The Value of Communication to an Organization
The Value of Communication to an Organization
Table of Contents Cover
Table of Contents
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Part ONE: FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION
CHAPTER ONE CHARACTERISTICS OF EXCELLENT COMMUNICATION The Value of Communication to an Organization Communicator Roles Organization of the Communication Function and Its
Relationship to Other Management Functions Models of Public Relations
Extending the Excellence Theory to a Global Theory The Strategic Management Role of Public Relations New Research to Enhance the Strategic Role of the
Communication Function CHAPTER TWO THE CORPORATE COMMUNICATOR A Senior-Level Strategist A Strategic Role A Senior-Level Adviser A Communicator’s Portfolio of Skills What Corporate Communicators Need to Know about
Their Organizations Corporate Communicator Roles Managing Communication During Change A Corporate Communicator’s Ultimate Responsibility CHAPTER THREE ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE Defining Culture The Impact of Culture on Organizations and People Organization Building Blocks and Culture Assessing an Organization’s Culture Communications and Culture Communications Is a Critical Process for Cultural
Change The Relationship between Organizational Culture and
National Culture Case in Point: America Online and Time Warner CHAPTER FOUR COMMUNICATION AND THE HIGH-
TRUST ORGANIZATION Understanding and Valuing Organizational Trust Our Research Work on Building High-Trust
Organizations Trust and Organizational Excellence The Organizational Trust Model Application of the Trust Model for Organizational
Leaders and Business Communicators Conclusion CHAPTER FIVE COMMUNICATION ETHICS Think Like a Professional: Don’t Be Idealistic When
Sorting Out Right from Wrong Cultural Relativism Ethical Pluralism Who Is an Ideal Virtuous Person? Ethical Triage Factors that Affect Ethical Decision Making Case in Point: Media Bribery Conclusion CHAPTER SIX CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY The Communicator’s Role as Leader and Advocate Toward Standardization of CSR Integrating CSR Communications Bringing It All Together—Why CSR Matters CHAPTER SEVEN CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY
Structuring CSR in Large Organizations Communicating CSR and Sustainability Building Community Relations on a Local Level Sustainability and Reputation Conclusion
Part TWO: MANAGING COMMUNICATION
CHAPTER EIGHT STRATEGIC APPROACHES TO MANAGING THE COMMUNICATIONS FUNCTION Where Does Communications Reside on the
Organizational Chart? Bridging the Islands of Communication Outsourcing How Communications Gets Funded How Communications Functions Demonstrate Value The Communicator as Performance Consultant CHAPTER NINE STRATEGIC PLANNING Timeless Wisdom Still Shapes Successful
Communication Programs Strategic Planning The Strategic Planning Process The Role of Strategic Planning in Communication
Management CHAPTER TEN ISSUES MANAGEMENT Linking Business and Communication Planning
How Issues Develop—and How Organizations Can Influence Them
The Five-Step Issues Management Process Issues Management Improves Communication
Effectiveness Case in Point: Building Grassroots Support for a
Development Project CHAPTER ELEVEN COMMUNICATING CHANGE When Change Just Doesn’t Stop: Creating Really Good
Change Communication Defining Change Communication: A Broader
Consideration What Is the Purpose of Your Communication? Alignment between Change Communication Competence
and Change Communication Expectations Engaging in the Background Talk of Change Case in Point: StateSmart and People Change Conclusion CHAPTER TWELVE CRISIS COMMUNICATION Moving from Tactical Response to Proactive Crisis
Preparedness Defining Crisis Crisis Management and Communication Case in Point: Crisis Management at a Multinational
Organization Conclusion CHAPTER THIRTEEN THE ROLE OF
COMMUNICATIONS IN COMPANY BUSINESS STRATEGY Understand Business Strategy Fundamentals Understand Finance Basics Interview Your Strategy Office Learn About the Business Tie Communications Work to Corporate Metrics and
Business Strategies Measure and Report on Management’s Promise Record Contribute to Business Strategy Formulation Ask Senior Executives What Bugs Them About
Communicators and How You Can Better Meet Their Needs
If You Must Ask for Resources (Human or Financial), Make a Business Case
CHAPTER FOURTEEN THE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON CORPORATE COMMUNICATION The Perfect Storm Consequences The Return to the Marketplace Integration The Speed of Change
Part THREE: INTERNAL COMMUNICATION
CHAPTER FIFTEEN INTERNAL COMMUNICATION Building Blocks of Internal Communication
Social Media: Bringing the Pieces Together Social Networking at Work: Turning Play into Profit Exactly Who Is an Employee? Recognizing Limitations CHAPTER SIXTEEN COMMUNICATING WITH A DIVERSE WORKFORCE Diversity and Inclusion Benefits and Challenges Diversity and Communication Case in Point: Lockheed Martin MS2 Conclusion CHAPTER SEVENTEEN INTEGRATING EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATIONS MEDIA The New Role of Print Online Communication in a 2.0 World Integration: Bringing It All Together CHAPTER EIGHTEEN INTERNAL BRANDING, EMPLOYER BRANDING What It Means Bad Ideas Executed Badly Case in Point: A Great Example The Earth Isn’t Flat (But My Budget Is) Inside Out CHAPTER NINETEEN COMMUNICATING FOR A MERGER OR AN ACQUISITION
Understanding the Terminology Preparing for the M&A Preannouncement Planning Premerger Planning Postmerger Cultural Integration Conclusion CHAPTER TWENTY THE CHALLENGES OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT Throwing Rocks at the Corporate Rhinoceros Workers as Mere Units of Cost Engagement as a Soft Issue The Rock Throwers The Engagement Power of the Boss Translating It All Into Practical Actions Driving the Rhinoceros Away CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE MEASURING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNAL COMMUNICATION Step 1: Identify the Problem and Assess Needs Step 2: Develop a Research Methodology Step 3: Conduct the Research Step 4: Analyze the Data Step 5: Report the Results, Take Action, and Commit to
Follow-Up Measurement Case in Point: Communications Impact Modeling
Part FOUR: PUBLIC RELATIONS
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH AND PLANNING Public Relations Research and Planning Best Practices in Public Relations Research and
Planning Public Relations Impact on Return on Investment Conclusion CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE MEDIA RELATIONS Defining News Selecting the Right Media Media Relations Tools Measuring Your Results Case In Point: More Than Mangos Company Launch CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR INVESTOR RELATIONS AND FINANCIAL COMMUNICATION Why Investor Relations? Shaken Investor Confidence The Numbers The Story Information Central: The Investor Relations Function
and Roles Not All Investors Are Created Equal The Importance of Communication The Tools of the Trade Best Practice Investor Relations Function Integrating Investor Relations and Corporate
Global Trends The End Result of a Strong Investor Relations Program CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE GOVERNMENT RELATIONS Connecting Communication to the Public Policy Process Defining Government Relations Models of Government Relations Government As Key Stakeholder Importance of Research and Evaluation Important Processes for Government Relations Activities Government Relations Structures Case in Point: Canada: Client “Green” Case in Point: United Kingdom: Government Relations
within Communications Conclusion CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX REPUTATION MANAGEMENT Building, Enhancing, and Protecting Organizational
Reputation in the Information Age Building Reputation: Integrity is Everything Reputation Monitoring Enhancing Reputation Protecting Reputation Reputation Repair Case in Point: Good Health Pharmaceuticals Conclusion: The Secret of Reputational Success Is
Sincerity CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN MEASURING PUBLIC
RELATIONS PROGRAMS The Science of Public Relations What You Need to Know about Public Relations
Research Research Tools for Effective Public Relations
Part FIVE: MARKETING COMMUNICATION
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT MARKETING COMMUNICATION Ask and You Shall Receive . . . Several Answers Contextual Target Marketing Shall We Do the Fandango? Speak the Word The Science of Persuasion No Day but Today CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE THE ENGAGEMENT OF BRANDS Consider How Brands Work Focus on Brand Fundamentals Reach For the Big Ideas Follow All the Steps Find the Words Before Creating the Visual Conclusion
CHAPTER THIRTY CUSTOMER RELATIONS Smart Organizations Think Like Their Customers Remember to Forget the Golden Rule Segmentation Is the Key to Thinking Like a Customer Analyze Profitability to Improve Focus Tie Messages to Consumer Values Tailor How Messages Are Communicated to Audiences Determine Which Relationships Should Last Forever Success for the Twenty-First-Century Communicator CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE MEASURING MARKETING COMMUNICATION What to Measure Checkpoints for Measuring Marketing Communication Challenges of Marketing Communications Measurement Measurement by Media Case In Point: American Greetings Index
About the International Association of Business Communicators
Praise for The IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication, Second Edition
“Looking to expand your professional abilities? Learn new skills? Or hone your area of expertise? This book delivers an amazing and practical study of our profession—and a guidebook for strategic communication best practices. The Handbook explores the many aspects of our profession with expert insights of the best of the best in communication.” —John Deveney, ABC, APR, president of Deveney Communication “It is a real pleasure to read the latest version of The IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication. It presents a sound, research-based foundation on communication—its importance to organizations, why the function must be strategic, and what it takes to get it right. From Paul Sanchez’s detailed and insightful analysis of organizational culture and its influence on employees to Mary Ann McCauley’s discussion on the significant role that CSR has come to play as organizations seek new and innovative ways to increase visibility, reputation, and brand awareness with key stakeholders, this is a valuable text that professional communicators should embrace and refer to often for guidance and planning.” —John G. Clemons, ABC, APR, corporate director of community relations, Raytheon “All myths about organizational communicators being brainwashed, biased corporate journalists are out the window with this Handbook. This stellar compendium from dozens of authors, researchers, and editors of high professional stature is timely and forward-thinking. I know these people, and I am in awe of their work. Communication students particularly will benefit from understanding the complex disciplines that intertwine and drive effective organizational communication.” —Barbara W. Puffer, ABC, president, Puffer Public Relations Strategies, and associate professor, Communications Studies and Professional Writing, University of Maryland University College “Chalk up a win for Team IABC. Editor Tamara Gillis has assembled a winning lineup of the best communicators to compile this useful, readable Handbook. Not another how-to-do-it tactical manual, this volume draws from theory and global best practices to explain the strategic reasons behind modern communication. A must-read for anyone interested in understanding the communication profession and a useful desktop companion to the professional communicator’s dictionary and style guide.” —William Briggs, IABC fellow and director, School of Journalism and Mass
Communications, San Jose State University
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The IABC handbook of organizational communication : a guide to internal
communication, public relations, marketing, and leadership / Tamara L. Gillis editor ; foreword by Natasha Nicholson. —2nd ed.
p. cm.—(A joint publication of the Jossey-Bass business & management series and the International Association of Business Communicators)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-470-89406-4 (cloth); ISBN 978-1-118-01633-6 (ebk); ISBN
978-1-118-01634-3 (ebk); ISBN 978-1-118-01635-0 (ebk)
1. Communication in organizations—United States. I. Gillis, Tamara L. II. International Association of Business Communicators.
