications in an organization (Morsing and Beckman, 2008).
Our five step methodology (Larkin and Palgrave, 2005)
The initial planning phase is critical in confirming scope and objectives, review existing data and assessing audiences, channels and messages. From this manager will be able to understand the context, ask the right questions and ultimately, run a successful audit (Hatch & Schultz, 2009).
To get a deeper understanding of the key issues would recommend conducting some stakeholder interviews (Schultz et al., 2003). This helps understand the business priorities and further refine the objectives for the audit. Managers would suggest keeping the interviews quite structured with the ability to go off piste as required. This would involve creating an interview guide to ensure consistent facilitation of the interviews (Argenti and Forman, 2006).
Once managers have analysed the results of steps 1 and 2 they should design and conduct a survey, test it and then launch it. The analysis should help manager to get a snapshot of collective views and have statistically robust data. It should also act as a baseline set of results for future surveys (Canary, 2010).
The quantitative data from the survey will usually identify a few key trends or issues which warrant further research (Schultz, et al., 2005). Manager would usually suggest holding some focus groups to understand these key issues a bit more, and/or to test some possible solutions to those issues. Managers certainly regard focus groups as a great opportunity to test new ideas (Cornelissen, 2008).
The final audit report includes the findings from the insight work in steps 2-4 as well as some detailed recommendations for further action. The report would usually include a high level internal communications strategy with a range of recommended actions and tactics (Bronn & Wiig, 2005).
Organizational communication standards grow out of the communication choices of executives, managers and other employees. Ideally, organizational communication facilitates sharing of information, event planning, project coordination and social interaction. Poor communication and non functional communication systems leads to confusion, lowered morale and loss of productivity (Christensen et al., 2005). Business leaders must create communication plans and information channels to ensure that employees are kept informed and in contact with each other. Communication between employees is a process that helps people mange, create and sustain organizational operations (Hatch & Schultz, 2009). Organizational communication happens in many forms, including conversations, letters, emails, memos and websites. Each of these types of communications is appropriate for different types of situations. For example, letters are more formal than emails and emails are formal than conversations (Martin and Hetrick, 2006). All forms of communication may be used to impart authority, delegate responsibility and provide vital information. Conflict is one disadvantage of communication. Employees may use communication to disagree and argue with each other and with management (Fombrun and Harvard, 2003). Conflict causes tension among employees and can halt operations, disrupt meetings and prevent task completion. Sources of conflict include employees feeling that their needs are not being met, lack of structure, lack of transparent communication and personality differences (Shirky, 2008). Organizational leaders also use communication to mediate and control conflict to lessen the effects of employee disagreements. Employees may use communication to become familiar. This familiarity may eventually lead to friendship (Moloney, 2007). Friendship among employees may be good for the company because it helps employees work together, know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and learn to trust each other. On the other hand, employee friendship can be a distraction, with employees spending work hours chatting instead of being productive. Conflict over friendships and relationships may be more disruptive than other types of workplace conflicts. Through the creation of a communication strategy, business leaders reduce the disadvantages of communication and increase the advantages (Larkin and Palgrave, 2005). Businesses have a variety of communication needs that vary according the organization’s size, industry and structure. Elements of organizational communication strategy include communications technology, communication plans and the delegation of communication responsibilities. The hierarchy of authority controls many aspects of communication. For example, the executives communicate with department heads, who communicate with managers or project leaders, who communicate with lower level employees (Morsing and Beckman, 2008).
Plan an external corporate communications audit and Conduct an external corporate communications audit
The exchange of information and messages between an organization and other organizations, groups, or individuals outside its formal structure, the goals of external communication are to facilitate cooperation with groups such as suppliers, investors, and stockholders, and to present a favourable image of an organization and its products or services to potential and actual customers and to society at large (Schultz et al., 2003). A variety of channels may be used for external communication, including face-to-face meetings, print or broadcast media, and electronic communication technologies such as the Internet. External communication includes the fields of PR, media relations, advertising, and marketing management. A communication audit is an evaluation of the effectiveness of an organization’s communication efforts (Canary, 2010). These efforts may include a number of different methods and materials, such as advertisements and marketing collateral, websites, internal communications, and shareholder reports (Argenti and Forman, 2006). A communication audit will assess the effectiveness of each of these methods. It is often used as a tool to aid in planning or revaluating a communications plan or strategy. There are a number of reasons that a company or an organization may decide to undergo a communication audit. It may have determined that its methods of communication are spread too thin. It may feel that basic customer surveys do not provide a comprehensive look at the effectiveness of its communications strategies (Schultz, et al., 2005). The organization may simply wish to evaluate the company message to ensure consistency across mediums, or to reach a new target audience. Whatever the reason, it is important that the organization outline its mission, its values or vision, and its audience prior to the audit so that the effective communication of these items may be adequately assessed (Cornelissen, 2008).
