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What are the challenges of communciation?

Corporate Communication (CorpCom for short) deals with the internal and external communication activities of a company. The aim is to develop a clear image of the company (i.e. corporate image) among the relevant target groups or general public and employees. However, the term corporate communication is often defined very differently. This is clearly shown, for example, by comparing the Wikipedia and IPRA – International Public Relations Associations. In addition, some experts point out that two factors have made CorpCom’s work more challenging:

  • Broadcasting is out. This was probably mentioned first by the BBC around 1998. In essence, it means that a few communicating to many has been replaced by many reaching few listeners. Accordingly, the chances that our message gets lost or fails to reach our target audience are smaller than years back.
  • Patience and attention span have become increasingly precious, i.e. people don’t simply read a document, but scan it first. Opening and closing credits in a streamed movie are skipped and even whole passages, if they are not of interest to the viewer.

The corporate image has to be communicated in a shared message to all different target groups. In addition, the company uses different media, such as traditional print and TV, or social media. Doing this well is a challenge that we must master to satisfy top management. Moreover, the KPIs (key performance indicators) developed for communication activities must be understood and accepted by management as well. This is not an easy ride.

1. Doing the Analysis and setting targets

Communicating using print and / or digital means is a decision that must be made. The KISS Principle (Keep it Simple Stupid) must be applied in order to answer the following questions

  • Which of our stakeholder groups are the 5 most important? Business customers, consumers, suppliers, employees, investors, etc. Out of this list, the 5 most important ones should be selected.
  • How do we do content marketing / communication? Are possible synergies between the company’s magazine, press releases, digital content, events, etc. being leveraged effectively?
  • Are we doing well with social networking and content marketing? How well are we networking with our critical stakeholders at events such as conferences, and with the help of social media platforms?

Below is a quick sketch of how these things might change. The left column shows how a company might look today. The right-hand column shows where we want to go.

Analysis / Inventory: How do we do things today?

Today, boundaries between corporate communication (CorpCom) and marketing communication are often blurred. The company newspaper, media releases, etc. may be part of the CorpCom team. Nonetheless, content for distribution on social media, stories on the website, etc. are part of the firm’s traditional or digital marketing departments. Synergies between these groups and their output are not always easy to achieve.

Advantage: Clear distribution of work, possibly based in part on the team leader’s preference.
Disadvantage: Potential synergies between CorpCom and Marketing, such as digital, are rarely used.

Strategy / Targets: Implementation within 12-18 months

What are the 3 to 5 most important stakeholder groups that we need to reach, on which channels and with which type of content produced by different teams?
The primary goal is the optimal coordination and more effective use of content. Examples include articles from the company newspaper, reports from events, etc. These are curated and maintained for storytelling in the digital field and for use in press releases.

Advantage: Different groups such as millennials or digital natives within different stakeholder categories can be more easily reached while engagement improves.
Disadvantage: Good collaboration between teams is a must.

Kommunikation Papier und Digital, nur Papier oder nur Digital? Egal welcher Kanal, die Message muss ankommen.
Should communication be digital and on paper, only on paper, or just digital? Regardless of the channel, the message must get through.

2. Business Communication 4.1: Building Brand Equity

The factors listed above show that thanks to more cooperation and coordination between different areas such as CorpCom and Marketing, we are better able to reach the important target groups. In other words, whether corporate communication or digital marketing both produce important content. This content must reach the desired stakeholder groups and attract their attention. It should not be forgotten that each stakeholder group has different age, education, income, and gender groups! This in turn requires that we adapt our communication accordingly.

The main objective with communication is to have a clear message regarding the brand, its message and the image we want to portray. The table below illustrates this with the help of a model that proposes changes are implemented using 3 phases.

