The most important task of strategic corporate communications is to provide the company with a sustainable competitive advantage. Corporate reputation can also be considered as a strategic competitive advantage. Consequently, corporate communications should play an important, if not the central role in reputation management. However, as numerous studies confirm, the reality looks somewhat different. As it was highlighted in Ron van der Jagt’s 2005 study, the majority of CEOs found the role of corporate communications in reputation management to be lacking. Several authors believe that the main reason for this divergence is the so-called ‘perception gap’. Corporate management and corporate communications have a very different perception of each other’s performance.
On the basis of this misconception, a research project led by Joachim Schwalbach at the Humboldt University of Berlin is aiming to analyze this ‘perception gap’ in strategic communication from the specific point of view of different stakeholders. To do so, different empirical surveys are being conducted.
On the one hand, the study will help to explain the different perceptions of strategic communication of various stakeholders – depending on their functional and sectorial background. On the other hand it will contribute to a more effective management of corporate reputation and communications.
Digitalization and globalization mean that more complex demands are increasingly being placed on communication departments Communication executives are expected to provide the resulting need for coordination. They need to, on the one hand, enable their employees to be able to deal with the increasingly demanding communication work professionally. On the other hand, communication executives must also be able to coordinate communication related tasks with other departments and the top management. Communication governance is therefore essential for the development and implementation of communication strategies.
Janne Stahl, Research Associate at the University of Münster and scholarship holder of the Academic Society, addresses in her PhD project the issue of how top-level executives in communication management lead. The project looks at the leadership of employees as well as the in organisational management of communication-specific areas. The study also takes a closer look into how leadership can contribute to successful strategic communication.
In terms of methodology, observations and interviews are currently being carried out with first and second level communication executives at two different companies. The results will show what employee leadership and in organisational leadership in professional communication management is currently like and how it can help to tackle diverse and complex communication tasks. In addition, leadership models and the skills needed by communication executives will be presented.
The issue of skills management in communication departments has so far only been touched upon superficially by communication research. Research is currently being undertaken by Juliane Kiesenbauer, a Research Associate at the University of Leipzig who is currently pursuing her PhD with a scholarship from the Academic Society. Her central research question is: what role does skills management play in corporate communications departments?
The objective of skills management and training communication managers is to develop the professional skills of each individual employee along with the department as a whole, thus enabling both to contribute to a company's success.
By presenting various case studies the PhD project will demonstrate the different ways this goal can be achieved in communications departments. It aims to provide a comprehensive picture of the development, organization, objectives and strategy, as well as the significance of skills management in communications departments. In discussions and workshops with business partners the knowledge transfer between science and business will be taken further. The full results will be available in early 2017.