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Corporate Communication & Public Relations

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Question:

Write a Business Report on “Corporate Communication and Public Relations: Challenges and Opportunities”.

 

Answer:

Introduction:

Human beings have taken help of communication since long time. The process of communication accompanied human mankind with their existence itself. In addition, it is evolved in due course of time. Technology is a detrimental factor in this context. However, the importance and role of communication is ever increased right from personal to professional and even in public life (Grandien & Johansson, 2012a). In fact, it is the fourth need after food, shelter and clothing. It not only makes people’s heart stress-free but educates, update them in today’s age of Information and Communication Technology. An enterprise is also not an exception to this fact. Communication is the soul of any business. It is such a vital link which keeps the various segments together to achieve common organizational goals set by the board of directors from time to time. In order to ensure coordination, high level of commitment, motivation and update the change from market to manufacturing plant, communication has pivotal role to play (Lammers, 2009a).

Based on the purpose and context, communication is classified into different categories. They are intrapersonal, interpersonal; internal and external; formal and informal; written, verbal and non-verbal; grapevine; group and mass communication and so on. Corporate communication is another major kind gaining momentum in the corporate world (Mumby, 2013b). This is due to globalization, hi-end technology and increasing sizes of the firms. The emerging markets like e-commerce have crucially identified the potential of corporate communication and associated it with all the departments, products, processes, policies and people as well. It is proved to be a fruitful exercise for most of them. This is because of ‘managerial effectiveness and resource optimization’ are the key outcomes of corporate communication.

Discussion:

Speed, accuracy and useful quality content are key aspects of corporate communication. Only then, it has possibility of being successful. Otherwise, it may be treated as wastage of time, money and energy too. Company has updates on almost every day for some or other reason. The changes are caused from internal or external sources. It is essential to know these changes to ensure that all are updated and on the same page (Corporate Communication and Public Relations Practice Monitor 2010). Failing to do so will result in chaos and confusion for no reason leading to rumours spreading like wildfire in no time. It may spoil the brand in few seconds which took years and years to manage it for any firm.

Corporate Communication Literature: Nature and Types:

Corporate communication literature can be prepared through various tools, techniques and channels. As aforementioned, the core objectives will matter to prefer from the existing options. The literature must be creative enough arresting and appealing the minds of target readers, viewers or listeners. These days, a lot of resources are available through which it can be prepared. Both print and online media can be used. However, the using audio-visual aids can enable to convey the message more effectively and accurately to the audience (Grandien & Johansson, 2012b). Various kinds of literature are designed and drafted by the company to perform managerial functions at workplace. It can be explained in brief as below:

 

Internal Communication

  • Employee / products / processes / customer updates / daily, weekly, monthly reports /
  • Agenda/ Minutes of meetings, video conferencing, product training, SOPs
  • Performance Management: P4Ps, Professional Development Plans, One-to-Ones
  • Notices, internal mails, upcoming event updates, birthday greetings,
  • Compliance audits, health & safety, government reforms, legal updates,

External Communication

  • Services Level Agreements (SLAs), Business contracts, Sales Orders
  • Business Presentations
  • Products / Service Brochures, pamphlets, newsletters,
  • Publications: Quarterly, Half-yearly, Yearly Company Performance reports,

Website:

  • Blogs, articles, case studies, feasibilities studies, market research reports, surveys and press releases

Data Analysis:

An extensive research study entitled as “European Communication Monitor Survey 2016” was conducted by European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and European Association of Communication Directors (EACD) with the help of some notable agencies. The responses of 2710 corporate professionals of 43 countries were successfully collected and analysed in scientific manner by international experts. One can simply imagine the heterogeneity, views of diverse workforce and authenticity of data. The prime objective was to explore the various trends in corporate communication and public relations of business world existing in these countries. Big Data Analytics, Stakeholder engagement and strategic communication were the key aspects of the survey. It also identified the most crucial challenges until 2019. Certainly, it has created scope for multi-national firms to work on it and address them in a timely manner. The below graph help us to know them better.