Start of projectPhase 1
Starts in month 0
Duration 1 – 3 months
Phase 2
Starts in month 4
Duration 1 – 4 months
Completion in months 4 – 9
Phase 3
Starts in month 9
Duration 3 – 9 months
Completion in months 12 – 18
AnalysisIdentify possible changes.Where do we have potentially affected areas were collaboration and coordination can be improved.1 – 2 larger changes where things can be improved.
TargetsGet the „low hanging fruit“ first.Use SMART-Metrics when setting targets.Specifiy who does what, until when, and how we define success versus failure.
ImplementationStart implementing small changes with a big impact now.Start quickly and realise objectives using a step-by-step implementation process.Only start implementing agreed-upon changes after the necessary resources have been approved.
ControlAfter 3 months, check whether targets were reached.After 2 months, measure performance and analyse for further improvements.After 2 months, check for first results.

Note. Phase 1 starts in month 0. In total, successful completion of the 3 phases should take between 12 to 18 months. After Analysis, phase 2 puts the spotlight on implementation of 2 to 3 simple things that achieve great results without requiring many resources. Phase 3 requires that after 12 months, the first positive results can be reported.

3. Implementation and control

The key to success is that during phase 1, actions that represent „low-hanging fruit“ are realised. This means that relatively simple and cost-effective changes that immediately improve the impact of corporate communication are identified. Once complete, these ideas are immediately implemented.

For example, an easily implemented change in phase 1 would be preparing an article simultaneously for publication in the company newspaper and on the website. Of course, the text will be different and include other visuals such as a graphic. Nonetheless, this does not require substantial additional resources. It is important that such a change will allow the message to reach different demographics within a stakeholder group. For instance, millennials and digital natives within the consumer stakeholder group.

In phase 2 we might supplement the text of the online content with a video and also include a link to it in the press release. A short clip could be shared on a platform such as Instagram. Viewers are then also referred to the company website.

Phase 3 should contain a maximum of 3 possible larger improvements which will help change our communication for the better (we recommend using SMART metrics). These are usually longer-term and more intensive as far as implementation is concerned. Nevertheless, the impact on communication and the bottom line is likely significant.

For the customer, the packaging of the brand is less important than what comes with it. To illustrate:

  • We have innovative and competitive products – do we communicate this effectively?
  • Quality at a fair price – how do we compare to the competition?
  • Excellent customer service – according to what, customer reviews?

The company has to successfully master these 3 things. In addition, different stakeholder groups must be reached with this message. If this is the case, the firm is almost always very successful.

Nevertheless, CorpCom today is about more than communicating a clear image of the company (i.e. corporate image) to stakeholders and employees. Neither media representatives nor stakeholders are willing to invest time in our content if it does not provide them with added value. Communication today helps the company to position its brand. With the help of brand staging, for example, we move the product away from rational comparability. In this way, we also create proximity to the customer. The interesting story, e.g. in terms of sustainability, charity and brand commitment, is becoming increasingly important in communication. Without emotions and brand staging only the price remains as a differentiation for the product. This puts our mission path to success on very thin ice.

4. What do you think

It’s important that we analyse the current situation first. Based on these findings we can then decide what needs to be changed. To make this process smooth, we must define what needs to be accomplished through the changes we intend to implement. This must include a clear understanding of what constitutes success or failure. With the help of our KPIs we can then ensure that our subsequent evaluation is based on facts, not fiction.

In corporate communication, as well as in other things related to volunteering or company work, we should be guided by the following thought:

Once you have the diagnosis, know what needs to be fixed and how this can be done, just do it. We need to act fast or the window of opportunity will close.

„The low-hanging fruit“, i.e. problems which the analysis has revealed and we can solve quickly with little effort, must be taken care of as quickly as possible. Implementing these small changes also provide the team with those important first successes, empowering them to tackle the more significant adjustments and changes to further streamline their work.

But what we would really love, is to hear your opinion on these matters!

  • How did you solve the challenges discussed above?
  • Have you ever had to reorganise your corporate communication or digital marketing?
  • To what extent has the work on communications content, such as media releases, triggered changes in internal processes?

We are looking forward to your comments, which we will read with interest. And of course, we will reply!

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