Corporate Communication

 
Corporate communication is the message issued by a corporate organization, body, or institute to its publics. "Publics" can be both internal (employees, stakeholders, i.e. share and stock holders) and external (agencies, channel partners, media, government, industry bodies and institutes, educational and general public). An organization must communicate the same message to all its stakeholders, to transmit coherence, credibility and ethic. If any of these essentials is missing, the whole organization may fail. Corporate Communications help organizations explain their mission, combine its many visions and values into a cohesive message to stakeholders. According to the book Essentials of Corporate Communication by Cees van Riel and Charles Fombrun the term Corporate Communication can be defined as the set of activities involved in managing and orchestrating all internal and external communications aimed at creating favorable starting points with stakeholders on which the company depends. Corporate communication consists of the dissemination of information by a variety of specialists and generalists in an organization, with the common goal of enhancing the organization's ability to retain its license to operate. As Jackson (1987) remarks: "Note that it is corporate communication — without a final "s". Tired of being called on to fix the company switchboard, recommend an answering machine or meet a computer salesman, I long ago adopted this form as being more accurate and left communications to the telecommunications specialists. It's a small point but another attempt to bring clarity out of confusion. It is, however, still evident that Jackson's desire to abolish the final "s" has not been universally adopted. The concept of corporate communication could be seen as an integrative communication structure linking stakeholders to the organization. A corporate communication structure is a system which enables organizations to strategically orchestrate all types of communication.
 
Different types of communication
Three principal clusters of task-planning and communication form the backbone of business and the activity of business organizations. These include: Management communications are communications between management and its internal and external audiences. To support management communications, organizations rely heavily on specialists in marketing communications and organizational communications. Marketing communications get the bulk of the budgets in most organizations, and consist of product advertising, direct mail, personal selling, and sponsorship activities. They are supported by organizational communications from specialists in public relations, public affairs, investor relations, environmental communications, corporate advertising, and employee communications.
Corporate communication encompasses management communications, marketing communications, and organizational communications. Corporate communication implies a coherent approach to development of communications in organizations, so communication specialists can standardize communications by creating a common strategic framework.
 
The roots of corporate communication
Corporate communication is historically linked to the field of public relations, which has been concerned with the voice and image of big business for nearly a century.The “Fathers of Public Relations”, Ivy Ledbetter Lee and Edward L. Bernays addressed some issues that managers still face today in corporate communication. Issues in corporate communication are:

  • The large social, political, economic, and cultural climate in which corporations create their images and project their voices;
  • The “opportune moment” or the creation of circumstances for corporate communications; 
  • The need to understand and capitalize on the psychology of constituencies
  • The best mix of communication channels (e.g., videoconferences, email, reports)
  • The ethical dimension of corporate communication.

 
Key tasks of corporate communication 
The responsibilities of corporate communication are:

  • to flesh out the profile of the "company behind the brand" (corporate branding);
  • to minimize discrepancies between the company's desired identity and brand features;
  • to delegate tasks in communication;
  • to formulate and execute effective procedures to make decisions on communication matters;
  • to mobilize internal and external support for corporate objectives
  • to coordinate with international business firms

A Conference Board Study of hundreds of the US’s largest firms showed that close to 80 percent have corporate communication functions that include media relations, speech writing, employee communication, corporate advertising, and community relations. A modern corporate communication function performs company wide, global activities such as corporate advertising, and the management of corporate identity and image and reputation, as well as communications issues targeted more narrowly to a particular constituency important to the company as a whole, such as employees, customers, investors, government, or the public. The public is often represented by self-appointed activist non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who identify themselves with a particular strategic issue. To address the concerns of these generic groups, most companies have created specialized departments responsible for communicating about and with these groups:

  • Internal Communications: A group responsible for communicating with employees, that frequently interfaces with the human resources function in the company.
  • Marketing Communications: A group responsible for communicating with the company's customer accounts and often interfaces with marketing and customer service functions in the company.
  • Investor Relations: A group responsible for communicating with investors and analysts who monitor the company's financial performance and prospects.
  • Government Relations: Often called "public affairs", these specialists are generally responsible for improving the company's relationships with regulators, legislators, and other government representatives.
  • Public Relations: A group whose responsibilities would include interacting with the diffuse set of NGO and activist groups motivated by concern over a specific social problem to which the company may be contributing.