Most organizations wanting to manage communications efforts can benefit from an external communications audit, or a strategic evaluation of how the organization reaches out to different audiences. This audit should include assessing how communications efforts relate to the organization’s primary goals. Get someone outside the organization to perform an audit if there is no one on staff to perform an internal audit (Bronn & Wiig, 2005).
The audit focuses on the degree of effectiveness of different communications strategies. Before determining the firm’s effectiveness in communications, identify what kinds of audiences receive messages from the firm, and those that should receive them. An audit might show findings that suggest how the communications strategy can be improved, such as a finding that some audiences need to be contacted in more ways or with more effective means of communication (Christensen et al., 2005).
Once manager have studied the audiences, prepare a survey for them. This survey must be a list of questions to gauge the effectiveness of different communications formats. Each question might include a numerical scale, such as 1 to 5, asking the respondent to rate a communications strategy (Martin and Hetrick, 2006). Use focus groups and interviews to gather general information and specific questions for the survey. A focus group discusses questions informally; be sure to note the reactions of the group to a short list of topics. An interview might be more formal, in which case manager should note responses to all questions. Once managers have concluded focus groups and/or interviews, use those findings to write a communications survey (Shirky, 2008).
Administer the survey to different audiences identified earlier in the audit. These audiences will help manager understand how the organization communicates (Moloney, 2007). Manager might want to use in depth interviews or undertake opinion research. Once manager have completed all of surveys and manager must tabulate the results and analyze them. Look for patterns using statistical measures, such as average ratings for each question on the survey (Fombrun and Harvard, 2003).
Look for conclusions about communications strategies (Larkin and Palgrave, 2005). A survey question might ask audiences to rate the customer service department’s telephone representatives. If this question yielded a lower than average rating, such as 2.5 on a 1 to 5 numerical scale, manager might arrive at the conclusion that the firm needs to improve communications in that department (Morsing and Beckman, 2008). Summarize findings in a report and share it with employees.
In the future, the management team can make changes to improve external communications by studying problems or issues identified in this audit, including how to strategically align each communications strategy with the strategic goals of the organization (Schultz et al., 2003). For example, a communications audit might reveal that an organization does not devote sufficient resources to marketing. The organization can align marketing expenditures to each business activity based on its responsibility for achieving its marketing goals (Hatch & Schultz, 2009).
Hence, corporate communication audit becomes very important to ensure that the business goals are being achieved. A communication audit is a systematic research method that identifies the strengths and the weakness of current internal and external communications. A communication audit has become very essential in today’s business environment. It doesn’t really need to be cost prohibitive (Argenti and Forman, 2006). Yes, it costs money to conduct a thorough audit upon which the business leaders can base their decisions. Basically, the reasons for auditing can be grouped into 10 different reasons (Canary, 2010):
To see how past communications were handled.
To see what the key audiences know about the business, service, product, organization, and their needs and how they prefer to be reached.
To see the strengths and weakness in current communications programs
To see what are the opportunities for future communications.
To see what are the current goals and objectives for communication.
To see whether the messages are clear and consistent or do they have a coordinated graphic identity (Schultz, et al., 2005)?
To see if the messages are reaching the key audiences and moving them into actions
To see what do the customers think of the communication.
To see how to make the communications effective in the future
To see the key areas where the hard works needs to be implied
A communication audit examines and recommends improvements in the way an organization communicates internally, among its staff, as well as with its members (Cornelissen, 2008). Based on the results of a comprehensive communications audit, a set of recommendations is developed. The goal is to have an integrated set of communication tools to both inform and develop leaders (Bronn & Wiig, 2005).
