Corporate Communications

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 00:16

      JOEP CORNELISSEN: So in my view, corporate communicationis really the discipline, but also it'sthe practice area that is concernedwith how organizations communicatewith their stakeholders, broadly defined.As a label and as a practice area,it sort of grew out of the 1990s where companies realizedthat they need to communicate much more strategicallywith their stakeholders.

    • 00:40

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So you get terms like corporate branding, corporate reputation.There's a whole vocabulary that emergedthat reflected at that time that practitioners felt that theyneeded a new approach to manage those relationships with a muchmore complex set of stakeholders.Historically, prior to that, therewas the term public relations, which was in a wayan umbrella term for a different set of tools and techniquesthat you would use.

    • 01:07

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So think of media relations, or issues management--a whole range of tools and practiceareas around those tools.So prior to that, there was a discipline of public relations.But in the 1990s in particular, yousee lots of companies changing even the labelsof the departments.So the PR departments become corporate communicationsor corporate affairs departments.

    • 01:31

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: And practitioners were also startingto think and reflect on more strategic approachesto communication.So not just the tools, but the broader strategiesand the broader ways of thinking about how it allhangs together.So how you can get a more integrated approachto your communication so that you make surethat similar type of impressions and similar type of messagesare being sent to different stakeholders.

    • 01:58

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: All with the intent of creating a very strong,favorable, consistent corporate reputation in the mindsof the stakeholders.And why that is?Because the stakeholders are ultimatelyimportant for organizations.So you need your employees to be willing to work for youor to work harder for you.You want communities to support you.

    • 02:19

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: You want governments to be supportive and favorabletowards an organization.You want customers and investors to interact with you.So all of the stakeholders are crucial to the continuationof an organization.So how it's different from businessand technical communication-- businessand technical communication, a little bit like PR,are much more technical in focus.

    • 02:45

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So they're to do with particular acts of writingor particular media formats.They don't look at the boarder corporate pictureas corporate communication does, where you look moreat the broader strategies and the broader approachesthat communication practitioners take,and the plans and the campaigns that they develop.

    • 03:06

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So a particular media format or a particular piece of writingcould be a part of, but that's only the tactical elementof the broader strategy that a communicator wouldconceptualize and would define.So these things are not separate from one another.So in one way, you might say corporate communicationis a continuation of public relations.

    • 03:29

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: And sometimes, actually, practitioners stilluse that term.But then reflecting that PR is much more tactical, technical,and corporate communication is much morethe overall strategic approach.But they're not completely separate.So business and technical communication fits in there.But in my view, it's only a key part--a very essential part-- but it's onlya part of the broader approach of corporate communication.

    • 04:02

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: The starting point for corporate communicationis really the organization and then in particularthe corporate organization, although it could in principlealso apply to public sector organizationsor small entrepreneurial firms.But that's really the starting point.So even the labels signifies that,how did the notion of a corporate entity, howyou as a corporation interact with different stakeholders,and how you communicate with them.

    • 04:32

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: Sometimes that's also referred to as corporate branding.So the terms corporate communicationand corporate bonding are in a way synonyms,because it's the same idea that you have an identity,or there's an entity of a corporationthat you want to communicate about, and represent,and again a favorable reputation for in the eyesof and in the minds of your stakeholders.

    • 04:58

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So in that sense, it's similar.What the key difference with branding in general is--and that's more to do with corporate versus productbranding-- is that with corporate communication asin corporate branding, the focus is on the corporationor the organization as a whole.Sometimes, branding may also relate to a particular productor service band, so then it's really just within the areaof marketing and very specific.

    • 05:25

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: What you do see, though, is that the two-- and that'swhy corporate branding is becomingmore important-- the two are sort of being merged into onein that if you look at companies like Unilever that used to bereally focused just on the product side,so on the product branding side, they're now becoming much moremonolithic.

    • 05:45

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So they're much more investing in the corporate brandsbehind the products that they sell.And you see that across the board.And that's coming back to the pointthat if you have a strong corporate brand,a strong corporate reputation in the minds of your stakeholders,that's going to translate into real financial, economicbenefits.

    • 06:08

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So you see a lot of these typically multinationalcorporations that were more holding companies,or conglomerations around particular productlines, or separate business units,reconfiguring and rethinking their branding portfolio.And then in particular moving towards a corporate brandingapproach.

    • 06:29

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: That then also means that the way in which marketingand communication is approached is againfrom the perspective of the corporation.So all of the corporate communication,all of the marketing communication,needs to be integrated, needs to be harmonized.Because that's an area where you don't want,then, any conflicting messages being sent out,any inconsistencies.