Most important Strategic Issues in Communication Management until 2019

Figure 1: Issues in Communication Management

Communication management is not so simple as it seems to be. This is because it must churn out the result based on return of investment. Due to never-ending expectations of customers, the market conditions are so dynamic and volatile that they cannot be predicted easily and more accurately. Hence, huge risk is involved in this regard. However, no firm can afford to turn a deaf ear again. Otherwise, it will pose a threat to the market share and an existence of company or business itself (Suddaby, 2010). There are chances that the competitors may take undue advantages out of such vacuum for their sake. Therefore, it is always better to work and make provision of preventive measures to tackle the future communication issues based on minute observations from the above survey.

First of all, it is the highly significant to align the organizational goals, vision, mission, business strategies with communication protocols and procedures. Out of 2710 respondents, 42% consider that it is the most challenging thing for them. If the policies are not aligned properly, it will become irrelevant and out of context. Naturally, people acceptance will be very low leading to less or no results after all.

In the digital world, big data analytics has a great deal of contribution towards the business growth and expansion beyond geographical boundaries. It means an ability to pull the large volumes of data and converting into valuable information as knowledge for the best practices at workplace. The speed and volume of information is ever increased (Suddaby, 2011). In fact, it is an explosion of information almost every day. Hence, it is another matter of concern of communication management in the corporate world. 38% of these respondents perceive that dealing with speed and volume of information flow is big problem.

 


The world economy is haunted by the digital exposure made available by the high-end technology and huge reforms in terms of Internet of Things (IoTs). The four corners of the world are easily connected together. Everything is available at the click of fingertips (Lammers, 2009b). Similarly, more substitutes are created than ever to serve the customers. Social media is excessively used to tap the emerging business opportunities across the globe. However, creating a strong web of social network for the beneficial of company still remains a dream. This is because every firm is reaching and turning them into potential and loyal customers with engagement activities. Creative content, effective use of media and other factors will define the success ratio. This is why 36.8% respondents think that coping with digital evolution and social web is the third issue of corporate communication.

Unlike before, today there are large variety of channels of communication available for corporate professionals. It includes print and online (digital) both. Emails, short messaging services, tele-calling, face-to-face conversations, social media networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp while newspapers, television, FM Radio are few notable channels highly used. But matching the needs of target audience is crucial enough. Time, speed and resources are some constraints responsible in this regard. If the channels are not matched accurately, it will be waste of resources actually. 33.8% consider face such challenge in communication management. For example, if email is selected as a channel of communication, drafting an effective, accurate, informative, precise and quality content with attractive subject line make a lot of difference. The same customers may get lots of emails every day. Failing to do so will lead to transfer your email either in the spam box or simply delete from inbox.

It is observed in the survey that lack of empowerment causes failure in the communication process to the certain extent. This is possible when the communication professionals are not involved directly in the decision-making process. It is expected that they should be properly able to understand the context, purpose of communication. Many times, they are asked to convey messages based on oral, vague or incomplete information shared with them. It becomes difficult to make it clear, complete and meaningful to cater the business needs. Then, it may be deviated from the set goals. In addition, they are not authorised to take decisions in certain cases. 30.8% of total respondents have realized this as a major issues of corporate communication (European Communication Monitor 2016). When these professional are neither involved not given complete information, their level of trust is certainly low. They are not fully confident about their roles and responsibilities when they are not entertained. This percentage is around 29% of total respondents. It needs to be addressed.

Most of the time, the target audiences are communicated who are passive information seekers. They are not fully interested to opt for shopping. When mass communication is planned, the proportion of active audience is very less. Hence, the striking rate is comparatively low with minimum outcomes. Here, there is loophole in the form of data mining process and techniques and not with communication process or professionals. More accurate data of active audience is shared, higher the probability of success rate will be. Lack of transparency and active respondents is the concern raised by 22.8% of respondents from European Communication Monitor Survey 2016. 

Casual approach and poor attitude towards the values and potential of corporate communication by top executive. There is huge difference between their thinking, perception and the ground realities. The corporate professionals are not equally powerful and authoritative like top executives. Hence, it creates gaps in terms of time and effectiveness. It is a challenge for nearly 15% respondents. In addition, training, coaching to the junior staff members of corporate communication department, managing the change process, choice of channels, content design and development etc. seem to be difficult for 12.4% of total respondents.