In a world where people are deluged with thousands of messages each day, their primary question is often “Why should I care?” or “What’s in it for me?” Effective communication makes this answer clear to the reader or listener (Martin and Hetrick, 2006). Ask self what information would be most important to manager if manager were a member of the audience and make sure materials deliver these details. Emphasize the benefits at the beginning of message or materials before adding less-important information (Christensen et al., 2005).
Keeping communication straightforward increases the likelihood that it will be effective. Target a sixth to eighth grade reading level for written materials (Fombrun and Harvard, 2003). Avoid using acronyms, regulatory terms or jargon. Delete words if an average person manager stopped on the street would not know their meaning. When preparing written materials, keep sentences short and break up copy with headings and graphics. A page full of text is not appealing to potential readers (Shirky, 2008).
Make information available to customers and employees through a variety of formats (Moloney, 2007). News releases, text messages and e-mails can be used to communicate urgent information, while newsletters can be an appropriate choice for content that is less time-sensitive. A website is vital for communication with external audiences, and a well-organized Intranet that displays news content and practical resources can be very helpful for employees (Morsing and Beckman, 2008). Incorporating video presentations allows manager to appeal to visual learners and offer new perspectives or details. Holding meetings with employees or the public offers face-to-face interaction that can build credibility and make audiences feel valued (Larkin and Palgrave, 2005).
Information that customers need to know should be communicated as quickly as possible. When audience learns information from the media instead of directly from organization, there can be a perception that manager intended to hide the information or that manager do not truly care about audience (Hatch & Schultz, 2009). The centres for Disease control notes in its crisis communication handbook that two of the most serious mistakes an organization can make when communicating with stakeholders are providing information that is too little and too late or coming across as arrogant and not valuing stakeholders (Schultz et al., 2003). These thoughts are summed up in an agency slogan: “Be First, Be Right. Be Credible” (Argenti and Forman, 2006).
Employees and the public are often suspicious of corporations and government agencies, but manager can build trust by increasing the transparency of messages. Executives should be forthcoming with bad news and be willing to express the regret they feel about difficult circumstances (Canary, 2010). Sharing the reasoning behind difficult decisions may also build understanding.
“People begin to notice that when manager do something wrong, manager say so; it follows that when manager don’t say so, manager didn’t do anything wrong.” Customers and employees should not just hear from manager when the news is bad. A monthly newsletter or quarterly meetings can keep employees informed about company activities, while articles on the company’s website and opt-in e-mails keep customers in the loop (Schultz, et al., 2005).
The policy is necessary to set out the principles for all communication activity across the Council. The Corporate Communication Strategy is a high-level strategy which sets out the basic principles for the Council’s communication activities and processes including communication activity undertaken across all departments and delivered by a range of people who work to these corporate principles (Cornelissen, 2008). Accessibility of information to all, clarity and user friendliness for the various audiences, consideration of languages, two way communication, etc. are principles to maximise equality in communication. By stating that accessibility of information and communication to all people is a fundamental principle, the consideration of all equalities strands (i.e. race, gender, disability, age, religion/belief and sexual orientation is therefore implicit and explicit. Although overarching, the Strategy and its related Action Plan were developed and updated after consideration of equalities requirements and consultation with relevant section heads (who are responsible for areas such as diversity and community engagement) (Bronn & Wiig, 2005). It was also endorsed by the Corporate Management Team, before going to Cabinet for approval. The Action Plan includes proposed actions to be undertaken by corporate sections. Each corporate section should be undertaking for these activities. These activities are in areas including Diversity, Consultation, Community Engagement and Partnership Working. The activities should improve the effectiveness of communication, in order to meet the needs of audiences within the County’s diverse communities. General, corporate public relations activity is undertaken in accordance with the Strategy and Action Plan (Martin and Hetrick, 2006). Functions within this activity include media relations, Leicestershire Matters production, language services commissioning, design and creative services. Decisions taken are informed by a range of advice, experience and views, to ensure equalities issues are appropriately addressed. Consultation has been undertaken, in order to feed into the development of the Strategy and includes the following examples:
A professional understanding of readers views and needs from journalists, writers, community engagers, language commissioners, designers etc (Christensen et al., 2005).