A JOINT PUBLICATION OF THE JOSSEY-BASS BUSINESS & MANAGEMENT SERIES AND THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATORS
Organizational communication as a profession is relatively young when compared to other business disciplines, tracing it roots back less than 100 years. But as current world events such as the Toyota recalls and government buy-outs of American auto manufacturers have shown, it is a valuable, serious, and essential business component that is necessary for organizations to thrive, grow, and sustain misfortunes. The profession’s emergence and growth is closely matched to the growth and evolution of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). This association came together in 1970 with a band of bold visionaries at its helm —ready to serve an emerging need for a profession of the future. It sought to help its members find their way in the business world and to demonstrate the true value of communication. What started as a group of people who called themselves “industrial editors” grew into a varied assembly of “communicators” responsible for many facets of organizational communication. As the profession has grown, so has IABC. A milestone of that growth is this Handbook. At this book’s foundation is the definition of organizational communication as a profession and details about what that means in today’s business world—adhering to a set of principles that are applied in a number of specialties that affect the successful operation on an organization. When I, or anyone who is close to IABC, describe the association, we often list specialties like media relations, marketing communication, and employee communication as a means of describing the goals and intent of organizational communication. We also acknowledge that the profession is continually growing and evolving to address the current best practices in communication strategy that affect organizational communications. We do this because it is this composition of specialties that breathes life into communication. This composition of complementary specialties shows that organizational communication is not a neat and tidy package. It is a complex array of communication disciplines that connect to shape an organization’s destiny—creating the difference between an engaged workforce and one that is wrought with malaise, offering the ability to relate the vision of a brilliant company or convey a sadly backward entity. This second edition of this Handbook signifies the progression of a profession —separated into specialties that are worthwhile and essential to today’s business world. IABC, with outstanding guidance from Tamara Gillis, has collected the best and brightest in the communication world and included into this book their thoughts, perspectives, concerns, and analysis. It is a must-read for every communicator who wants to understand the real value of communication. And it is very much like IABC’s members themselves: a collection of great
communicators, sharing best practices, analyzing what works and what does not, and striving to make organizations stronger through communication. This collection of organizational communication practices complements IABC’s research agenda as well as its vast and ever-growing library of resources. I welcome you to learn more about IABC by visiting www.iabc.com.
Vice President, Publishing and Recognition
Executive Editor, Communication World
PREFACE May you live in interesting times.
Seems like we have all been cursed: we are living in interesting times. The landscape of business communication continues to evolve to meet the demands of the business world around us. The International Association of Business Communicators ([IABC], 2010) continues to meet the needs of professional communicators tasked with maneuvering that ever-changing landscape through professional development programs and groundbreaking research that shares “best global communication practices, ideas and experiences that will enable communicators to develop highly ethical and effective performance standards” and this second edition of The IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication. In 2009 I conducted a series of surveys, interviews, and content analyses to create a snapshot of competencies and expectations of professional communicators today (Gillis, 2009). Not surprising, communication thought leaders and employers around the world came to similar conclusions, and members of the IABC Accreditation Council agreed that the following findings set a foundation for business communicators today—and the foundation for this book:
Business communicators must have business acumen. Business communicators are expected to provide sound communication counsel. Business communicators are expected to think and act strategically. Business communicators are expected to support decision making with sound research, measurement, and evaluation. Business communicators are expected to make ethical decisions. Business communicators are expected to leverage communication technology to meet business goals. Business communicators are expected to cultivate organizational trust and credibility. Business communicators must embrace diversity. Business communicators are expected to be able to manage communications to support organizations in times of change. Business communicators must be prepared to handle crisis communication. Business communicators are expected to build relationships with the media. Business communicators are expected to keep up with current best practices in their discipline. Last but not least, business communicators must have excellent basic skills
in writing and editing.
Regardless of the issue at hand, these basic principles continue to ring true: You need a sound plan, well-crafted messages that deliver on business strategies, delivered by appropriate media that reach the target audiences, and a means to measure your accomplishments. Our publics are demanding clear, concise, and reasoned communications from business enterprises, nonprofit organizations, and government entities alike. We live in interesting times. A time when as communicators our strategic communications empower employees; educate analysts and investors; encourage suppliers; and comfort customers. We communicate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with media representatives who are often biased and jaded because of their lack of preparation and research as they meet deadlines for a voracious and frustrated public. Robert Dilenschneider (2008) reminds us that in the end “it is the role of communicators in our society today to sustain confident communications. We need to find ways to communicate confidence and reduce panic through genuine communication so that solutions can be found and shared.” It is in these “interesting times,” our finest hours as communicators, that we leave a legacy of communication strategy that defines corporate communication, organizational communication, and both public and internal communication strategies. My sincere thanks to the chapter authors; their expertise and wisdom made this book possible. Special thanks go to the IABC Accreditation Council for their insights into the process of developing this Handbook. It is my hope that communication practitioners at all levels, educators, and those outside the communications field will find in this book insights and understanding that contribute to organizational success.
Who Should Read This Book? This book is designed and organized with a number of different readers in mind. If you are new to the world of corporate communication, the chapters in this book bring to the fore issues that are critical to understand and master in any organization. If you are a professional communicator, this book provides new insights on traditional and emerging issues in organizational communication. If you are a corporate executive outside the communication discipline, this book will help you understand the importance and reach of communication within your organization and with external stakeholders. Understanding occurs when people ask questions and share information. This book follows suit. Like any other handbook, it may be read in a number of ways.
First, it may be read from cover to cover. If you are interested in all facets of organizational communication, you will enjoy starting at the beginning of this book and reading through to the end. The book’s organization builds from general topics to specialty interests. Second, readers may choose to skim the book for topics of interest or topics related to a current challenge. This book touches on issues of interest to those new to the field of organizational communications as well as seasoned professionals.
How This Book Is Organized In developing the content for this second edition, a review of the 2006 edition was conducted in addition to the competency research referenced earlier. The Accreditation Council and other communication leaders agreed that this new edition would benefit from more case studies and examples, a greater focus on measurement, and less redundancy. In this edition readers will find more examples of principles and practices that support the foundational elements of business communication. The topics addressed in this Handbook represent what our experts agreed was most relevant for communicators and other organization associates to understand about the process of organizational communication. This book is organized into five parts. Part One serves as an introduction to business communication and addresses some universal premises concerning corporate communication. The chapters in this part introduce readers to complexities and structures of corporate communication. The universal concepts of excellence, trust, culture, ethics, social responsibility, and measurement are reviewed to set the foundation for the role of corporate communicators today. Part Two focuses on the current challenges of managing corporate communications and organizational communication. Cultivating a culture of communication is critical within any organization. The authors share insights into successful planning, implementation, and management of corporate communication. The strategies they review are fundamental to successful communication management. Part Three contains seven chapters that explore evolving issues in the practice of employee communication and internal communication networks. At the heart of each excellent organization or corporation is a trusted internal communication program. Integral issues of relationship building, employee engagement, diversity, and internal branding are highlighted here as key to developing trusted internal programs. Part Four apprises readers of the role of public relations in the corporate communication program. A host of external publics await business communicators. These stakeholders will have an impact on the reputation and success of our organizations in reaching their goals. The chapters demonstrate the
need for a strategic approach to managing external relationships. Part Five addresses key concepts of marketing and brand management and their place in the corporate communication program. The chapters in this part bring to life the internal impact and external challenges of marketing communications. Here, professionals share their insights and expertise for developing excellence in corporate performance through marketing communication programming.
Acknowledgments The process of compiling a volume of knowledge like The IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication is an arduous one, with many twists and turns along the way. I am grateful for the assistance and friendship that I received from Amanda Aiello, Natasha Nicholson, and Heather Turbeville. I especially thank all the chapter authors who contributed their time and wisdom. Their expertise will help countless professionals make the right choices for their organizations. A special thank you to the accredited business communicators who helped in the preliminary stages. And one big thank you to Jeffrey for all his support during the process.
