A common belief in the management circle of today’s world is that the performance of a company significantly depends on how it is perceived by its stakeholders. These stakeholders include the members of the community where the company operates, investors, shareholders, employees, suppliers, and customers. Corporate communication is defined as the process of exchanging information between two or more people in an organization, usually with the intent of influencing their behavior (Daft, 1997).
Communication is an important aspect of business operations for a number of reasons such as:
- tracking consumer trends,
- conveying important information regarding the company to employees and investors and,
- integrating new technology and practices.
The fundamental duty of corporate communication professionals is of erecting, sustaining and protecting the company’s reputation (Christensen et al. 2007). In the past few years, corporate communication has played a crucial role in corporate social responsibility (CSR). This is because, stakeholders today demand that a company’s social stance be communicated in a strategic manner to maintain a favorable brand reputation (Pollach et al., 2012).
Tracing the history of corporate communication
Over a period, the social and organizational worth of corporate communications has developed massively. The ritual of corporate communications as a discipline and practice across different business sectors and media has become abundant (Christensen et al. 2007). Other professional communication, such as:
- employee communications and,
- technical communications
typically address specific audiences with discrete messages, the aim of corporate communication is to speak to many audiences at once (Fombrun and Van Reil, 2004).
Until the 1970s, to communicate with stakeholders, practitioners were taking the help of public relations professionals. When other internal and external stakeholders of the company began demanding more information from the company, practitioners started looking at communications to be greater than just public relations (Cornelissen, 2011). Hence, the roots of the modern corporate communication function started to shape up.
With the new functional incorporation, a new range of specific disciplines started, including:
- corporate design,
- media relations,
- investor relations,
- change communication,
- worldwide communication to employees,
- issues and crisis management and,
- public affairs (Christensen et al. 2007).
Modern managers believe that in a world of surged complexity, organizational existence centers on the ability to institute and sustain the organization as a unified and integrated whole across discrete audiences. The belief gradually shapes the communication policies of present-day organizations (Argenti et al. 2005).
A systemic and holistic view of the corporate communication process
Corporate communication maintains a holistic view of the whole organization and on the significant task of how an organization represents it to external and internal stakeholders (Argenti et al. 2005). Corporate communication can be typified as a management affair that is responsible for managing and harmonizing the work done by communication practitioners in specialized disciplines, such as public affairs, internal communication, and media relations.
According to Fombrun and Van Reil (2004), corporate communication is an instrument of management by means by which all consciously used forms of internal and external communication are harmonized as efficiently as possible. It aims at creating a favourable basis for relationships with groups upon which the company is dependent. In this way, corporate communication includes a range of managerial activities including building coordination among various groups and activities, making plans and counselling the senior personnel of a company (Fombrun and Van Reil, 2004; Argenti et al. 2005).
Communicating to maintain corporate reputation
Reputation is an important asset of any organization. Corporate reputation can be defined as;
An observer’s collective judgments of a corporation based on assessments of the financial, social, and environmental impacts attributed to the organization over time.Barnett, Jermier and Lafferty, 2006, p. 34
Corporate reputation indicates whether a company is held in high esteem as compared to its competitors. The primary goal of corporate communication is to build the company’s reputation through increased public recognition and systematic branding through repetitive messages about the company’s products, people and policies (Guru et al., 2013).
Positive public relation
Public relation is an important exercise of corporate communication. Through various public relations activities such as press releases, advertisements, and newsletters, the corporate communication function ensures that the public receives appropriate information. The purpose of this is multi-faceted, such as:
- maintaining a positive brand image,
- crisis management,
- advertising a product,
- motivate employees and,
- general public curiosity regarding a product (NCERT, 2018).
Corporate social responsibility
According to Dawkins (2004), corporate communication is an essential component of corporate social responsibility. It helps to build and maintain relationships with critical stakeholders such as investors and employees. However, the communication function with respect to corporate social responsibility must be built in such a way that it not only provides information one-way but also facilitates continuous exploration, negotiation, construction and alteration of events among different stakeholders in a company. Today, social media is being widely used for this purpose (Christensen and Cheney, 2000).
Common corporate communication practices and challenges
Common corporate communication practices are aimed at building a strong relationship with senior management as well as middle management. They are properly communicated about all the strategies of the company and how they are being implemented. A company generally ensures that in all of its meetings not only the senior managers but also the middle managers are present.
Corporate communication practices also include the practice of opening up various channels of communication. Companies also coach their spokespeople for generating skills to handle various new communication media, such as social media. To ensure efficient corporate communication, companies also build trust internally and externally (Christensen et al. 2007).
Companies also face problems while implementing efficient corporate communications. The main aim of corporate communication is to increase the performance of an employee within a firm. The entire responsibility rests mainly upon the leaders and on their ability to communicate and how much they have been able to instil in the organization as a whole. Also, the values of the organization play a key role in communication. The better the leader, the better would the employees’ efficiency to work and communicate. However, certain challenges are faced in the process (Christensen et al. 2007):
- Employees very often suffer from a lack of motivation. They do not like to align themselves with the strategies of the organization to create a concrete link between the business strategy and the employees.
- Leaders sometimes lack communication skills with the employees to get the best out of the communication.
- Very often, confusion related to communication results from overloaded information. Sometimes communications are not linked to business results and it loses relevance.
- Argenti, P., Howell, R.A. and Beck, K.A. (2005), ‘The strategic communication imperative’, MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring: 83–89.
- Barnett, M., Jermier, L. and Lafferty, B. (2006) ‘Corporate reputation: The definitional landscape’, Corporate Reputation Review, 9, pp. 26–38.
- Christensen, L. T. and Cheney, G. (2000) Self-absorption and self-seduction in the corporate identity game. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Christensen, L. T., Morsing, M. and Cheney, G. (2007). Corporate Communications- convention, complexity and critique. London: Sage Publication.
- Cornelissen, J. (2011) Corporate Communication: A Guide to Theory and Practice. London: SAGE Pubications.
- Daft, R. (1997) Management. Forth Worth: Dryden Press.
- Dawkins, J. (2004) ‘Corporate Responsibility: the communication challenge’, Journal of Communication Management, 9(2), pp. 108–119.
- Fombrun, C. and Van Riel, C.B.M. (2004). Fame and Fortune: How Successful Companies Build Winning Reputations. London: FT Prentice Hall.
- Guru, B. P. M. C. et al. (2013) ‘ESSENTIALS OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATION FOR REPUTATION MANAGEMENT: AN OVERVIEW’, Global Journal of Commerce and Management Perspective, 2(4), pp. 134–140.
- NCERT (2018) Human Ecology and Family Sciences Part 2. New Delhi: NCERT.
- Pollach, I. et al. (2012) ‘The integration of CSR into corporate communication in large European companies’, Journal of Communication Management, 16(2), pp. 204–216.