 
Corporate branding 
A corporate brand is the internal perception of a company that unites a group of products or services for the public under a single name, a shared visual identity, and a common set of symbols. The process of corporate branding consists creating favorable associations and positive reputation with both internal and external stakeholders. The purpose of a corporate branding initiative is to generate a positive halo over the products and businesses of the company, imparting more favorable impressions of those products and businesses.
In more general terms, research suggests that corporate branding is an appropriate strategy for companies to implement when: there is significant "information asymmetry" between a company and its clients;That is to say customers are much less informed about a company's products than the company itself is;customers perceive a high degree of risk in purchasing the products or services of the company; features of the company behind the brand would be relevant to the product or service a customer is considering purchasing.
 
Corporate identity/organizational identity 
There are two approaches for Identity, respectively Corporate Identity and Organizational Identity.

  • "Corporate identity is the reality and uniqueness of an organization, which is integrally related to its external and internal image and reputation through corporate communication" (Gray and Balmer, 1998)
  • "Organizational Identity comprises those characteristics of an organization that its members believe are central, distinctive and enduring. That is, organizational identity consists of those attributes that members feel are fundamental to (central) and uniquely descriptive of (distinctive) the organization and that persist within the organization over time (enduring)". (Pratt and Foreman, 2000)

Four types of identity can be distinguished (Balmer, 1997; Balmer and Wilson, 1998):

  • Perceived identity: The collection of attributes that are seen as typical for the ‘continuity, centrality and uniqueness’ of the organization in the eyes of its members.
  • Projected identity: The self presentations of the organization’s attributes manifested in the implicit and explicit signals which the organization broadcasts to internal and external target audiences through communications and symbols.
  • Desired identity (also called ‘ideal’ identity): The idealized picture that top managers hold of what the organization could evolve into under their leadership.
  • Applied identity: The signals that an organization broadcasts both consciously and unconsciously through behaviors and initiatives at all levels within the organization.

 
Corporate responsibility 
Corporate responsibility (often referred to as corporate social responsibility), corporate citizenship, sustainability, and even conscious capitalism are some of the terms bandied about the news media and corporate marketing efforts as companies jockey to win the trust and loyalty of constituents. Corporate responsibility (CR) constitutes an organization’s respect for society’s interests, demonstrated by taking ownership of the effects its activities have on key constituencies including customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and the environment, in all parts of their operations. In short, CR prompts a corporation to look beyond its traditional bottom line, to the social implications of its business. (Argenti, 2009)
 
Corporate reputation
Reputations are overall assessments of organizations by their stakeholders. They are aggregate perceptions by stakeholders of an organization's ability to fulfill their expectations, whether these stakeholders are interested in buying the company's products, working for the company, or investing in the company's shares.In 2000, the US-based Council of PR Firms identified seven programs developed by either media organizations or market research firms, used by companies to assess or benchmark their corporate reputations. Of these, only four are conducted regularly and have broad visibility:"America's Most Admired Companies" by Fortune Magazine; The "Brand Asset Valuator" by Young & Rubicam;"RepTrak" by Reputation Institute;"Best Global Brands" by Interbrand.
 
Internal/employee communications
As the volume of communications grows, many companies create an employee relations (ER) function with dedicated staff to manage the numerous media through which senior managers can communicate among themselves and with the rest of the organization. Internal communications in the 21st century is more than the memos, publications, and broadcasts that comprise it; it’s about building a corporate culture on values that drive organizational excellence. ER specialists are generally expected to fulfill one or more of the following four roles (Krone et al., 1987):

  • Efficiency: Internal communication is used primarily to disseminate information about corporate activities.
  • Shared meaning: Internal communication is used to build a shared understanding among employees about corporate goals.
  • Connectivity: Internal communication is used mainly to clarify the connectedness of the company's people and activities.
  • Satisfaction: Internal communication is used to improve job satisfaction throughout the company.

 
Investor relations
The investor relations (IR) function is used by companies which publicly trade shares on a stock exchange. In such companies, the purpose of the IR specialist is to interface with current and potential financial stakeholders-namely retail investors, institutional investors, and financial analysts.
The role of investor relations is to fulfill three principal functions: comply with regulations; Create a favorable relationship with key financial audiences; contribute to building and maintaining the company's image and reputation.
 