Tamara L. Gillis
Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania References
Dilenschneider, R. (2008, October 13). Communicating during turbulent times, Keynote address to the 2008 IABC Heritage Regional Conference. Hartford, CT. Gillis, T. (2009). It’s your move: Competencies and expectations. (Proprietary research). San Francisco: International Association of Business Communicators. International Association of Business Communicators [IABC]. (2010). IABC’s mission, vision and brand. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from www.iabc.com/info/about/aboutiab.htm.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Rob Briggs is director of internal communications for the international division of RBC Wealth Management, one of the world’s largest private banks and based in London, UK, and Jersey, Channel Islands. He provides strategic counsel as well as the implementation of internal communication campaigns, executive communications, and community relations programs. Briggs is a past chairman of the Europe and Middle East Region of IABC. He holds an M.Sc. with Merit in corporate communications and reputation management from Manchester Business School; a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Reading; an advanced diploma in communication studies from the Communication, Advertising and Marketing Foundation; and the financial planning certificate from the Chartered Insurance Institute. He is accredited by the British Association of Communicators in Business and is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Steve Crescenzo is a consultant, writer, and seminar leader who has helped thousands of communicators improve both their print and electronic communications efforts. Recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts in corporate communications, Crescenzo is the leader of the popular Strategic Creative Communication seminar and speaks around the world on employee communication, social media, writing, integrating print and online, and creativity. He was the number one rated speaker of IABC’s International Conferences in 2002, 2008, 2009, and 2010 and has been asked to speak in IABC’s “All Star Track” for the past five years. He also writes a regular column on employee communications in Communication World magazine. Roger D’Aprix, ABC, IABC Fellow, is an internationally known communications consultant, author, and lecturer. He has assisted scores of Fortune 500 companies in developing communication strategies, designing communication initiatives, and training for managers and supervisors. He is a vice president of ROI Consulting, a Silicon Valley–based consultancy. For fifteen years he held senior positions with two of the leading human resource consulting companies: Towers Perrin and Mercer. He is the author of seven books on employee communication. His latest book published in 2009 by Jossey-Bass is The Credible Company: Communicating with Today’s Skeptical Workforce. His consulting career follows two decades as a corporate communication executive for Xerox Corporation and General Electric. Melissa D. Dodd is a doctoral student focusing on communication/public relations at the University of Miami’s School of Communication. Dodd is a co- organizer for the International Public Relations Research Conference and a coauthor for the instructor’s manual companion to Don W. Stack’s Primer of
Public Relations Research, second edition. She received the Brigham Young University Top Ethics Paper Award in March 2010. Dodd has gained practical public relations experience through several public relations and marketing positions and internships. She earned her master of arts in public relations from Ball State University and will graduate with her doctorate in 2012. Nick Durutta, ABC, is a senior communications manager for The Capital Group Companies, a global investment management firm based in Los Angeles. Prior to joining Capital in 1996, he was a communications consultant for many years, specializing in internal change communication. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University at Fullerton. A member and a past director of the IABC, he has served as chair of the organization’s international awards program as well as president of the Los Angeles chapter. Jennifer Frahm, Ph.D., is the founder of Conversations of Change®, a boutique consultancy that specializes in change communication, building change capability in house, coaching change agents and leaders, and conducting off-site retreats on career and work-life change. She has change management experience in financial services, higher education, energy, innovation, human services, and manufacturing. This work has involved providing strategic advice to senior management, diagnosis of communications problems, and analysis of change interventions with an emphasis on change program effectiveness. She holds a doctorate in management, is the 2010–2011 IABC Victoria Australia chapter president, blogs on the IABC eXchange, and can be found on Twitter (@jenfrahm). Kellie Garrett, ABC, is senior vice president of strategy, knowledge, and reputation at Farm Credit Canada (FCC). She is responsible for FCC’s business strategy, knowledge management and strategic intelligence, and reputation, including corporate communications. Her team has won dozens of awards for innovative and best practice programs in diverse areas. She is a frequent speaker in her areas of expertise and a passionate volunteer for boards in the areas of corporate social responsibility and autism. Garrett was chair of IABC’s Research Foundation Board in 2006. She holds an M.A. in leadership and is a certified executive coach. Diane M. Gayeski, Ph.D., is internationally recognized as a thought leader in organizational communication and learning. Currently she is the dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications. For more than thirty years, she has been both an academic and a professional specializing in corporate communications strategy and management. She leads Gayeski Analytics and consults with clients worldwide such as General Electric, U.S. Navy, Abbott Nutritionals, Tompkins Financial, and Johnson Controls. The author of fourteen books, she is a frequent speaker at conferences and private executive briefings. Tamara L. Gillis, Ed.D., ABC, is professor and chairman of the Department of Communications at Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania. She has also served as
a communications consultant with Cooper Wright LLC. In her career, she has led communication programs for higher education institutions, associations, and a health care corporation. She has served as faculty in Swaziland, Namibia, and the Semester at Sea program. The IABC Research Foundation honored her with the 2004 Foundation Lifetime Friend Award. In 2001–2002 she chaired the IABC Research Foundation. She has held leadership positions at the district and international levels of IABC, and she recently led the organization’s efforts to revise the ABC accreditation program. The author of numerous articles and book chapters, she is coauthor of Essentials of Employee Communication: Building Relationships that Create Business Success (IABC, 2008) and IABC Profile Study: Trends in Communication Profession Compensation (IABC, 2008), and author of The Human Element: Employee Communication Practices in Small Businesses (IABC, 2008). She holds a doctorate in education from the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania). Patrick Grady is senior vice president and managing partner of CMS Communications International, an innovative communication agency based in Los Angeles. He heads up the CMS consulting business and is based in Orlando, Florida. Prior to joining CMS he held numerous positions in marketing communications, events management, and strategic and internal communications with companies including RadioShack Corporation, commercial radio stations, and an international television network. His career has included media production, executive producer, on-air talent, and presentation coach as well as strategic communicator. Lin Grensing-Pophal, M.A., SPHR, PCM, is a communications consultant and business journalist with an extensive background in strategic marketing, corporate communications, and employee relations. She has led several strategic planning initiatives in the areas of crisis management and marketing planning. As a National Baldrige examiner, Pophal has been involved in the development of applications and the individual and consensus review and scoring of Baldrige applications for large and small organizations. She is the author of several books, including Marketing with the End In Mind (IABC, 2005) and Human Resource Essentials (SHRM, 2002). She is the coauthor of Writing a Convincing Business Plan, third edition (Barron’s Educational Series, 2001). James E. Grunig is professor emeritus in the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland. He has won three major awards in public relations: the Pathfinder Award for excellence in public relations research of the Institute for Public Relations Research and Education, the Outstanding Educator Award of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and the Jackson, Jackson and Wagner Award for behavioral science research of the PRSA Foundation. He also won the prestigious lifetime award of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the Paul J. Deutschmann Award for Excellence in Research.
Larissa A. Grunig is professor emerita in the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland. She served as special assistant to the president of the university for women’s issues. She has received the Pathfinder Award, sponsored by the U.S. Institute for Public Relations, for excellence in public relations research, the Outstanding Educator Award of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and the Jackson, Jackson and Wagner Award for behavioral science research of the PRSA Foundation. She coauthored the first book on women in public relations. Shel Holtz, ABC, IABC Fellow, is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology, a consultancy that helps organizations apply online technology to their organizational communications. He has spent more than thirty years in the communications field as a director of corporate communications for two Fortune 500 companies and as a senior communications consultant for two human resource consulting firms. He is the author of Public Relations on the Net and Corporate Conversations. John Larsen, ABC, is principal of Corpen Group, Inc., an independent consultancy specializing in reputation management and government relations. He has held senior communications positions with various orders of government and in the corporate sector, including manager of executive communications for the City of Calgary and associate vice president with an international public affairs and government relations consulting agency. Larsen has lectured at four Canadian colleges and universities, is a popular industry and academic conference speaker, and has a graduate degree in communications; he is an Accredited Business Communicator, a certified member of the American Institute for Crisis Management, a member of the U.S.-based Issue Management Council, and holds formal United Nations status as an International Permanent Observatory Expert. John is also a senior reserve officer in the Canadian Forces Public Affairs Branch. Wilma K. Mathews, ABC, IABC Fellow, has more than three decades of experience in domestic and international public relations and communication management. She is author and coauthor of numerous books and a contributor to several magazines, newsletters, and reports. Mathews is an internationally known speaker, provides counsel to organizations on strategic and media relations planning, and currently serves as chair of the IABC Ethics Committee. She previously served as chair of the IABC Research Foundation and the Accreditation Council and as a member of the IABC executive board. She is a Gold Quill winner for media relations and writing. She is a member of the Rowan University PR Hall of Fame and has taught at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University. Mary Ann McCauley, ABC, president and principal of Catalyst Communi- cations, provides strategic communication counsel to a broad spectrum of businesses and nonprofits. McCauley provides general communication counsel with a focus on strategic communication planning and implementation. Prior to
founding Catalyst Communications in 1987, she held positions in corporations including Hallmark Cards, United Technologies Communications Company, and First Union Bancorporation. A former journalist, she was a reporter at an Iowa daily and later owned and operated a community newspaper in Kansas. She holds a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri. Mark McElreath, ABC, APR, Ph.D., is a professor at Towson University in Maryland, and a member of IABC for more than thirty years. He can be reached at email@example.com. George McGrath is a partner and founder of McGrath Matter Associates, a public relations and public affairs consulting firm. Over the course of a twenty- five-year career in communications, McGrath has helped clients identify issues that are key to their success and develop business strategies and communications campaigns to influence the course of debates over public policy. He has worked with businesses, trade associations, and nonprofit organizations on a range of issues, including environmental protection, energy competition, health care delivery, and education. He served on the IABC international board between 1989 and 1994 and was IABC’s international chairman between 1992 and 1993. Rita Linjuan Men is a doctoral student in public relations at the University of Miami’s School of Communication. She is a member of Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and Public Relations Professionals Association in Hong Kong. She is a co-organizer for the International Public Relations Research Conference and a coauthor for the instructor’s manual companion to Don W. Stack’s Primer of Public Relations Research, 2nd edition. She earned her master of philosophy in communications studies from Hong Kong Baptist University and a B.A. in communication from Zhejiang University. Sherwyn Morreale is associate professor and director of graduate studies in communication at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. For eight years, she served as associate director of the National Communication Association. She has written or coauthored numerous journal articles, books, monographs, and book chapters. She holds communication degrees from University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and University of Colorado, Denver, and a Ph.D. in communication from University of Denver. Alistair J. Nicholas is a frequent writer and commentator on reputation management. His career of more than twenty-five years spans journalism, politics, diplomacy, in-house communications counsel, and communications consulting across Australia, the United States, and China. He is currently the president and CEO of AC Capital Strategic Consulting, a firm he established in Beijing in 2003 to provide reputation management, public affairs, and issues and crisis management services to organizations operating in China. The firm’s clients include global Fortune 500 companies, Chinese state-owned enterprises, Chinese and foreign government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
Morgan Leu Parkhurst is owner of Blue + Linen, an organization focused on helping businesses to develop their marketing communications strategies. She has been a subject matter expert on integrated marketing communications for SCORE and Small Business Development Center seminars, has taught marketing communications courses to business owners and managers, and has been a featured speaker at business conferences. She has written for nationally and internationally distributed publications on the topics of entrepreneurship, marketing, media relations, networking, and consumer behavior. She has an MBA in marketing from Iowa State University. She is the past president of IABC/Iowa. Lester R. Potter, ABC, MBA, IABC Fellow, is a senior lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies at Towson University in Maryland. He is also a doctoral candidate in instructional technology at Towson. He serves as faculty advisor to Towson’s Student PR Group, which includes PRSA and IABC student chapters. Potter blogs about strategic communication and public relations and integrated marketing communication in More with Les, at http://lespotter001.wordpress.com. Prior to joining Towson’s faculty, Potter was president of Les Potter Incorporated, an international consultancy that he founded. Potter was chairman of IABC from 1991 to 1992. He had previously served on IABC’s executive board, accreditation board, and as a trustee of the IABC Research Foundation. He is the author of The Communication Plan: the Heart of Strategic Communication (IABC, 2008) and Business Management for Communicators: Beyond Strategic Communication (IABC). Paul M. Sanchez, ABC, APR, is founder of CSF Consulting, a research and communications firm. Prior to his current position, he worked for Mercer, Stoorza Communications, and Watson Wyatt Worldwide. His past IABC activities include executive board member, executive committee finance director, ethics committee chair, board member of IABC’s U.K. chapter, and chairman of the IABC Research Foundation (2005–2006). He has a B.Sc. in psychology and a M.Sc. in organizational communications. He also attended the Executive Leadership Development at the Harvard Business School. While in the United Kingdom he was elected to the Royal Society of Arts and Mechanics. He has contributed to professional journals and wrote Transformation Communications, published by IABC. Caroline Sapriel is the founder and managing director of CS&A, a global risk and crisis management consulting firm with offices in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore. She regularly speaks at international conferences and seminars on risk and crisis management, has written numerous journal articles, and has been a guest lecturer at the graduate school of public administration of Leiden University. She has been a member of the IABC since 1987 and serves on the board of its Belgian Chapter. She holds a B.A. in Chinese studies and a B.Sc.
