Friday, July 4, 2008

Corporate Communication Relevance

What is Corporate Communication?

Communication is fundamentally about interaction — it is only in a very secondary sense about information, persuasion or presentation. In general communication just means “say", "talk" or "tell"'. This myth of communication has now, paradoxically, become a burden for the communications director to carry. It has created expectations of corporate communications that often can't be met, and can be difficult to manage. The organization's equity is not in its investment in communication collateral but in the 'social capital' built up through its interactions with its audiences. Communication is talk. The communications director is responsible for trying to open up a conversation with some groups on some topics, and to try to steer this conversation so that those groups might come away feeling more positively about the organization.

The skill of corporate communications is, therefore, skill in conducting conversations — in opening up areas of interest, and in steering the discussion away from issues that might be damaging. It's not about crafting Teflon coated messages — which, in any case, tend to turn their listeners off.

Why is communication important?

Some people may doubt the relevance of ‘Corporate Communication’ function in an organization. Apparently they might think that all a corporation has to do is communicate efficiently with the employees. So they think that HR function is sufficient for all its communication need. But as we have seen that the business environment has changed dramatically since last couple of decades. Communication function is no longer confined within the organization. Now companies need to address various constituents in order earn their trust and build image and reputation. If Coca-Cola did not have proper Corporate Communication function then it would have cost more for the company during the pesticide controversy in India in 2003.

Organizations must communicate to survive. Continuous, day-to-day interactions with stakeholders are as essential to the functioning of an organization as breathing is to a human being. Indeed, one might say that if the finance function is one of the essential, life-sustaining corporate systems, communication is the other. The two are as interdependent, and as inseparable, as the lungs and the heart. But still a common question is to be noticed that is like appointing a CFO for a company, why a communications directors were not more frequently appointed to the boards of companies.

In the coming decades the corporate communications will be facing more challenges, we can’t just underestimate it. as we are entering a new era where access to information has never been easier, and less controllable. Audiences are more sophisticated at deconstructing – and debunking messages than ever before.

The main key for successful communication will be to successful communication will be to re-connect with its bases in fundamental human activities. By understanding what it is that really makes a message interesting, relevant and credible.


Despite the fact that Coca-Cola was legally constrained to focus on an internal audience, its experience in this crucial area can be instructive. Rarely ever is crisis communication aimed even partially-- at an internal audience, and so even expert practitioners often overlook this decisive factor. Holtz (2002) says bluntly, “You won’t find many public relations professionals who agree with me that your employees are your most important public relations audience” (p. 269). This oversight is unfortunate because, as Fombrun (1996) contends, employee image is one of the four pillars of corporate reputation, which in turn drives almost everything from share price to executive recruiting. Therefore, any activity aimed at rebuilding a tarnished internal corporate image should rate as a first priority, and that apparently is the level of importance that Coca-Cola has attached to communicating its diversity efforts to all employees—however belatedly this campaign was undertaken.


Corporate communication, 4th edition, Paul A. Argenti, The Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

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