    • 06:54

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So a company like Unilever would have a very clear strategyaround that in terms of the overall identitythat they're pursuing for the companyand particular campaigns-- around healthy living,in their case-- that they're developing.And that, in a way, are embedded in allof the other communications and marketing that they do.

    • 07:18

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: Delinquency has always been an interesting one.That's again at the level of the entire corporation.What that reflects in equally similarterminology like sustainability, orenvironmental responsibilities in general,or corporate citizenship, is that a companyis expected to take on more responsibilitiesbeyond just the economic, the core pursuing of profits--or in a sense what it has to do.

    • 07:52

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So be a commercially viable company,pursue profits, but at the same time beyond that,be a good citizen, engage with stakeholders,look after your employees.So it's in effect, again, the stakeholder mantrathat you make sure that you look after your employees,that you look after your customers,that you look after your investors--all of the stakeholders that are of primary importance to you.

    • 08:19

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: You might say that that emphasis on CSRhas again strengthened the emphasison thinking about a corporation as a brandor looking at it strategically from a corporate communicationperspective as opposed to looking at communication justaround tools, or looking at it tactically,or at the level of marketing as beingseparate from corporate communications.

    • 08:43

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So it's again emphasized the importancefor a company to have a very clear strategyaround its communications and around howit engages with stakeholders.And also to make very clear choices around CSR.Because if you don't have very clear choices in termsof what type of responsibilities youwant to take on in relation to your stakeholdersand what issues you care about, then you'reonly going to be found out later on.

    • 09:10

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So you can't really use it as a sort of greenwashing exerciseor something that you do just in terms of spin,that it's something that you think you have to do.And it's an addon, or it's an afterthought, or a ploythat you engage in.It really needs to be core and integralto what you do as a company and the identitythat you pursue anyway.

    • 09:35

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So that's what I would say.It probably emphasizes the importanceof a strategic approach to communication, again.It's approaching it from the corporationas a whole as opposed to its separate products or services,or particular parts of the company.And to make very clear choices in terms of what you wantto pursue in that area of CSR and what you don't.

    • 09:58

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: And in a way, what falls outside of your remit.Because that level of transparencyregardless of whether you should be doing this, that,or the other, it should be meeting a certain expectationin the minds of your stakeholders.If you're transparent and if you communicate about ittransparently, that is often just as important.

    • 10:24

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So obviously, within corporate communicationthere are different specialty areasthat look after both internal and external stakeholders.So think of media relations as one areathat's obviously geared towards the mediaas an important external group.Think of what used to be called internal communicationbut is now often called employee communication.

    • 10:46

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: That's directly targeted towards your employees.Sometimes that split is still made.And you see often within corporate communicationdepartments different specialists interfacingwith these different groups.So that split is there, and that in terms of workloadmakes a lot of sense.If you're looking after the internet,if you're looking after the newsletter--all sorts of techniques on the internal side--there's only 24 hours in a day.

    • 11:13

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So as a professional, you may not be able to then also workon the external side.On the other hand, what we're seeing in recent yearsis that if there ever was a boundary,that boundary is eroding.And that's partly to do with social media.So there are many examples of employees wanting to own blogsor via social media communicatingabout the company.

    • 11:42

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So then in a way, your internal constituencies or stakeholdersthat you're hoping to address are managed,you might say-- if I can use that word--in an internal context.But equally, these same individualsare in an external sense communicatingon behalf of the corporation.

    • 12:02

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So that boundary is not as clear cut as it used to be.So traditionally, we as corporate communicatorsthought about it in terms of that both approaches shouldbe aligned so that there is again consistency in messaging.In effect, you create the same identityinternally as a corporation, and that identityis then, for instance by your employees,also projected towards the outside world.

    • 12:30

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So historically and traditionally, we looked at itin terms of separate approaches, but make surethat the alignment is there.Now, it's much harder to think about it in termsof separate approaches.It's also much harder to think about itin terms of messaging that you can control.So we're now actually on the cusp of-- or at leastaccording to many in the industry-- of a new paradigmor a new era where it may be less about control,and it may be more about fostering goodwillon the part of your employees, or fostering goodwillon the part of your external stakeholders.

    • 13:10

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: Still feeding messages to those different groups,but not so much then trying or having even the idea that youcan control what goes on in the minds of your stakeholdergroups internally and externally.But feeding messages, and then massaging people.

    • 13:31

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: And then letting it, in a way, run its own courseso that employees-- if they've beenprovided with the right level of information.If they are also in terms of a communication approach,they feel that they're involved in the corporation,then it's more likely that they embrace the key values,that they embrace the identity.And in a sense, then you can let them go offand blog or interface with external groupswithout having to worry too much about it.