degree in international relations from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. D. Mark Schumann, ABC, is passionate about all things brand and communication related. As a consultant, he has created employer brands for more than a hundred companies around the world; as an author, he has coauthored two books on employer brands, Brand from the Inside and Brand for Talent, and, as a volunteer, he is a past chair of IABC and an active participant in the development of the association’s brand. He is the winner of seventeen IABC Gold Quill Awards and a frequent IABC speaker and author. Today, he maintains a daily blog, www.acommunicatorsview.com, and leads a consultancy, How Brands Engage, based in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Pamela Shockley-Zalabak is chancellor and professor of communication at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She also is president of CommuniCon, a consulting group that specializes in leadership development, conflict resolution, and development of team-based organizations. The author of six books and numerous articles, Shockley-Zalabak focuses on large-scale organizational assessment and planning. She received her B.A. and M.A. from Oklahoma State University and her Ph.D. in communication from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Lorenzo Sierra is a marketing communication and public affairs consultant based in Arizona and the marketing and public relations manager for LVM Systems, a software company for health care call centers. Before joining LVM, Sierra was the regional marketing director for a Fortune 100 health insurance company and a communication consultant at a Fortune 500 human resources consulting firm. He sits on the boards of BMA Phoenix, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Parenting Arizona. He is also an appointed commissioner on the Arizona Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism. Lorenzo holds a B.A. in journalism from Arizona State University. Don W. Stacks is professor and associate dean for Faculty Research and Creative Activity at the University of Miami’s School of Communication. Stacks is the author of numerous articles, chapters, books, and professional papers dealing with public relations. He is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society and Commission on Public Relations Measurement and sits on the board of trustees for the Institute for Public Relations. He earned his doctorate from the University of Florida. Karen Vahouny, ABC, is a founding partner of Qorvis Communications. Earlier, she was vice president of corporate communications at PRC, an information technology company. She was elected to the board of trustees for the National Endowment for Financial Education in 2010. Twice named Business Communicator of the Year for IABC/Washington, Vahouny has served on the IABC executive board, the IABC Research Foundation board, presented at several international conferences, wrote articles for Communication World, and chaired the IABC Think Tank and the IABC investment committee. She serves on the
board of directors for the Capital Area Chapter of the National Investor Relations Institute. She holds a B.S. in marketing from the University of Virginia and an M.B.A. in finance and management from George Mason University. Mark Weiner is the chief executive officer of PRIME Research North America, one of the world’s largest public relations and corporate communications research and consulting providers. He is the author of Unleashing the Power of PR: A Contrarian’s Guide to Marketing and Communication (Wiley) and has contributed chapters to three other texts. He is a frequent speaker and a visiting professor for The Executive Education Programs, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and has guest-lectured at many of the nation’s leading public relations programs. He is a regular contributor to leading communication and public relations professional media and sits on the editorial advisory boards of the Strategist and PR News. Weiner is a member of The Institute for Public Relations, PRSA, IABC. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland. Patricia T. Whalen is an educator and consultant with more than twenty years of professional work experience. She has served as the head of corporate communications for a Fortune 300 company and as marketing director for an international telecommunications firm. Since 2006 she has served as the graduate director for DePaul University’s master’s program in public relations and advertising. Prior to that, she spent eight years as a full-time faculty member in the Medill Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program at Northwestern University. She wrote How Communication Drives Merger Success (IABC, 2002). She has also written books on corporate communications and marketing public relations. She holds a doctorate in mass media from Michigan State University, a master’s of science degree in business administration from Indiana University at South Bend, and a bachelor’s degree in English from the Ohio State University. Brad Whitworth, ABC, IABC Fellow, is senior communication manager at Cisco, based in San Jose, California. His work has earned him recognition as a thought leader in the field of internal communications. A former broadcaster, Whitworth speaks regularly to business executives, communication groups, and university classes around the world. Before joining Cisco in 2007, he led communication programs at HP, PeopleSoft, and AAA. While at HP he developed the merger communications for the $20 billion HP-Compaq PC business and managed the company’s Y2K communications program. He holds bachelor’s degrees in both journalism and speech from the University of Missouri and an MBA from Santa Clara University. He served as IABC chairman in 1989–1990 and has won six IABC Gold Quills. Anna Marie Willey, ABC, is president of Total Communications Services Ltd., a communication consulting corporation based in Saskatchewan, Canada, with interest in local, national, and international projects. She has more than thirty
years experience specializing in strategic communications management and planning and organizational development and implementation. Her prior roles have included overall responsibility for government communications while chief of communications for the Government of Saskatchewan, vice president of communications with SaskPower, and other executive-level strategic positions within government and major institutions. Throughout her career, she has received a number of honors and awards and has enjoyed many roles as an active volunteer with IABC serving at the local level as well as the international level as chair of the IABC Accreditation Council. John Williams is president of Joe Williams Communications, Inc., a twenty- five-year-old communications research, training, and consulting firm. John has conducted communications measurement, including surveys, focus groups, and audits, for organizations of all sizes and industries. He developed his firm’s Performance Impact Analysis program, which identifies the key communications drivers of organizational performance. Joe Williams Communications has conducted communications surveys for more than a hundred companies and has a database that represents more than 500,000 global employees. You may reach John at john.williams@JWCom.com, or visit www.jwcom.com. Note
Editor’s Note: The following designations are used to identify accredited communicators: ABC designates Accredited Business Communicator through the International Association of Business Communicators; APR designates Accreditation in Public Relations through the Public Relations Society of America.
Part ONE: FOUNDATIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION
CHARACTERISTICS OF EXCELLENT COMMUNICATION
James E. Grunig, Larissa A. Grunig
When the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Research Foundation issued a request for proposals in 1984 for research on “How, Why, and to What Extent Communication Contributes to the Achievement of Organizational Objectives,” we first thought of the opportunity to move beyond evaluating individual communication programs such as media, community, or employee relations, where we had previously conducted research, to construct a theory of the overall value of the public relations function to the organization. Thus, the Excellence study offered the possibility of constructing a theory of how public relations contributes to organizational effectiveness.
At the same time, our collaborators on the project (David Dozier, William Ehling, Fred Repper, and Jon White) noted that the project would make it possible to integrate a number of middle-range concepts that explained how the communication function should be organized to increase its value to the organization. James Grunig brought his concepts of publics, organizational theory and decision making, models of public relations, evaluation of public relations, and research on employee communication to the project. David Dozier contributed his and Glen Broom’s roles theory. William Ehling contributed his knowledge of operations research and his views on the controversy over public relations and integrated marketing communication. Larissa Grunig brought her knowledge of gender, diversity, power, activism, and organizational structure and culture. Jon White contributed his ideas about public relations and strategic management. To this mix, Fred Repper, our practitioner member of the team, added his understanding of how theories worked in practice. The package became what we now know as the Excellence theory. Based on our research, we developed a generic benchmark (Fleisher, 1995) of
critical success factors and best practices in communication management. In most public relations benchmarking studies, a researcher compares a communication unit with other units in its own industry that are generally recognized as the best. The Excellence study, by contrast, identified best practices across different types of organizations—corporations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and associations. Generic benchmarking is more valuable than benchmarking a single case because it is unlikely that one organization will be “a world-class performer across the board” (Fleisher, 1995, p. 29). In the Excellence study, we found that a few organizations exemplified most of the best practices, many exemplified some, and others had few of these characteristics. A generic benchmark does not provide an exact formula or detailed description of practices that a communication unit can copy to be excellent. Rather, it provides a set of principles that professionals can use to generate ideas for specific practices in their own organizations. We tested the Excellence theory through survey research of heads of public relations, chief executive officers (CEOs), and employees in 327 organizations (corporations, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and associations) in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The survey research was followed by qualitative interviews with heads of public relations, other public relations practitioners, and CEOs in twenty-five organizations with the highest and lowest scores on a scale of Excellence produced by statistical analysis of the survey data. Three books were published from the research (Grunig, 1992; Dozier, Grunig & Grunig, 1995; & Grunig, Grunig, & Dozier, 2002). In our first book, Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management, Repper (1992) explained how the theory of Excellence can be used to audit communication programs: “One thing communicators never have been able to do is to compare our communication programs with a program that is considered the best and most effective. However, the normative theory provided in the book gives us an opportunity to measure the effectiveness of our communication programs against that of an ideal program” (Grunig, 1992, p. 112). Any professional communicator or executive to whom the communication function reports could conduct a formal or informal audit to compare that function with the generic benchmark we have developed. Professional communicators asked to serve as peer reviewers for other organizations could use the characteristics as a qualitative benchmark to frame their evaluation.
The Value of Communication to an Organization
IABC’s emphasis on explaining the value of public relations stimulated us to put measurement and evaluation into a broader perspective than the program level.
Although program evaluation remained an important component of our theory, we realized that it could not show the overall value of the public relations function to the organization. Our review of the literature on organizational effectiveness first showed that public relations has value when it helps the organization achieve its goals. However, the literature also showed that it has to develop those goals through interaction with strategic constituencies (stakeholders and publics). We theorized that communication adds value when it helps the organization identify stakeholders and segment different kinds of publics from stakeholder categories. CEOs in the qualitative portion of the study, for example, emphasized that the communication function has value because it provides a broad, diverse perspective both inside and outside the organization. Second, we showed that public relations increases its value when it uses symmetrical communication to develop and cultivate relationships with strategic publics. If it develops good relationships with strategic publics, an organization is likely to develop goals desired by both the organization and its publics and to achieve those goals because it shares the goals and collaborates with publics. Similarly, CEOs emphasized the value of public relations in helping the organization deal with crises and conflicts with activist groups. Although we concluded that it is difficult to place a monetary value on relationships with publics and the outside perspective of public relations, our interviews with CEOs and senior public relations officers revealed numerous examples of how public relations had reduced the costs of litigation, regulation, legislation, and negative publicity caused by poor relationships, issues, and crises; reduced the risk of making decisions that affect different stakeholders; or increased revenue by providing products and services needed by stakeholders. Those examples provided powerful qualitative evidence of the value of good relationships with strategic publics. In addition to explaining the value of communication, the Excellence study provided solid theory and empirical evidence of how the function should be organized to maximize this value. The characteristics of an excellent public relations function can be placed into four categories, each containing several characteristics that can be audited. For public relations to contribute to organizational effectiveness, the organization must empower public relations as a critical management function. Empowerment of the public relations function includes four characteristics: 1. The senior communication executive is involved with the strategic
management processes of the organization, and communication programs are developed for strategic publics identified through this process. Public relations contributes to strategic management by scanning the environment to identify the publics affected by the consequences of decisions or that might affect the outcome of decisions. An excellent public relations department communicates with these
publics to bring their voices into strategic management, thus making it possible for publics to participate in organizational decisions that affect them. 2. Communication programs organized by excellent departments to communicate with strategic publics also are managed strategically. To be managed strategically means that these programs are based on formative research, that they have concrete and measurable objectives, and that they are evaluated either formally or informally. In addition, the communication staff can provide evidence to show that these programs achieved their short-term objectives and improved long-term relationships between the organization and its publics. 3. The senior public relations executive is a member of the dominant coalition of the organization or has a direct reporting relationship to senior managers who are part of the dominant coalition. The communication function seldom will have the power to affect key organizational decisions unless the chief communication officer is part of or has access to the group of senior managers with the greatest power in the organization. 4. Diversity is embodied in all public relations roles. The principle of requisite variety suggests that organizations need as much diversity inside as in their environment if they are to interact successfully with all strategic elements of their environment. Excellent public relations departments empower both men and women in all roles as well as practitioners of diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.
