If communicators want to be perceived as professional managers in their organizations, they need to know about popular management tools. And they need to know which tools are appropriate for their own work.
Our newly developed Toolbox for Strategic Communication Management provides a comprehensive overview of established management tools as well as communication tools for analyzing, planning, executing, and evaluating communications.
How can communications be managed and steered?
The most relevant facts about the Toolbox at a glance:
- New overview of popular tools: The Toolbox for Strategic Communication Management offers a comprehensive and structured overview of the most popular tools for management and communications.
- Applying the toolbox: Communication executives can use the toolbox to verify whether appropriate tools are in place for each phase of communication management. We found that the analysis and evaluation phases are the areas that have the biggest potential for future development, e.g. for using big data analytics or conducting result-oriented instead of output-centered measurement.
- Promoting professionalism: Communicators benefit from applying established management tools to steer and optimize their activities. Using the same tools as business executives helps to demonstrate the department´s effectiveness and efficiency. Reporting communication impact in the language of management contributes to a greater appreciation of communication departments and their leaders.
A variety of established business and communication tools can be used for managing corporate communications more efficiently:
- Analysis tools help to analyze changing markets and environments, provide evidence-based foundations for decision-making, point out different strategies of action, forecast trends and innovation opportunities.
- Planning tools help to set up organizational departments, define a departmental strategy and derive specific goals, make staffing and budgeting decisions, develop time schedules and project management goals.
- Execution tools help to implement programs and ensure that plans are in place, steer and lead teams and orchestrate co-workers, guide processes and workflows.
- Evaluation and control tools help to monitor and evaluate the execution of operations, identify improvement needs and adjust activities accordingly.
- Closer to the business: Supplementing communication with management tools helps to plan and define communication targets, measure department effectiveness and efficiency and also helps to report communication impact in the language of management.
- Focus not only on comms output: The measurement of communication success is still heavily based on monitoring communication outputs. Departments, however, should track the personal and financial costs and evaluate communication impact based on the strategic or financial targets of the organization.
- New potentials: Measurement insights and big data applications hold great potential, e.g. for identifying areas for improvement, leading communication teams, or advancing future activities.
As a first step, an extensive interdisciplinary literature review helped to systematize existing academic knowledge on value creation. Publications from the year 2000 onwards were included and account for more than 800 academic pieces in 36 international journals.
Secondly, empirical in-depth interviews with the CCOs of ten German and international blueship companies were carried out and supplemented by a secondary data analysis of more than 50 internal and external strategy documents, planning documents, and strategy formulations in annual reports of these ten companies.
- Management tools: Management science and consultants have developed many tools, concepts and models specifically dedicated to improving the management of business processes and workflows. Effectiveness and efficiency are keys for success in the corporate world.
- Application of tools in communication: A number of established business tools can be used for managing corporate communications. However, according to our research, they are seldom applied in practice. Most communication departments rely on tools such as stakeholder mapping, social media analytics, SWOT analysis and crisis handbooks. Advanced tools like benchmarking, competitive intelligence, scenario techniques and scorecards are yet seldom applied and some communication departments even make decisions based on gut feelings or previous experiences, rather than carefully considering alternative strategic options.
- Formalized reporting process: Evaluating and reporting communication impact is still predominantly done at the technical level, in a narrative and informal manner. Here, most communication departments report output-centered data such as media reach, website traffic or event attendance.
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