Consultation with, and advice from, the disability issues coordinator
Reference to the census and population trends, along with other relevant demographic statistical information
Feedback from users of the service, e.g. readers, interpreters etc
Feedback on Equality issues received by the section/department
Discussions at community cohesion workshops, along with any other relevant forums
Based on the key priorities, managers are to develop a series of communication goals outlining the deliberate strategy of the communication function. These communication goals will provide the communication function with a sense of purposeful direction, ensuring that it focuses its resources on doing the right things (Shirky, 2008).
Communication goal setting is the most important step in linking communication strategy to higher-level strategic priorities. A communication goal is the destination an organisation wants to reach through its communication with regards to strategic priorities and their implications for stakeholders. It provides the link with lower-level communication plans that are developed to implement these goals (Fombrun and Harvard, 2003).
Communication themes are also developed as broad messages that the organisation wants to communicate about specific strategic priorities. Often, organisations refer to themes as position statements (Cornelissen, 2008).
Well formulated communication goals and communication themes are central to communication strategy development and should focus on closing the vision culture reputation gaps that exist between organisations and their internal and external stakeholders (Moloney, 2007).
Monitoring communication activities
Keep track of participants’ lists and contacts
Prepare a questionnaire for feedback or conduct a brief online survey after event
Monitor website hits in connection with certain events, after having sent out a press release etc (Morsing and Beckman, 2008)
Keep track of who received publications distribution lists and the number of publications disseminated. Get feedback through surveys or focus groups.
Compile an archive including press clippings and screenshots of websites that mentioned programme (Larkin and Palgrave, 2005)
If manager cover a large programme area
Manager may also think about hiring a professional media monitoring service, although this can be costly
Keep also a media archive of radio and programmes that mentioned programme
Evaluate the content of the media and its effectiveness
Direct consultation of the audience (Schultz, et al., 2005)
To what extent does the communication strategy respond to the information needs of the target audience (Hatch & Schultz, 2009)?
How coherent are the tools and messages with the objectives of the strategy, with each other and with other existing initiatives in the field (Schultz et al., 2003)?
How effective is the communication strategy/policy in improving awareness and knowledge about EU policy in the field (Argenti and Forman, 2006)?
To what extent does the communication strategy/policy contribute to a better understanding/perception of the commission’s policy in the field (Canary, 2010)?
Argenti, P.A. and Forman, J. (2006) The Power of Corporate Communication, 3rd ed. New York: McGraw Hill Publishers
Bronn, P. & Wiig, B. (2005) Corporate Communication: A Strategic Approach to Building Reputation, 2nd ed. Norway: Gyldendal Publishers
Canary, H.E. (2010) Communication and Organizational Knowledge, 3rd ed. NY: Routledge Publishers
Christensen, L., Morsing, M. and Cheney, G. (2005) Corporate Communications Convention, Complexity, and Critique 4th ed. London: SAGE Publications London
Cornelissen, P. (2008) Corporate Communication: A Guide to Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. UK: SAGE Publications London,
Fombrun, C. and Harvard, J. (2003) Reputation, Realizing Value from the Corporate Image, 2nd ed.Boston: Business School Press
Hatch, J. & Schultz, M. (2009) Taking Brand Initiative: How companies can align strategy, culture, and identity through corporate branding, 4th ed. Canada: Jossey-Bass Publishers
Larkin, J. and Palgrave, M. (2005) Strategic Reputation Risk Management, 3rd ed. NY: MacMillan Publishers
Martin, G. and Hetrick, S. (2006) Corporate Reputations, Branding and People Management, 3rd ed. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann Publishers
Moloney, K. (2007) Rethinking Public Relations, 3rd ed. London: Routledge Publishers UK
Morsing, M. and Beckman, S. (2008) Strategic CSR Communication, 3rd ed. Copenhagen: SAGE Publishers
Schultz, M., Hatch, M. J. and Larsen, M. (2003) The Expressive Organization, 4th ed. London: Oxford University Press
Shirky, C. (2008) Here come everybody: How Change Happens When People Come Together, 6th ed. London: Penguin Books
Schultz, M., Antorini, Y.M. and Csaba, F. (2005) Corporate Branding, Purpose/People/Process, 3rd ed. Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press