Communicator Roles Public relations researchers have identified two major roles that communicators play in organizations: the manager and technician roles. Communication technicians are essential to carry out most of the day-to-day communication activities of public relations departments, and many practitioners play both roles. In less excellent departments, however, all of the communication practitioners— including the senior practitioner—are technicians. If the senior communicator is not a manager, it is not possible for public relations to be empowered as a management function. Three characteristics of excellence in public relations are related to the managerial role: 1. The communication unit is headed by a strategic manager rather
than a technician or an administrative manager. Excellent public relations units must have at least one senior communication manager who conceptualizes and directs communication programs. Otherwise, members of the dominant coalition who have little knowledge of communication management will supply this direction. In addition, the
Excellence study distinguished between a strategic manager and an administrative manager. Administrative managers typically manage day-to-day operations of the communication function, personnel, and the budget; they generally are supervisors of technicians. Strategic managers provide communication strategies that support the business goals. If the senior public relations officer is an administrative manager, the department usually will not be excellent. 2. The senior communication executive or others in the public relations unit must have the knowledge needed for a strategic role. Excellent public relations programs are staffed by practitioners who have gained the knowledge needed to carry out the strategic manager role through university education, continuing education, or self-study. 3. Both men and women must have equal opportunity to occupy the managerial role. The majority of public relations professionals are women. If women are not considered for managerial roles, the communication function is diminished because many of the most knowledgeable practitioners are excluded from that role. When that is the case, the senior position in the communication department often is filled by someone from another managerial function who has little knowledge of public relations.
Organization of the Communication Function and Its Relationship to Other Management
Functions Many organizations have a single department devoted to all communication functions. Others have separate departments for programs aimed at different publics such as journalists, employees, the local community, or the financial community. Still others place communication under another managerial function such as marketing, human resources, legal, or finance. Many organizations also contract with or consult with outside firms for all or some of their communication programs or for such communication techniques as annual reports or newsletters. Two characteristics are related to the organization of the function: 1. Public relations should be an integrated communication function. An
excellent public relations function integrates communication programs into a single department or provides a mechanism for coordinating programs managed by different departments. Only in an integrated system is it possible for public relations to develop new communication programs for changing strategic publics and to move resources from programs designed for formerly strategic publics to the new programs.
2. Communication should be a management function separate from other functions. Even though the communication function is integrated, it should not be placed under a management function such as marketing or human resources. When the public relations function is sublimated to other functions, it cannot be managed strategically because it cannot move resources from one strategic public to another—as an integrated public relations function can.
Models of Public Relations Public relations scholars have conducted extensive research on the extent to which organizations practice four models of public relations—four typical ways of conceptualizing and conducting the communication function—and to identify which of these models provides a normative framework for effective and ethical public relations. These models are the (1) two-way symmetrical model of dialogue, collaboration, and public participation; (2) press agentry (emphasizing favorable publicity); (3) public information (disclosing accurate, but mostly favorable, information and conducting no research or other form of two-way communication); or (4) two-way asymmetrical (emphasizing the interests of the organization and excluding the interests of publics). The two-way symmetrical model produces better long-term relationships with publics than do the other models. Symmetrical programs balance the interests of organizations and publics in society. The research for the Excellence study refined our understanding of these models by identifying four dimensions that underlie them: (1) symmetrical or asymmetrical, (2) two-way or one-way, (3) mediated or interpersonal, and (4) ethical or unethical. The two-way symmetrical model embodies the most desirable of these characteristics: symmetrical, two-way, both mediated and interpersonal, and ethical. The other models possess some but not all of these characteristics. Four characteristics of Excellence, therefore, are related to models of public relations: 1. The public relations department and the dominant coalition share the
worldview that the communication department should base its goals and its communication activities on the two-way symmetrical model of public relations. 2. Communication programs developed for specific publics are based on two-way symmetrical strategies for building and maintaining relationships. 3. The senior public relations executive or others in the public relations unit must have the professional knowledge needed to practice the two-
way symmetrical model. 4. The organization should have a symmetrical system of internal communication.
A symmetrical system of internal communication is based on the principles of employee empowerment and participation in decision making. Managers and other employees engage in dialogue and listen to each other. Internal media disclose relevant information needed by employees to understand their roles in the organization. Symmetrical communication fosters a participative rather than an authoritarian culture as well as good relationships with employees.
Extending the Excellence Theory to a Global Theory
Through several studies conducted around the world, the Excellence theory has been expanded into a global theory that includes generic principles and specific applications. This theory falls between a theory that suggests an organization should practice public relations in exactly the same way in every country— usually the way it is practiced in the country where the headquarters of the multinational organization is located—and a theory suggesting that public relations must be practiced differently in every country because of cultural and other contextual conditions. Generic principles means that in an abstract sense, the principles of public relations are the same worldwide. Specific applications means that these principles must be applied differently in different settings. As a starting point for research, we proposed that the characteristics identified in the Excellence study are generic principles. We also proposed that public relations professionals must take six contextual conditions into account when they apply these principles: culture, including language; the political system; the economic system; the media system; the level of economic development; and the extent and nature of activism. Our research and that of others has provided evidence supporting this theory. The most extensive research was in Slovenia. We replicated the quantitative portion of the Excellence study in thirty Slovenian firms and found the same cluster of characteristics as we did in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom in spite of a different cultural, political, and economic context (Grunig, Grunig, & Ver i , 1998). To deal with such differences, communicators in Slovenia had to apply the generic principles differently than in the Anglo countries. For example, we learned that communicators needed to counsel CEOs to empower public relations managers. They also developed continuing education for communicators to deal with their lack of public relations knowledge, and they had to emphasize employee relations because of the negative context inside Slovenian organizations.
The Strategic Management Role of Public Relations
Although the Excellence theory incorporates a number of middle-range theories, its most important component is the strategic role of public relations. Since the completion of the Excellence study, scholars have continued to do research to help professionals understand and fulfill this role. To contribute to strategic management, public relations should be an integral part of the management of every organization. The public relations function helps the organization interact with its stakeholders both to accomplish the organization’s mission and to behave in a socially responsible manner. In a strategic role, communicators manage communication with top managers and with publics. They manage communication between management and publics to build relationships with the publics that are most likely to affect the organization or that are most affected by the organization. Communication processes that facilitate dialogue among managers and publics influence organizational behaviors. Dialogue among managers and publics, in turn, can produce long-term relationships described by characteristics researchers (Grunig & Huang, 2000; Grunig & Hung, 2002) have identified and defined: trust, mutuality of control, commitment, and satisfaction. Relationships can be measured and evaluated to determine the long-term effectiveness and value of public relations (Hon & Grunig, 1999; Grunig, 2002). An excellent public relations staff cannot serve this role, however, unless research and measurement are an integral part of the function. Formative research is necessary to identify strategic publics with which an organization needs relationships and to determine how to cultivate relationships with them. Communicators can use Grunig’s (1997) situational theory of publics—especially as it has been updated (Kim, Grunig, & Ni, 2010)—to segment stakeholders into publics. The Excellence study showed that the most common categories of stakeholders are employees, customers, investors, the community, government, members of associations and nonprofit organizations, the media, and donors to nonprofit organizations. The situational theory segments these categories of stakeholders into publics with different levels of activity, including activist (belonging to activist groups), active, passive, or nonpublic. The more active the public, the more likely it is that communication programs will have an effect. Evaluative research then is necessary to determine the effectiveness of communication programs. Evaluative research can determine the short-term effects of communication programs on the cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors of both publics and management and the long-term effects of communication on organization–public relationships (Grunig, 2008).
New Research to Enhance the Strategic Role of the Communication Function
Although research-based knowledge of publics and the evaluation of public relations has been available for years, other concepts and tools related to the strategic management role of public relations have been developed within the last twenty years. Some examples of research to develop these new concepts and tools include:
Environmental scanning: Research to identify problems, publics, and issues and to evaluate information sources to bring information into the organization (Chang, 2000). Publics: Research to develop the situational theory and to explain the social nature of publics (Aldoory, 2001; Kim, 2006; Kim, Grunig, & Ni, 2010; Sha, 1995). Scenario building: Research to develop this technique for explaining the behavior of publics to management and potential issues created by publics (Sung, 2004). Relationship cultivation strategies: Research to expand the concepts of symmetrical and asymmetrical communication to identify strategies for cultivating relationships that produce high-quality relationships with stakeholder publics (Hung, 2002, 2004; Rhee, 2004). Interactions of relationships and reputation: Public relations practitioners and management scholars have paid a great deal of attention to an organization’s reputation in recent years, in the belief that reputation is an intangible asset that adds both monetary and nonmonetary value to an organization. Our research (Grunig & Hung, 2002; Yang, 2005; Yang & Grunig, 2005) has shown, however, that reputations are largely a byproduct of management behavior and the quality of organization–public relationships. Thus, attending to relationships will ultimately improve an organization’s reputation. Reputation, however, cannot be managed directly; it is managed by influencing the behavior of management and through the cultivation of relationships. Development of an ethical framework for public relations practitioners to use as they participate in strategic management (Bowen, 2000, 2004). Empowerment of the public relations function. Research to clarify the nature of the dominant coalition in an organization and how public relations practitioners become part of or gain access to empowered coalitions (Berger, 2005).