 

Preparing effective corporate communication literature:

To avoid the above mentioned challenges, it is a must to think over preparing for effective corporate communication. Any sort of company literature is the prima facie of a firm. It represents your values, culture and philosophy in short (Mumby, 2013b). This is why it must be prepared with high sense of professionalism following all the standard rules, formats of international business. They are also called as guidelines for the corporate communication professionals.

  • Courtesy: Whenever anybody thinks about drafting any message, he or she must be courteous in everything. Modesty is the best policy in this context. It is based on ‘Treating Customers Fairly (TCF)’ all the time. The language must be soft with moderate and neutral tone in spite of any issues or concerns.
  • Concreteness: The information has to be concrete. In other words, your views can be supported based on the facts, figures, expert opinions, research data etc. It increases the credibility of communication.
  • Know Your Audience: This is fundamental part of communication process. You must define the purpose of communication based on the target audience. Their age, family background, level of education, mentality, mood, preferences, likes and dislikes etc. have to be kept in mind while drafting the message.
  • Correctness: Mastery over target language is a must for communication. Sound knowledge of grammaticality, acceptability, proper use of punctuation marks, tense and ability to frame short but meaningful sentences will be liked by the recipients mostly.
  • Command over Technical Skills: Complete and updated knowledge of graphic, patterns, background, effects, sounds, picture quality, format etc. enhance the beauty of any literature. It is more interactive and readable for people. The use of audio-visual aids makes it more attractive and appealing to their minds. Creativity and innovation can widen the scope of people acceptance.
  • Third-Person Point of View: It is thinking from a third party perspective by all means. The factor of influence is central key in this regard for all messages of communication.
  • Choice of Proper Channel: Television, Radio, social networking sites, newspaper, and email are some of the notable channels of communication. The volume of information, speed, cost, time and number of target recipients are few detrimental factors to choose the right channels. In addition, mode of convenience is also helpful.

Roles of Corporate Communications & PR Writer:

Corporate Communication and Public Relations are considered to be two sides of the same coin. They are interlinked and integrated with each other very strongly. It enables the organization to make smooth functioning of various chains of products, processes, events, programs etc. Hallvarsson and Halvarsson carried out a survey on account of public relations weeks exclusively for directors of communications in the year 2009. Around the role of directors in this context has become more strategic than ever over the past five years while 50% of total respondents have agreed that they have observed broader responsibilities in due course of time at the same time 34% considered that management has greater expectations from them.

No business is left without challenges. It has a series in fact. The survey paid attention to explore and identify the key challenges faced by the firms as well. It is noticed that integration of communication process, channels across the business is the most crucial thing they realized (Mumby, 2013a). Communication with stakeholders is difficult as each of them has diverse needs and purposes and meeting their customized expectations is problematic. Almost 57% directors considered it as key challenge for them at workplaces. In the digital world, planning is somewhat easier than its execution part to some of them. This is because execution is directly associated with the outcomes or returns. It should generate the leads of sales or set targets in numbers. This is a matter of concern for 43% of the total respondents.

Image 1: Hallvarsson and Halvarsson Survey, 2009

The role of Corporate Communication Specialist and Public Relations Writer is crucial from organizational development and business stability perspectives. It starts from stakeholder engagement, understanding action-oriented research, playing with big data, making effective use of social media, create company literature for various purposes, increasing community involvement, managing events, developing skills and building capacity among staffs, managing crisis, raising funds etc. He or she works on three levels: technical, managerial and strategic respectively (Falkheimer & Heide, 2014a). In short, it is like Brand Ambassador of a company itself. He/she is directly / indirectly involved in advertising, marketing, branding, promotion, awareness campaigns, corporate social responsibility, linking internal and external stakeholders by preparing variety of creative literature to employees, investors, media, government and other agencies of firm (Schultz & Wehmeier, 2010). The below graph indicate preference of roles by function for better understanding:

PR Writer works like a damage controller for a firm. He is also an image shaper. He is the one who manages the crisis situations raised by employees, media, customers, investors, governments etc. He does it by making press releases, newsletters, speech, event updates and blogs (Scott, 2008). He ensures that public should aware, accept and act as per content shared with them. Credibility and integrity are the best tools to reach to masses. However, it comes with practice and experience only (Falkheimer & Heide, 2014b)

(Graph 2)

Research Findings:

  • Corporate communication and public relations have to be based on three elements: products, processes and people.
  • The Communication & PR specialist is multi-tasker. He is technocrat, diplomat, a language expert, bureaucrat, an able leader and a strategist.
  • They should be empowered, authorised and involved in decision-making process.
  • Coping with the diverse needs of target recipients, emerging channels and conversion of data into valuable information and knowledge are badly essential skills.

Conclusion:

Advertising, launching new products and services, recruitment and selection, employee engagement, performance management, knowing the customers and serving as per their expectations, feedback, business expansion and growth are not possible without an effective use of corporate communication. Hence, it is a must to prepare various types of company literature and keep all the stakeholders updated as and when required. It enables the firms to keep in touch and maintain ‘goodwill and trust factor’ not only to create but strengthen long-term rapport with the investors, vendors, dealers, brokers, franchises and others.

 


Social media is going to continue to develop and change, and corporate communications practices are going to change with it. Social media has already proven an invaluable tool to the industry, and the future holds a wider teaching and implementation of these tools. Research conducted at the Tuck School of Business suggests that, on average, Fortune 500 company CEOs spend between 50 and 80% of their time on communication activities.

Recommendations:

  • Preparing creative corporate communication literature is a golden opportunity to build strong rapport with all the stakeholders and strengthen it in the long-term. It creates solid database from market research perspective.
  • Any sort of message must be concrete, correct, concise, courteous and clear. Knowing your target audience and their needs can match the expectations more accurately. The literature should be creative, innovative designed with hi-technology.
  • Speed, time, volume of information, number of recipients are detrimental to plan and execute communication and PR strategies. One needs to learn handling and using social media effectively.
  • Leadership, coaching, consulting, business writing, media relations, project management, dealing with crisis and updating of changing technologies are the most crucial skills, abilities for both corporate communication and public relations experts.
  • As a personality, emotional intelligence, creative and analytical thinking, strategic planning, ethical behaviour, ability to work under high-level stress, an art of influencing others, self-motivation, problem-solving attitude and ownership are few notable traits badly required.
  • Challenges will always exist for all. They can be overcome with team-work, support, vision, preparation and collaborative endeavours. No wonder, you will be used to handle them on regular basis without any fear, doubt or confusion. It will be useful for sustainable and secure organizational growth.
 

References:

Corporate Communication and Public Relations Practice Monitor 2010. Report by BPRA, HarbourClub, PR Suisse, SPRI and USI.

European Communication Monitor 2016. Exploring trends in big data, stakeholder engagement and strategic communication. Results of a survey in 43 Countries. Brussels: EACD/EUPRERA, Quadriga Media Berlin.

Falkheimer, J. & Heide, M. (2014). From Public Relations to Strategic Communication in Sweden: The Emergence of a Transboundary Field of Knowledge. Nordicom Review, 35(2), pp. 123-138.

Grandien, C., & Johansson, C. (2012). Institutionalization of communication management: A Theoretical Framework. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 17(2).

Lammers, J. C. (2009). Institutional theories of organizational communication. In S. W. Littlejohn & K. A. Foss (Eds.), Encyclopaedia of Communication Theory. Los Angeles: Sage.

Mumby, D. K. (2013) Organizational Communication: An Critical Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Schultz, F., & Wehmeier, S. (2010). Institutionalization of corporate social responsibility within corporate communications. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 15(1).

Scott, W. R. (2008). Institutions and Organizations: Ideas and Interests. Los Angeles: Sage.

Suddaby, R. (2011). How communication institutionalizes: A Response to Lammers.

Management Communication Quarterly, 25(1).

Suddaby, R. (2010). Challenges for Institutional Theory. Journal of Management Inquiry, 19(1).

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