Public relations: issues management and media relations
The role of the public relations specialist, in many ways, is to communicate with the general public in ways that serve the interests of the company. PR therefore consists of numerous specialty areas that convey information about the company to the public, including sponsorships, events, issues management and media relations. Issues management A key role of the PR specialist is to make the company better known for traits and attributes that build the company’s perceived distinctiveness and competitiveness with the public. In recent years, PR specialists have become increasingly involved in helping companies manage strategic issues – public concerns about their activities that are frequently magnified by special interest groups and NGOs. The role of the PR specialist therefore also consists of issues management, namely the “set of organizational procedures, routines, personnel, and issues” (Dutton and Ottensmeyer, 1987). A strategic issue is one that compels a company to deal with it because there is “ a conflict between two or more identifiable groups over procedural or substantive matters relating to the distribution of positions or resources” (Cobb and Elder, 1972). Media relations To build better relationships with the media, organizations must cultivate positive relations with influential members of the media. This task might be handled by employees within the company’s media relations department or handled by a public relations firm. Company/spokesperson profiling These "public faces" are considered authorities in their respective sector/field and ensure the company/organization is in the limelight.

  • Managing content of corporate websites and/or other external touch points
  • Managing corporate publications - for the external world
  • Managing print media

 
Corporate communication officers
Recent research on the corporate communication function reports that corporate communication officers (CCOs) in Global Fortune 500 companies tend to have average tenures of about 4.5 years and that nearly one-half (48 percent) report to the Chief Executive Officer. CCOs say that approximately 42 percent of their job is strategic and 58 percent is tactical. Over the next year, they will be focusing more on social responsibility, social media and reputation. The research done by Weber Shandwick and Spencer Stuart found distinct differences between CCOs in Most Admired companies versus Contender companies.Corporate social responsibility (CSR, also called corporate conscience, corporate citizenship, social performance, or sustainable responsible business/ Responsible Business) is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. CSR policy functions as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards, and international norms. The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for the company's actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere who may also be considered as stakeholders. The term "corporate social responsibility" came into common use in the late 1960s and early 1970s after many multinational corporations formed the term stakeholder, meaning those on whom an organization's activities have an impact. It was used to describe corporate owners beyond shareholders as a result of an influential book by R. Edward Freeman,Strategic management: a stakeholder approach in 1984. Proponents argue that corporations make more long term profits by operating with a perspective, while critics argue that CSR distracts from the economic role of businesses. Others argue CSR is merely window-dressing, or an attempt to pre-empt the role of governments as a watchdog over powerful multinational corporations. CSR is titled to aid an organization's mission as well as a guide to what the company stands for and will uphold to its consumers. Development business ethics is one of the forms of applied ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that can arise in a business environment. ISO 26000 is the recognized international standard for CSR. Public sector organizations (the United Nations for example) adhere to the triple bottom line (TBL). It is widely accepted that CSR adheres to similar principles but with no formal act of legislation. The UN has developed the Principles for Responsible Investment as guidelines for investing entities.
 
Knowledge management
Knowledge management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as processes or practices. An established discipline since 1991 (see Nonaka 1991), KM includes courses taught in the fields of business administration, information systems, management, and library andinformation sciences (Alavi & Leidner 1999). More recently, other fields have started contributing to KM research; these include information and media, computer science, public health, and public policy. Many large companies and non-profit organizations have resources dedicated to internal KM efforts, often as a part of their business strategy, information technology, or human resource management departments (Addicott, McGivern & Ferlie 2006). Several consulting companies also exist that provide strategy and advice regarding KM to these organizations. Knowledge management efforts typically focus on organizational objectives such as improved performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned, integration and continuous improvement of the organization. KM efforts overlap with organizational learning, and may be distinguished from that by a greater focus on the management of knowledge as a strategic asset and a focus on encouraging the sharing of knowledge. It is seen as an enabler of organisational learning and a more concrete mechanism than the previous abstract research.
 