Specialized areas of public relations. Research to extend the generic principles of excellence to specialized areas of public relations, such as fund raising (Kelly, 1991), investor relations (Schickinger, 1998), employee relations (Kim, 2005), community relations (Rhee, 2004), and government relations (Chen, 2005). Public relations and global strategy. Research to develop the global theory of generic principles that can be applied in many cultures and political- economic settings and specific applications to adapt them to different contexts (Grunig, Grunig, & Ver i , 1998; Ver i , Grunig, & Grunig, 1996; Wakefield, 1997, 2000). Researchers also have applied this theory to a multinational military organization (NATO) (Van Dyke, 2005), public diplomacy programs of governments for publics in other countries (Yun, 2005), and globalized and localized relationship strategies of multinational organizations (Ni, 2006).
Aldoory, L. (2001). Making health communications meaningful for women: Factors that influence involvement. Journal of Public Relations Research, 13, 163–185. Berger, B. K. (2005). Power over, power with, and power to public relations: Critical reflections on public relations, the dominant coalition, and activism. Journal of Public Relations Research, 17, 5–28. Bowen, S. A. (2000). A theory of ethical issues management: Contributions of Kantian deontology to public relations’ ethics and decision making. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. Bowen, S. A. (2004). Expansion of ethics as the tenth generic principle of public relations excellence: A Kantian theory and model for managing ethical issues. Journal of Public Relations Research, 16, 65–92. Chang, Y.-C. (2000). A normative exploration into environmental scanning in public relations. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Maryland, College Park. Chen, Y. R. (2005). Effective government affairs in an era of marketization: Strategic issues management, business lobbying, and relationship management by multinational corporations in China. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. Dozier, D. M., with Grunig, L. A., & Grunig, J. E. (1995). Manager’s guide to excellence in public relations and communication management. Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum. Fleisher, C. S. (1995). Public affairs benchmarking. Washington, DC: Public Affairs Council. Grunig, J. E. (1992). (Ed.). Excellence in public relations and communication management. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Grunig, J. E. (1997). A situational theory of publics: Conceptual history, recent challenges and new research. In D. Moss, T. MacManus, & D. Ver i (Eds.), Public relations research: An international perspective (pp. 3–46). London: International Thomson Business Press. Grunig, J. E. (2002). Qualitative methods for assessing relationships between organizations and publics. Gainesville, FL: Institute for Public Relations, Commission on PR Measurement and Evaluation. Grunig, J. E. (2008). Conceptualizing quantitative research in public relations. In B. Van Ruler, A. Tkalac Ver i , & D. Ver i (Eds.), Public relations metrics (pp. 88–119). New York: Routledge. Grunig, J. E., & Huang, Y. H. (2000). From organizational effectiveness to relationship indicators: Antecedents of relationships, public relations strategies, and relationship outcomes. In J. A. Ledingham & S. D. Bruning (Eds.), Public relations as relationship management: A relational approach to the study and practice of public relations (pp. 23–53). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Grunig, J. E., & Hung, C. J. (2002, March). The effect of relationships on reputation and reputation on relationships: A cognitive, behavioral study. Paper presented to the International, Interdisciplinary Public Relations Research Conference, Miami, FL. Grunig, L. A., Grunig, J. E., & Dozier, D. M. (2002). Excellent public relations and effective organizations: A study of communication management in three countries. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Grunig, L. A., Grunig, J. E., & Ver i , D. (1998). Are the IABC’s excellence principles generic? Comparing Slovenia and the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Journal of Communication Management, 2, 335–356. Hon, L. C., & Grunig, J. E. (1999). Guidelines for measuring relationships in public relations. Gainesville, FL: Institute for Public Relations, Commission on PR Measurement and Evaluation. Hung, C. J. (2002). The interplays of relationship types, relationship cultivation, and relationship outcomes: How multinational and Taiwanese companies practice public relations and organization-public relationship management in China. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. Hung, C. J. (2004). Cultural influence on relationship cultivation strategies: Multinational companies in China. Journal of Communication Management, 8,
264–281. Kelly, K. S. (1991). Fund raising and public relations. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Kim, H. S. (2005). Organizational structure and internal communication as antecedents of employee-organization relationships in the context of organizational justice: A multilevel analysis. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. Kim, J.-N. (2006). Communicant activeness, cognitive entrepreneurship, and a situational theory of problem solving. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. Kim, J-N., Grunig, J. E., & Ni, L. (2010). Reconceptualizing the communicative action of publics: Acquisition, selection, and transmission of information in problematic situations. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 4, 126–154. Ni, L. (2006). Exploring the value of public relations in strategy implementation: Employee relations in the globalization process. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. Repper, F. C. (1992). How communication managers can apply the theories of excellence and effectiveness. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 109–114). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Rhee, Y. (2004). The employee-public-organization chain in relationship management: A case study of a government organization. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. Sha, B. L. (1995). Intercultural public relations: Exploring cultural identity as a means of segmenting publics. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Maryland, College Park. Schickinger, P. (1998). Electronic investor relations: Can new media close the symmetry gap? Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Maryland, College Park. Sung, M. J. (2004). Toward a model of strategic management of public relations: Scenario building from a public relations perspective. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. Van Dyke, M. A. (2005). Toward a theory of just communication: A case study of NATO, multinational public relations, ethical management of international conflict. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. Ver i , D., Grunig, L. A., & Grunig, J. E. (1996). Global and specific principles of public relations: Evidence from Slovenia. In H. M. Culbertson & N. Chen (Eds.), International public relations: A comparative analysis (pp. 31–65). Mahwah NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum. Wakefield, R. I. (1997). International public relations: A theoretical approach to excellence based on a worldwide Delphi study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. Wakefield, R. I. (2000). World-class public relations: A model for effective public relations in the multinational. Journal of Communication Management, 5(1), 59–71. Yang, S. U. (2005). The effect of organization-public relationships on reputation from the perspective of publics. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park. Yang, S. U., & Grunig, J. E. (2005). Decomposing organizational reputation: The effects of organization-public relationship outcomes on cognitive representations of organizations and evaluations of organizational performance. Journal of Communication Management, 9, 296–304. Yun, S. H. (2005). Theory building for comparative public diplomacy from the perspectives of public relations and international relations: A macro-comparative study of embassies in Washington, DC. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park.
THE CORPORATE COMMUNICATOR
A Senior-Level Strategist
Corporations are subject to the same communication dynamics as any other human interaction. Whenever people get together—in a personal relationship, a social group, or a business venture—communication inevitably happens. The larger and more structured the group is, however (such as a corporation or nonprofit organization), the greater the need for communication to be managed for it to be effective.
Most corporations or large organizations acknowledge, sometimes grudgingly, that communication is important, yet the concept is often misunderstood. “We need more communication!” is often heard in corporate boardrooms when things are going wrong. In fact, too much of the wrong kind of communication might be the problem. Executives who demand “more communication” usually want a more effective flow of information in their organization. This means seeing that the right information gets to the right people in the right way. But each of these elements can be challenging and complex. What is the “right” information? Who are the “right” people? What is the “right way” to communicate with them? The corporate communicator is the individual who provides comprehensive answers to these questions. To do this, he or she must be thoroughly integrated into the organization, working closely with senior and middle management, rank- and-file employees, and other key publics in the media, the community, and industry. The communicator needs to know and understand the information requirements, concerns, and goals of these audiences to devise a communication solution that meets the organization’s greatest needs. In this chapter, we examine the role of the corporate communicator as a strategist and senior-level adviser to the organization.
A Strategic Role
To be most effective, corporate communicators must play a strategic role, regardless of the type of organization or corporation in which they work. This means that they must take a broad and in-depth look at the organization, truly understand its needs, assess where communication would be most effective, and develop a plan to make it happen. It is the responsibility of the corporate communicator to manage communication that:
Supports organizational goals and objectives Ensures a healthy flow of information in and among all levels of employees and management (healthy means that the most useful information is flowing to the people who need it, when they need it) Is consistent throughout all the organization’s activities Keeps the organization honest (ethical behavior is most effectively supported by open and honest communication) Avoids or mitigates potential crises
To carry out these responsibilities most effectively, the communicator must be proactive—that is, he or she must anticipate needs rather than react when needs arise. This requires that corporate communicators be senior-level managers, working alongside the chief executive officer (CEO) or president and other senior corporate officers when issues are discussed and key business decisions are made. Communicators at this level are strategists rather than tacticians; they often manage others who perform specific tasks and execute tactics (Dozier, 1992). Too often, however, communicators assume a tactical role, responding to dictated requests: to create a website, for example, or send out a news release. In this mode, communicators are frequently more reactive than proactive. This prevents them from taking the broader view necessary to assess the communication approaches that are truly needed. When they are positioned at a senior strategist level, communicators are more likely to understand the organization’s true communication needs. They know the organization’s goals and objectives, even if these are not explicitly stated in a strategic planning document. They know the human and interpersonal dynamics of the organization, which usually are not explicitly stated anywhere. They are aware of issues and concerns among the organization’s employees, and within the organization’s community, to which other senior managers may not have access and are able to identify potential opportunities to address these issues as well as other obstacles that may stand in the way. They are able to identify and head off looming crises before they hit the front pages of a newspaper. They are able to address potential ethical breaches or conflicts.
A Senior-Level Adviser In a corporation, the president or chief executive officer oversees a dizzying array of factors that contribute to the well-being of the organization: research and production; customer and client service; marketing; employee relations; human resources; legal, safety, and security; facilities and asset planning; and many more. Directors responsible for each of these areas usually report directly to the CEO. Communication is one of the primary needs a CEO must address, and the corporate communicator should be prominent among the senior adviser staff. Particularly in the current media-saturated environment, when even the slightest perceived organizational misstep can trigger a storm of public interest (whether in the mainstream media or the blogosphere), a senior communicator can be a CEO’s most valuable adviser. The senior communicator should work closely to carefully consider (and foresee, when possible) the implications of any actions, planned or unplanned, on target publics. Accordingly, the corporate communicator should be one of the least isolated members of the senior management team. While some roles, such as sales and marketing, might exist largely in their own silos, it is essential that communicators be in continual contact with all parts of the organization. That is the only way they can gain the knowledge necessary to make strategic decisions.