    • 13:59

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So without having to feel that you need to control that,or that that needs to be policed somehowby the corporate communication department.So that is the sort of period that we're moving into now.That it's less about control.And the terminology is not that clear yet.

    • 14:20

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: I used the word massaging just now.Fostering, maybe.So you're still supporting the communication processand the flow of information between, in this case,employees and external stakeholder groups.But you're not trying to police it.You're just supporting it rather than managing it,if that makes sense.

    • 14:40

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: And that's, for many communicators,at the same time a real challenge.Because obviously in the old dayswhen we had very clear channels to the outside worldand equally towards our employees,we always had a sense that we controlled everything in termsof the messages that went out.And then by extension, we assumedthat employees and other stakeholderswould come to think of the organization in those terms.

    • 15:05

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: Now, there's no way in which you canassume that direct channeling.So that assumption has been significantly challengedin recent years.So for communicators, that's hard,particularly for-- if I can generalize--for older generations who've been trained and socializedinto a different way of approaching the job.

    • 15:25

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: That's obviously hard.And for newer generations who are much more fluent, muchmore aware of social media tools, of how to communicatewith those tools, the communication modelsthat they imply, they seem to be much more equippedto deal with that.

    • 15:51

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So of all social media, to some extentit's a little bit too early to tell what sort of paradigmwere moving into.So as I said, we knew the old paradigm,which was all about strategic messaging, all about managing,coordinating those messages so that youget consistent impressions.

    • 16:12

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: And then by extension, the assumptionwas that you would get consistent, and strong,and favorable reputations in the minds of your stakeholders.So I sometimes describe that approachas a sort of positioning approach.So similar to a lot of thinking in branding.As a communicator, you would figure outwhat you want to stand for as a corporation.

    • 16:33

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: You would embed that in your messages.And then you would assume that youcould a little bit like positioning mantra,you could take up a position, a reputational position,in the minds of your stakeholders.That seemed to have been the approach thatwas there for a very long time.Now with social media, that is being challenged.

    • 16:55

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So communication is becoming less linear.It's becoming-- or the expectationalso on the part of your stakeholders--is that it needs to become more interactive.And social media fosters that type of interaction, obviously,and that expectation.So that is happening.Whether we're really moving into a full paradigm shiftis a little bit hard to tell at the moment.

    • 17:20

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So obviously historically when you're in this sort of period,there's lots of voices that are talkingabout a fundamental paradigm shift.And the old principles of strategic messaging,and positioning, and consistency in an integrated approachdon't apply anymore.And we're in a completely new world with new approachesaround social media, new models of communication, new metrics.

    • 17:47

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So we need to start from scratch again, and conceptualize,and think what that new world looks like.At this point in time, we're a little bit in between the two,you might say.So lots of companies still approachcorporate communication in an old school manner followingthis positioning approach.

    • 18:09

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: They're also experimenting with social media.But the suggestion is not that we've moved alreadyto a completely new phase where it's allbuilt around social media.Probably, the future will, in my view,will be also be a combination of these different modelsof communication and these different channels and tools.

    • 18:32

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So the old channels-- so think of advertising,for instance-- will still be there.Newer media platforms will be added to that.And it will be a combination of a more linear messagingapproach as well as a more interactive approachto communication.What the right architecture is for a company,or what the right combination between those twois-- those models of communication and the toolsthat come with that-- that's a little bit too early to tell,and to generalize, and to suggest that itshould be the one or the other.

    • 19:09

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: There's lots of case studies thatare coming out at the moment thatdemonstrates either the effective use of social mediaor demonstrates still effective use of a combination of two.So it's a little bit hard to tell what thatwill look like in the future.We're definitely going through a periodof change, that's for sure.

    • 19:29

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: But whether it's a complete redefinitionof the practice of corporate communication,that's something that still needs to be seen.The theory of corporate communicationis actually quite a young field.

    • 19:51

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So as I said, it sort of emerged in the early '90sin particular as a separate domainreflecting the interest in corporate communicationin practice.So as practitioners, we're startingto redefine the nature of organizational communicationin their organizations.

    • 20:12

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: Equally, academics started to realize that we shouldn't justlook at this through the lens of, say, public relations,or business and technical communication.There's actually space for somethingas an academic area called corporate communications.So it's quite a recent area of study.

    • 20:33

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: It's also quite a specialized area, you might say.So it's not as if there's hundreds of thousandsof people around the world studyingcorporate communications.So it's quite a small academic communitythat is looking at the developmentof the theoretical foundations of this area, thatis doing research on corporate communications.