Research 
KM emerged as a scientific discipline in the earlier 1990s. It was initially supported solely by practitioners, when Skandia hired Leif Edvinsson of Sweden as the world’s first Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO). Hubert Saint-Onge (formerly of CIBC, Canada), started investigating various sides of KM long before that. The objective of CKOs is to manage and maximize the intangible assets of their organizations. Gradually, CKOs became interested in not only practical but also theoretical aspects of KM, and the new research field was formed. The KM ideas taken up by academics, such as Ikujiro Nonaka (Hitotsubashi University), Hirotaka Takeuchi (Hitotsubashi University), Thomas H. Davenport (Babson College) and Baruch Lev (New York University). In 2001, Thomas A. Stewart, former editor at FORTUNE Magazine and subsequently the editor of Harvard Business Review, published a cover story highlighting the importance of intellectual capital of organizations. Since its establishment, the KM discipline has been gradually moving towards academic maturity. First, there is a trend towards higher cooperation among academics; particularly, there has been a drop in single-authored publications. Second, the role of practitioners has changed. Their contribution to academic research has been dramatically declining from 30% of overall contributions up to 2002, to only 10% by 2009 (Serenko et al. 2010). A broad range of thoughts on the KM discipline exist; approaches vary by author and school. As the discipline matures, academic debates have increased regarding both the theory and practice of KM, to include the following perspectives: Techno-centric with a focus on technology, ideally those that enhance knowledge sharing and creation; organizational with a focus on how an organization can be designed to facilitate knowledge processes best; ecological with a focus on the interaction of people, identity, knowledge, and environmental factors as a complex adaptive system akin to a natural ecosystem. Regardless of the school of thought, core components of KM include people, processes, technology (or) culture, structure, technology, depending on the specific perspective(Spender & Scherer 2007). Different KM schools of thought include various lenses through which KM can be viewed and explained, to include:

  • community of practice (Wenger, McDermott & Synder 2001)
  • social network analysis
  • intellectual capital (Bontis & Choo 2002)
  • information theory (McInerney 2002)
  • complexity science
  • constructivism (Nanjappa & Grant 2003)

The practical relevance of academic research in KM has been questioned (Ferguson 2005) with action research suggested as having more relevance (Andriessen 2004) and the need to translate the findings presented in academic journals to a practice (Booker, Bontis & Serenko 2008).
 
Dimensions 
Different frameworks for distinguishing between different 'types of' knowledge exist. One proposed framework for categorizing the dimensions of knowledge distinguishes between tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge represents internalized knowledge that an individual may not be consciously aware of, such as how he or she accomplishes particular tasks. At the opposite end of the spectrum, explicit knowledge represents knowledge that the individual holds consciously in mental focus, in a form that can easily be communicated to others (Alavi & Leidner 2001). Similarly, Hayes and Walsham (2003) describe content and relational perspectives of knowledge and knowledge management as two fundamentally different epistemological perspectives. The content perspective suggest that knowledge is easily stored because it may be codified, while the relational perspective recognizes the contextual and relational aspects of knowledge which can make knowledge difficult to share outside of the specific location where the knowledge is developed. Early research suggested that a successful KM effort needs to convert internalized tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge in order to share it, but the same effort must also permit individuals to internalize and make personally meaningful any codified knowledge retrieved from the KM effort. Subsequent research into KM suggested that a distinction between tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge represented an oversimplification and that the notion of explicit knowledge is self-contradictory. Specifically, for knowledge to be made explicit, it must be translated into information (i.e., symbols outside of our heads) (Serenko & Bontis 2004). Later on, Ikujiro Nonaka proposed a model (SECI for Socialization, Externalization, Combination, Internalization) which considers a spiraling knowledge process interaction between explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge (Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995). In this model, knowledge follows a cycle in which implicit knowledge is 'extracted' to become explicit knowledge, and explicit knowledge is 're-internalized' into implicit knowledge. More recently, together with Georg von Krogh, Nonaka returned to his earlier work in an attempt to move the debate about knowledge conversion forwards (Nonaka & von Krogh 2009). A second proposed framework for categorizing the dimensions of knowledge distinguishes between embedded knowledge of a system outside of a human individual (e.g., an information system may have knowledge embedded into its design) and embodied knowledge representing a learned capability of a human body’s nervous and endocrine systems (Sensky 2002). A third proposed framework for categorizing the dimensions of knowledge distinguishes between the exploratory creation of "new knowledge" (i.e., innovation) vs. the transfer or exploitation of "established knowledge" within a group, organization, or community. Collaborative environments such as communities of practice or the use of social computing tools can be used for both knowledge creation and transfer.
 