A Communicator’s Portfolio of Skills Which skills should a corporate communicator bring to her or his role? We are aware of the need for the critical ability to strategically analyze an organization and recognize areas in which more effective communication is needed. But the communicator’s tool kit must contain many other skills. A corporate communicator must have basic communication skills—that is, be able to write and speak well. Yet too many senior-level communicators may be effective on a strategic level yet freeze when making a speech or attempting to write a well-crafted sentence. Because communicators never know which aspect of communication they may need to address, a repertoire of basic skills is essential:
Writing and editing. The ability to write well is the most critical and basic communication skill. Writing well means understanding the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation and having the ability to present an issue or topic in a way that is understandable to the target audience—whether it be a broad group of people with varying levels of education and background or a narrower group with specific communication needs. It also means being able to capture an audience’s attention, persuade and convince them, and
trigger their emotions. Good editing requires much of the same knowledge as good writing, but is a distinct skill. (There are great editors who are not great writers, and vice versa.) Design sense. The wide range of communication tools that a communicator uses—from websites to press materials to PowerPoint decks—often involves making graphic design decisions. Although a communicator does not need to be a designer, a basic understanding of design principles can be invaluable to planning and managing this function. Speaking. Sometimes the focus on written communication overshadows the importance of good oral communication. A good communicator knows how to put words together for maximum understanding and effect, in speech as well as in text. He or she must be able to speak effectively, whether in a private conversation, addressing a roomful of people, or in an interview on national television. Listening. The ability to actively listen—to absorb not only the surface facts of a situation but the many more subtle factors communicated by an individual or group—is an essential skill for communicators. Communication is often viewed as a one-way process: delivering information to a particular audience. But an equal part of the process is receiving feedback from the audience, both before the information or message is delivered and after. In this regard, research and measurement become important tasks for a communicator. Research involves collecting relevant information before crafting and delivering a message. The more effectively communicators can understand factors influencing an issue—particularly those pertaining to the target audiences—the more effectively they can craft and deliver a message. If an issue is particularly complex or sensitive, research can become quite extensive and may involve professional research firms or specialists. Sometimes the necessary research has already been gathered and might be available from a private firm or a public database; at other times, the communicator may need to conduct independent research. Measurement is the process of determining whether communication is meeting its goal or objective. Alarmingly, this is a step that is often overlooked; yet, conducting communication without measurement is like buying a lottery ticket and never checking the winning numbers. Unlike other activities such as sales or production, the results of communication can be challenging to measure, because they involve gauging softer, more subjective outcomes: the perceptions, opinions, and actions of groups of people. Yet such measurement is possible. There are many effective measurement tools and resources available to communicators today. Strategic thinking. The ability to put everything together—to assess a business or organizational situation (within the context of many influencing
factors) and develop a plan to implement the right combination of communication skills and tools at their disposal for maximum effectiveness —is possibly a communicator’s most valuable skill. Some practitioners call this “seeing the big picture”—moving beyond day-to-day activities to view a long-term solution. Strategic planning follows a prescribed process of assessing organizational needs, identifying goals, setting objectives, developing a solution, carrying it out, and measuring the results. It is through the strategic planning process that communicators can truly demonstrate their value as strategists rather than just tacticians who perform isolated tasks.
Beyond this kit of essential skills, there are certain qualities that are found in good communicators, some of which cannot be learned. It is important, for example, that a communicator be curious. The environment in which a communicator works, both internally and externally, is always changing, and staying one step ahead of changes is critical to ensuring success. A curious communicator is always researching new business and industry trends, technologies, and best practices. The most successful communicators understand that communication is an ongoing process, similar to a continuing conversation. It involves continually checking with key audiences and stakeholders to make sure the message is being properly received and being open to changing strategies and tactics.
What Corporate Communicators Need to Know about Their Organizations
An effective corporate communicator must have thorough knowledge of the organization, with a good understanding of its industry, mission and strategic focus, management structure, products or services, customers and clients, community, history, employees (their demographics and issues), and culture. There is typically a ramp-up period when a new communicator comes into an organization, during which he or she absorbs as many of the details of the environment as possible before initiating communication. It helps, of course, if the communicator has previous experience in the organization’s industry or in a related field, but this may not always be the case, particularly in today’s increasingly global and mobile job market. It is not unusual for communicators to move from one industry, or even country and culture, to another many times within their careers. Communicators should realize that none of the key organizational elements listed previously (with the possible exception of history) remain static. Most successful organizations reinvent themselves to some degree on a regular basis,
shifting their business focus in response to competitive and environmental factors. Even something as seemingly constant as a corporation’s industry may shift significantly over time (think of large corporations such as General Electric or Philip Morris). The communicator must be able to develop communication strategies to adapt to these changes.
Understanding an Organization’s Culture Of the key aspects of an organization or corporation, possibly the most challenging to understand is its culture, since culture is often undefined. Even corporations that print their cultural values on wallet cards or lunchroom banners might not be fully communicating the nuances of their cultures. Understanding the underlying aspects of an organization’s culture might be a communicator’s most important challenge, since these can hold the key to effectively overcoming communication obstacles and identifying opportunities. An organization that proudly and publicly proclaims integrity and ethics as cornerstones of its culture, yet makes business decisions that appear to benefit only a select few (rather than the organization overall) is not walking its talk. Similarly, a corporation that publicly applauds employee loyalty, yet discards long-term employees in favor of bringing in younger employees (at lower pay grades), will quickly lose the trust of its workforce. One of a communicator’s most important functions is to identify for management any disconnect between stated cultural values and the way the organization actually works, particularly when those practices might have legal and ethical ramifications. An organization’s culture also can have a profound influence on how it communicates. The style and tone used in communication is often an important, and typically unstated, indication of a company’s culture. This can translate to using or not using certain words or terms, or even certain media. Corporate cultures come in all styles, colors, and flavors. They often manifest in subtle ways and can be very fluid. Some are formed and cultivated by design and intention; other cultures simply happen. Accordingly, not all cultures are effective; some can serve as impediments to organizational effectiveness and success, while others can act as catalysts. Different cultures may frequently exist in different parts of the same organization. Most often, organizational cultures are cultivated by behaviors that are modeled and rewarded rather than through words and slogans. Employees will exhibit preferred behaviors only if there is a perceived benefit or reward attached, such as a bonus, chances for promotion, or even a kind word from the boss. Communicators can reinforce and promote cultural values by showing them in action and making the benefits clear to managers and employees alike.
Types of Organizations Another key factor in determining how a corporate, senior-level communicator performs is the nature or structure of the corporation or organization itself. Some primary distinguishing identifiers include:
Privately owned versus publicly traded. Public companies have mandated communication responsibilities to their shareholders and the investment community, and the public perception of a company and its products and services can have a direct impact on the value of its stock. The communicator must be aware of any issues that could change this perception (such as unwanted media attention) and develop plans for addressing these issues, preferably before they surface on the front page of a newspaper or on a nightly news broadcast. Small versus large. The larger the organization is, the greater the number of audiences that may be affected by its fortunes and activities. A small organization might be concerned primarily with its immediate customers, investors, and employees. Larger organizations might be more concerned about publics within a larger sphere of influence: the community, government entities (at the local, state, federal, or international level), and other diverse external audiences. Service provider versus manufacturer. Organizations that provide services, such as consulting firms, financial services companies, and governmental agencies, can have different communication issues than companies that manufacture or distribute goods, such as automakers or computer firms. For example, service providers are more dependent on the actions of their employees to embody the firm’s quality; the reputations of manufacturers can be damaged by flaws in their products. For-profit versus nonprofit. The communicator in a profit-making organization is largely focused on ensuring that the organization remains profitable and meets its revenue goals. This involves ensuring that customers and clients are aware of the organization’s products and services and appreciate their quality, integrity, and value. For-profit organizations are often assisted in this effort by a marketing and advertising staff. In a nonprofit organization such as a charity or foundation, the communicator is often focused on fundraising, relying primarily on media exposure to convey the value of the organization’s mission and activities to potential donors and volunteers. The two roles have similarities, but the tone and content of their communication may vary. Union versus nonunion. If a communicator’s organization includes employees represented by a bargaining unit or employees who are considering organizing in this way, another level of complexity is added to
the audience mix. Communication to employee groups must have the right tone and content. Local versus multinational. More and more corporate communicators are finding that their organizations are developing a global reach. This introduces new parameters that can influence communication: multiple cultures, multiple regulatory environments, and multiple languages.
Many corporate communicators specialize in working with specific types of organizations. There are corporate communicators, for example, who may work only with nonprofit health care groups or multinational pharmaceutical companies. Through this focus, a corporate communicator can build a specialized knowledge base that can certainly be valuable, but not all communicators have the opportunity to be so specialized. It is essential, therefore, that a communicator be a generalist—that is, fully familiar with the basic principles of effective communication—to be of value within nearly any type of organization, regardless of industry, location, or size. (Moreover, in a quickly shifting job market, a generalist communicator, with experience in many types of organizational environments, will be much more marketable.)
Corporate Communicator Roles A corporate communicator may apply these basic skills to several roles. During their careers, communicators may find themselves in multiple roles. The nature of their organizations, to a large extent, helps determine the roles for which they are responsible.
Public Relations An organization’s public profile—how it is perceived, regarded, and valued by the outside world—is often one of the most critical factors in its success. Regardless of the actual quality and integrity of its products or service, an unfavorable public image can destroy (and has destroyed) an organization. Similarly, a favorable public image can boost, even if only temporarily, an organization whose products and services may be of lesser quality. Gone are the days when public relations practitioners were fast-talking “flaks” who would do anything to get their organization’s or client’s name in print or on the air. In today’s world, the communicator’s responsibility is to represent the client or organization fairly and honestly, with the goal of cultivating a positive image or countering any unwarranted negative publicity as quickly as possible. In this role, a communicator works closely with the entities that most influence
the perception of the organization (and its products and services) among potential clients or customers. These can include the media, community groups, and other key audiences (publics). The communicator must build a relationship of responsiveness and trust with these publics, so that the information received is considered accurate and honest. Because of the importance of print, Web, and broadcast media to the public image of an organization, media relations is often a primary aspect of the public relations role and is frequently considered a discipline unto itself.
Investor Relations Publicly traded companies must pay particular attention to opinions of their organization held by the investment community, which includes financial analysts, brokers, and traders. It is to the organization’s advantage that these audiences develop trust in the company’s management and its ability to meet the organization’s business goals. That trust may lead to recommendations to purchase or retain the company’s stock. The communicator is the investors’ conduit to the organization, from whom they learn of developments, positive or negative, that could influence the company’s stock price. This role has become particularly critical in this age of greater transparency and mandated disclosure of financial information.
Community and Government Relations Most organizations are not immune to oversight and regulation from a government entity, regardless of the scope or nature of their business. The company may work with local city planners when opening a new office or facility, a state review board when revising an employee pay policy, or a federal agency when introducing a new product. Cultivating a relationship of full and open communication with these entities is as important as doing so with any other key public. The more highly regulated the organization’s industry (such as energy, financial services, or transportation), the more critical the communicator’s role becomes. It must involve effective relationships with key government agencies but also close ties to the organization’s lobbyists who work to influence legislation.