    • 20:54

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So it's quite a small field.And that's important to realize in the sensethat as academics, I sometimes feelwe're doing as much as we can.We're trying to study all these changesin corporate communication practice.We're trying to cover most of the important topicsaround transparency, identity, reputation, issues management,crisis communication, leadership communication-- allof these different areas that need to be covered.

    • 21:22

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: But we often don't have the manpowerto do that, even with new researcherscoming into the discipline.As a result, it's not so that it's an area wherethere's a lot of debate.There are some critical perspectives.Obviously, different academics define the area differently.

    • 21:43

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: They may be more wedded to a business school perspective.So things like stakeholder theory or strategy.Others may be more wedded to a communication scienceperspective, and would look at things like framing,or the media, or publics from that perspective.So you do have these different camps,but it's not as if there's a huge debatearound what the theoretical foundations should be.

    • 22:07

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: My own take on this is that corporate communications,as it's being taught, mostly happens in business schools.So that means that the natural link is reallywith the knowledge base that is there in a business school.So things like strategy, HRM, leadership, marketing.

    • 22:29

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So all these other discipline areasthat obviously intersect and havegot a lot of good theory and conceptsthat they can supply to the understandingof corporate communication.That isn't to say that it should bedivorced from the more communication science approacheither.Because I do feel that particularly around media--and take social media as one area.

    • 22:55

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: That's an area where communication science,obviously, is doing a lot of work,and where other parts of the humanitiesalso equally doing a lot of work,and where there's a real potential for more integration,or more collaboration, or a dialogueacross these different fields.So in some way, we just need we justneed more researchers, PhD students, peopleinterested in this area to come in and to help us study itand to address the really important questions.

    • 23:28

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: And why that is important is that in some senses,there's so much to be done.And we can't really deliver on all of the important issuesthat are happening out there in the corporate worldat the moment.Whereas that link is really important.Because I do feel-- and that was alsoone of the motivations for writing the book-- that if wecan somehow disclose the knowledgebase to practitioners, they're goingto be able to make much more informed decisions.

    • 23:58

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So think of-- almost daily-- whenyou look at the Financial Times, or youlook at the Guardian, or any other newspaper.There's always a corporate crisis or a corporate issuebeing covered.And often when I then look at the sort of media responseand what is being done on the part of the organizationto respond to that emerging issue or crisis,often is insufficient if you thinkabout what we know about crisis communication,and effective crisis communication,or issues communication from an academic perspective.

    • 24:35

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So that for me is illustrative of this importanceof connecting the theory and the practice up in a coherent way.And practitioners really benefit from that,just as for academics when you interface with practitioners,obviously they're the people we study and we work with.We also benefit greatly from that.

    • 24:55

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So that alignment is really, really crucial.Also for the discipline to move forwardand to tackle the issues that are really importantand that are out there today.Particularly thinking about studentswho want to study corporate communication,obviously you can look at this through the perspectiveof different methods that you might useand how they relate to certain questionsthat you might want to answer.

    • 25:29

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So broadly speaking, quantitative versusqualitative methods.What you often see is that studentsgo for quantitative methods, particularly survey methodswhen they go into this area.Equally, academics themselves oftenseem quite comfortable with using quantitative methods.

    • 25:51

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So to survey, let's say, the entire professional communityof communicators in a particular countryand see what their approach to the jobis, what they spend most of their time on,what prior degrees they have.So there's a lot of that quantitative approachto the profession.

    • 26:15

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: Surveying what is being done, surveyingwhat the new trends and developments are in the field.I think as a another approach to that, qualitative methodswould, in my view-- but that's partly because I'ma qualitative research myself-- wouldbe really interesting because to some extent,besides that broader profiling that you'reable to do and able to lay bare with quantitative methods,with qualitative research you can often really get closeto the people that you study.

    • 26:51

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So if you think about corporate communication being also partlyabout, say, lobbying, for instance, or influencing,or very detailed conversations thathappen within an organization around what the communicationstrategy should be, then obviouslyqualitative methods-- interviews,but also participative observation,or focus groups in other cases-- may be really useful for that.

    • 27:18

      JOEP CORNELISSEN [continued]: So it really depends on the question, I think.But then, I would also make a special pleafor qualitative methods as an area that could be particularlyuseful for studying this.[MUSIC PLAYING]

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Corporate Communications

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Professor Joep Cornelissen provides an overview of the field of corporate communication. He describes how it differs from other organizational fields and explains what this very young field of study needs to help define it more profoundly.

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Corporate Communications

Professor Joep Cornelissen provides an overview of the field of corporate communication. He describes how it differs from other organizational fields and explains what this very young field of study needs to help define it more profoundly.

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