Strategies 
Knowledge may be accessed at three stages: before, during, or after KM-related activities. Different organizations have tried various knowledge capture incentives, including making content submission mandatory and incorporating rewards into performance measurement plans. Considerable controversy exists over whether incentives work or not in this field and no consensus has emerged. One strategy to KM involves actively managing knowledge (push strategy). In such an instance, individuals strive to explicitly encode their knowledge into a shared knowledge repository, such as a database, as well as retrieving knowledge they need that other individuals have provided to the repository.[13] This is also commonly known as the Codification approach to KM.
Another strategy to KM involves individuals making knowledge requests of experts associated with a particular subject on an ad hoc basis (pull strategy). In such an instance, expert individual(s) can provide their insights to the particular person or people needing this (Snowden 2002). This is also commonly known as the Personalization approach to KM. Other knowledge management strategies and instruments for companies include: rewards (as a means of motivating for knowledge sharing), storytelling (as a means of transferring tacit knowledge), cross-project learning, after action reviews, knowledge mapping (a map of knowledge repositories within a company accessible by all), communities of practice, expert directories (to enable knowledge seeker to reach to the experts), best practice transfer, knowledge fairs, competence management (systematic evaluation and planning of competences of individual organization members), proximity & architecture (the physical situation of employees can be either conducive or obstructive to knowledge sharing), master-apprentice relationship, collaborative technologies (groupware, etc.), knowledge repositories (databases, bookmarking engines, etc.), measuring and reporting intellectual capital (a way of making explicit knowledge for companies), knowledge brokers (some organizational members take on responsibility for a specific "field" and act as first reference on whom to talk about a specific subject), social software (wikis, social bookmarking, blogs, etc.), Inter-project knowledge transfer
 
Motivations 
A number of claims exist as to the motivations leading organizations to undertake a KM effort.[14] Typical considerations driving a KM effort include: Making available increased knowledge content in the development and provision of products and services; Achieving shorter new product development cycles; Facilitating and managing innovation and organizational learning; Leveraging the expertise of people across the organization; Increasing network connectivity between internal and external individuals; Managing business environments and allowing employees to obtain relevant insights and ideas appropriate to their work; Solving intractable or wicked problems; Managing intellectual capital and intellectual assets in the workforce (such as the expertise and know-how possessed by key individuals). Debate exists whether KM is more than a passing fad, though increasing amount of research in this field may hopefully help to answer this question, as well as create consensus on what elements of KM help determine the success or failure of such efforts (Wilson 2002).[15] Knowledge Sharing remains a challenging issue for knowledge management, and while there is no clear agreement barriers may include time issues for knowledge works, the level of trust, lack of effective support technologies and culture (Jennex 2008).
 
Technologies 
Early KM technologies included online corporate yellow pages as expertise locators and document management systems. Combined with the early development of collaborative technologies (in particular Lotus Notes), KM technologies expanded in the mid-1990s. Subsequent KM efforts leveraged semantic technologies for search and retrieval and the development of e-learning tools for communities of practice[16] (Capozzi 2007). Knowledge management systems can thus be categorized as falling into one or more of the following groups: Groupware, document management systems, expert systems, semantic networks, relational and object oriented databases, simulation tools, and artificial intelligence [17](Gupta & Sharma 2004)
More recently, development of social computing tools (such as bookmarks, blogs, and wikis) have allowed more unstructured, self-governing or ecosystem approaches to the transfer, capture and creation of knowledge, including the development of new forms of communities, networks, or matrixed organizations. However such tools for the most part are still based on text and code, and thus represent explicit knowledge transfer. These tools face challenges in distilling meaningful re-usable knowledge and ensuring that their content is transmissible through diverse channels Andrus 2005). Software tools in knowledge management are a collection of technologies and are not necessarily acquired as a single software solution. Furthermore, these knowledge management software tools have the advantage of using the organization existing information technology infrastructure. Organizations and business decision makers spend a great deal of resources and make significant investments in the latest technology, systems and infrastructure to support knowledge management. It is imperative that these investments are validated properly, made wisely and that the most appropriate technologies and software tools are selected or combined to facilitate knowledge management. Knowledge management has also become a cornerstone in emerging business strategies such as Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) with companies increasingly turning to software vendors to enhance their efficiency in industries including, but not limited to, the aviation industry.