Internal Communications An organization’s employees constitute one of the most significant and challenging groups for whom communication must be managed. An informed workforce that feels acknowledged and listened to is an invaluable asset. Building trust, dedication, and loyalty among employees should be a primary goal of all managers. But the communicator occupies a special position in this effort. Quite
often, communicators become the catalysts, and the conduits, for communication between and among management and employees. In this respect, the internal communications role resembles working with any other audience or public. It is important that it be a two-way effort that encourages employee engagement. Perhaps more than other roles, this one requires a great degree of listening.
Marketing Communications How an organization’s products or services are marketed—through advertising, promotions, branding and imagery, or sales campaigns—should be directly linked to its communications to other audiences. If a computer company’s ads portray a hip, youth-oriented, and innovative image, yet it cultivates a stodgy, sluggish image when communicating to and interacting with key publics such as investors, employees, or community leaders, it can be a damaging misalignment. The consistency of a company’s brand and its competitive values throughout all its communications (and actions) is essential. The way in which a corporation markets itself can also have an effect on other business facets, including, significantly, its efforts to recruit new employees. Many potential job candidates know an employer from its public image, generally fostered through advertising and public relations. An organization needs to ask if this is the image of the company they want employees, both current and future, to hold. Corporate communicators may not be directly responsible for marketing communication activities, but because of the importance of this linkage, they should have a relationship with the responsible company officer. The marketing communications manager should have at least a dotted-line relationship with the senior corporate communicator.
Executive Adviser Quite often the most effective communicator in an organization—whether with employees or outside audiences—is the president or chief executive officer. This person is often consulted first when a situation arises that requires a corporate voice. Corporate communicators can help the CEO and other key executives become effective spokespersons when required, coaching them on working with the media to deliver key messages. Management itself is an important audience, often requiring specialized communication to help executives better understand their role in shaping the organization’s culture and success.
Additional Roles There may be other roles that a corporate communicator may be called upon to
perform (benefits communications, event planning, or technical communications, for example). In many cases, the nature and size of the organization will dictate the corporate communicator’s key responsibilities. It is not unusual for the communicator to be responsible for any or all roles, in varying degrees and emphasis. But no one role should be considered or performed in isolation. Consistent organizational messages and cultural values should be clearly understood in all communications to all audiences.
Managing Communication During Change The true test of a corporate communicator’s skills comes during periods of significant change. Major changes, whether perceived as beneficial (profound growth, new business, expansion) or negative (downsizing, takeovers, mergers, bankruptcies) can be disruptive and can challenge an organization’s culture, values, and business focus. Change produces stress, fear, and disorientation. Corporate communicators prove their value at such times by helping the organization stay focused, understanding the needs of all stakeholders, and ensuring a continued flow of well-targeted and timely information. When situations or conditions are changing rapidly, the danger of miscommunication and rumors is at its greatest. The surest way to rein in escalating chaos is through responsive, thoughtful, and targeted communication. It is common for companies undergoing drastic change—particularly unwelcome change—to cut back on communication. This may occur because the situation has not been anticipated and no response plan exists, or because the severity of the situation is underestimated and companies prefer to remain silent, hoping that the situation will blow over. But it is precisely during those times that well-coordinated communication is most needed. Corporate communicators who are part of the senior management team become key advisers in periods of major change. They need to develop the best communication strategies to help stabilize the situation. Often periods of change may take a long time; indeed, some organizations are always experiencing some degree of change. During such times, communicators should seek to reinforce what is remaining constant and articulate the ultimate goal beyond the change. Communication itself cannot correct a serious misstep, such as the chief financial officer who has embezzled the funds in a company’s pension plan. But it is an essential first step in turning around the situation. Without effective communication, chances are much greater that the situation will cause lasting, and perhaps irreparable, damage to the organization.
A Corporate Communicator’s Ultimate Responsibility
This chapter explained the significance and breadth of the corporate communicator role and its importance within organizations. Clearly, it is a role that requires broad-based strategic thinking and the ability to respond quickly to rapidly changing environments. But how objective should corporate communicators be? To whom are they responsible? Are they advocates for senior management, employees, or the public at large? Is their role similar to that of an investigative reporter: telling the whole truth, no matter how raw or ugly? The answer may seem obvious: the communicator’s responsibility is to ensure the continued business health and integrity of the organization. But what if the communicator notes unethical or illegal behavior or, worse yet, is asked by management to be party to this behavior? It is in such circumstances that the most important responsibility of the communicator takes precedence: to uphold the principles of ethical and honest communication and ensure the integrity of the profession. Here communicators can take guidance from the IABC Code of Ethics (2005) and work to ensure that they communicate legally, ethically, and in good taste. Today’s communicators work in an exciting and opportunity-filled time. Increasingly, their role is perceived as an essential, value added, senior-level one, as opposed to a necessary evil that exists mostly to help the organization react to problems. The burden of ensuring that this trend continues lies with communicators. They must challenge management and work to enact communication that is honest, strategically focused, and proactive. It is a responsibility that takes a certain degree of daring and risk taking. It is one that will not only result in greater respect for organizational communication as a profession, but also in more effective organizations. References
Dozier, D. M. (1992). The organizational roles of communication and public relations practitioners. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 327–356). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. International Association of Business Communicators [IABC]. (2005). International Association of Business Communicators code of ethics for professional communicators. Available at www.iabc.com/about/code.htm.
Paul M. Sanchez
Organizations continue to struggle with the realities of globalization, incorporating wave after wave of technological developments and complex, subtle demographic shifts. Current operating environments are also fraught with the challenges from the overhang of the global recession, where economic and political forces exert even more pressures on organizations of every type of enterprise. In guiding and managing organizations, in all sectors of human activity, leaders must deal with this landscape of economic, social, demographic, technological, and regulatory issues. To not only meet these challenges but to maximize the opportunities inherent in these times, leaders must attempt to understand the beliefs and values of their workforces around the world to enable managers and supervisors to set norms for workforce behaviors.
It is the people at all levels in organizations who must be aware and motivated to accept and support change when necessary. Attitudes and industry of the workforce ultimately determine how the missions of their organizations are accomplished, how products and services are made and delivered. To accomplish this daunting task of leading organizations in these perilous times, leaders must not only know their organizations’ current culture, but they must also know what must be done to preserve beneficial elements of existing cultures and how to approach the building of new culture. Most approaches to organization and management theory are in agreement: culture is one of the key factors used in explaining organization performance and results. The question is how to change and redirect an existing culture to ensure organization success. Is culture tangible? Is it a construct that translates into a reality amenable to practical actions to shape it? Is culture manageable? Can culture be the object of change management? Can leaders, managers, and supervisors play a role in helping change an organization’s culture? These are questions that weigh on the corporate mind and occupy those who study organization dynamics. When Louis V. Gerstner Jr. (2002) took over a failing IBM in 1993, he described his data gathering and analysis of the IBM situation. He was convinced that above all the factors he identified as contributing to IBM’s plight, the deeply
rooted culture of IBM had to change if this iconic company was going to survive. “I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game— it is the game” (p. 182). The concept of organizational culture, including practical applications for strategy and tactics, is explored in this chapter. Culture must be assessed and the learnings of change management applied to develop architecture for addressing culture change.
Defining Culture In its basic definition, culture is how an organization accomplishes all that it has to do to fulfill its mission or purpose. Culture can be observed in the ways that things get done—in the processes that everyone in the organization knows must be followed for work to be successfully accomplished. This meaning of culture is embodied in the statement “This is the way we do things around here.” A pragmatic approach was framed by Fons Trompenaars, who defined culture as “the way in which a group of people solves problems and resolves dilemmas” (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1997, p. 6). Geert Hofstede (1994) described culture in a more philosophical way: “Culture is a deeply rooted value or shared norm, moral or aesthetic principles that guides action and serves as standards to evaluate one’s own and others’ behaviors” (p. 68). These definitions demonstrate that culture is indeed a first principle of organizational functioning—that although culture is not concrete, it is absolutely a potent force that can either foster and support or impede and frustrate operational change. If these widely held definitions are accepted, then it can be seen that all the overt and subtle patterns of behavior in organizations do indeed weave themselves together to create an unmistakable personality or character of the organization— its culture. This personality endures over time and can be both a blessing and a curse as an attribute of organizational functioning. If the organization demonstrates long-term success, its abiding culture is identified as the cause of its capacity not only to cope in challenging times but to thrive and prosper, to maintain its focus, and develop an aligned workforce. If the organization is unable to resist forces that sap its energy, distract from its mission, or weaken its brand delivery, then these failures are identified as problems due to its culture. Further, when an organization fails, its culture can be blamed for being change resistant: closed to new ideas, lacking an innovative spirit, and too slow to respond to fast-changing customer needs. The history and plight of the U.S. auto industry is replete with case studies. Culture in this view is seen as closing the corporate mind on life-saving information, internal or external, that would allow the organization to recognize and deal with the forces that have a material impact
on its fate. Culture can be both barrier and constraining force that keeps an organization from freely developing responses to changing external forces.
The Impact of Culture on Organizations and People
Culture is the pervasive driver of how an organization functions over time, unless there is a threat that commands change. It determines how an organization responds to its business environment, organizes its work, structures its day-to-day activities, and deploys the skills and talents of its managers and employees. Culture also determines the patterns of social interaction used to accomplish work and shape relationships inside the organization. Culture dramatically shapes the contract between the organization and its employees, where the expressed values of the organization are made manifest in the transactions between management and the workforce. Equally important, people interacting with the organization exert their collective influence on the culture. They also reflect their national cultures in the symbiotic relation between the organization and its workforce components. Equally important is the cultural orientation to customer or client service. Because of this impact on an organization’s practical behaviors, culture has enormous strategic significance. To be successful, an organization must endeavor to shape its culture to support its mission and implement its strategy. Work processes must be aligned with the types of products or services offered, and human capital practices should be developed and with the same care. Thus there is no one right or wrong culture. In fact, different organizations within the same industry can have very different cultures. In large multinationals, there are microcultures that reflect operating differences within the umbrella of the corporate identity. The issue for leaders is whether the current culture is keeping pace with the demands of its operating environments and challenges. Does the culture support the business strategy and the component operations and functions? The benefits of this sort of inquiry can be significant; risks of ignoring the state of the culture are enormous—as seen in the IBM example and the case of the U.S. auto industry. Alignment between culture and operating strategy enables effective processes and helps the organization deliver positive results to all stakeholders and, in particular, customers and employees. When there is misalignment, dysfunctions and suboptimal performance result. The organization may be profitable and successful in the short term, but over time, it will fail to achieve its potential. Where the culture and the strategies are not aligned, organizations may lose valuable employees who have the critical skills and experience to move easily to another organization.