Integrated Corporate Communication and Corporate Dissertation

Excerpt from Dissertation :

Corporate communications involves not just the message, but the idea that communications are managed, and are connected to corporate objectives (Cornelissen, 2004). Therefore, when communication possibilities were limited, corporate options were limited, and one did not see communications management perspectives that advocated the type of intimate connection between communications and corporate strategy that one sees in a modern context (Cornelissen, 2004). What this makes clear is that CC is not simply, or even primarily, about communications; it is an overall corporate strategy that helps define how a corporation interacts with the world.

The emphasis on communication is very different from how corporations were traditionally, historically structured. Traditionally, strategic planning occurred at the top of the corporate structure, management was considered a mid-level activity, and operational control was the function of first-level management, and this corporate strategy was used in most workplaces (Oliver, 1997). However, as institutional hierarchies were challenged and toppled, one saw a different type of organizational structure emerge (Oliver, 1997). Instead of a tiered-vertical management structure, one saw the emergence of horizontal management structures (Oliver, 1997). Instead of strategy being dictated from the top-down, different parts of corporations can engage in strategy-building. In fact, many modern corporations are very actively involved in having various stakeholders, be they employees or customers, help establish corporate policies and goals. Therefore, the communication in CC is not a one-way phenomenon. Instead, it becomes clear that CC interacts with corporate structure. Whether CC has changed the top-heavy configuration of corporations, or whether changes in that top-heavy configuration have led to the advent of CC is something that may never be understood, but it is clear that greater efficiency is one result of incorporation CC.

However, while CC can help streamline a company, it is important to understand that corporations are going to have to continue some compartmentalization because without the appropriate delegation, the corporate message gets muddled. In fact, when examining the corporate communication structure, it becomes clear that, regardless of how integrated a company is, there is still a clear delineation between the two types of communication systems existing in the corporation. The public cannot have full access to a corporation's inner workings. Even if that were plausible, it would be impossible for the public to keep up with all of the communications of every corporation. Moreover, it is not plausible; corporations are entitled to have trade secrets and to not be required or compelled to disclose all of their inner communications; anything else would literally eliminate any business advantage. Therefore, it is clear that, the there are two main types of corporate communications, internal and exteneral, and those two types are inner-related (Varey & White, 2000). Internal corporate communications are communications to employees and they are involved in organizing and accomplishing the company's goals, but those communications are based on information gathered from the company's external corporate communications (Varey & White, 2000). The external corporatate communications systems are how the company presents its information o the external environment, and have the goal of changing the behavior of external stakeholders (Varey & White, 2000).

In fact, there are so many different publics interested in corporate communications that it can be difficult to understand how a corporation should tailor its message. The various stakeholders involved in corporate communications are a mixed group and include investors, employees, customers, possible or current business partners, special-interest groups, all levels of government, community leaders, and the media (Argenti & Forman, 2002). In fact, these constituencies may seem even more influential than they are because the media literally hounds some modern corporations (Argenti & Forman, 2002). It may seem like the term hounding is weighted, but it actually describes the modern extremely connected environment very well. Corporations have benefitted from the global environment, but they have also been harmed by how readily available information is. If a corporation engages in activities that will be considered unacceptable, either legally or morally, they are going to lose clients. Moreover, some of that client loss can be permanent, even if a corporation acts immediately to correct a perceived wrong. Therefore, it is critical that corporations carefully manage their communications at all times, and that they manage the possible negative impact of any information about the corporation in a way that keeps that information consistent with the corporation's central message.

What has led to this change in how corporations need to communicate? It is no coincidence that CC and ICC have developed alongside the World Wide Web. The fact that complete strangers from totally different cultural backgrounds can communicate about a variety of things, including corporate practices, means that corporations have to be certain that their actions are consistent with their behaviors, to keep their message cohesive. For example, a company with a humanitarian advertising campaign needs to be certain that its offshore production facilities are not employing forced labor, or else they seem like hypocrites. However, it is a mistake to assume that the globalization of knowledge has been a detriment to corporations. On the contrary, a knowledge-based economy has helped change the face of corporate competition; it has made co-operation more efficient than competition in many instances, and has challenged the idea that business is a zero-sum game in which one party wins while the other loses (Varey & White, 2000). This knowledge-based economy has opened up room for friendly competition and cooperation between companies, which has helped change the face of modern business. To suggest that such cooperation is now the norm for business would be wrong; there is still intense competition in the business world. However, it has made it possible for some companies to understand that a corporation's gain does not necessarily require loss on anyone else's part.

These changes in CC have led to the advent of a different type of approach to corporate communications. Corporate communication is about more than communication; it is about corporate strategy. Corporations can use CC to gain a competitive advantage, by using it to lead, motivate, persuade, and inform employees and other stakeholders (Goodman, 2000). What this change means is that marketing has come out of the marketing department. Marketing language is no longer limited to advertisements, in part because of the growing awareness that all corporate communication is, in some way, marketing for the corporation. Therefore, corporate communication is intimately linked to marketing communication. Marketing communication drives the internal and external corporate message, as well as ensuring that the corporate image is aligned with the corporation's social identity (Belasen, 2008). Marketing communication deals with the branding of the corporation, and can help support the institutionalization of the organization by ensuring that the corporation's communications output is consistent with and reinforces that established brand (Belasen, 2008). Corporations have become aware that every single time they interact with people, whether internally or externally, those communications become part of the corporate brand. If even some of those communications are sending messages that are inconsistent with the corporate brand or the corporation's central message, the challenge for is to better integrate the different aspects of the company.

What the above makes clear is that marketing has to permeate the entire company, yet CC is not only about marketing. Marketing is a huge part of communication, but communication is about more than marketing. Corporate communication practitioners need to be able to: teach; absorb and comprehend vast amounts of complex information quickly; build relationships; build trust; build a corporate culture; solve problems in groups; understand media technology; and feel comfortable in a global business environment (Goodman, 2004). All of these additional components are at least as critical as the marketing component, because they help shape the nature of the corporation's communications in a way that goes beyond the attempt to sell products, even if they are about the attempt to sell the company in some way.

It is by looking at all of the various components that one can really begin to understand integration. ICC, like CC, can be very difficult to define because it is highly conceptual. According to Paul Argenti, in order to explain integration in the context of corporate communications, one must first explain what it does not mean o explain what "integrated" means, we can start by looking at what it does not mean (Argenti, 2006). Argenti argues that when a company subdivides its corporate communication functions into different areas, such as investor relations, public relations, etc., and then gives each subdivision its own agenda and set of messages to deliver, then that corporation is not using ICC (Argenti, 2006). This is because each target constituency is getting a different set of messages, rather than getting a tailored version of a single integrated message (Argenti, 2006). Moreover, when a company is subdivided in that manner, communication between the different subgroups is relegated to a voluntary status, rather than a necessary status (Argenti, 2006). When a company is divided in this manner, a company's communications are…

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