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Even though most executives view communications as critical for corporate success, they lack an understanding of how communications contribute to the creation of value for the company. Explaining and reporting communication impact in the language of top managers becomes a key success factor. Our newly developed framework can help communication professionals overcome this challenge.
CONVEY: By convincing key stakeholders of the corporate strategy, the communication department contributes strategically to corporate success. Therefore, the department uses its unique relationship network to influential journalists, politicians or critical stakeholders for the development of messages to convey strategic goals.
"The communication department develops communication plans for selected key stakeholders such as investors or internal leaders who are highly relevant to endorse the corporate strategy. This could be done via road shows and background talks."
ALIGN: Excellent communication departments ensure the strategic alignment of communication strategy with corporate strategy. They define objectives that either directly or indirectly add value to the company. Communicators need to know how to build reputation, manage brands, foster innovation, build up architectures of listening as well as how to set up communication strategies.
"The crucial task of the communication department is to translate the overarching corporate strategy into an aligned communication strategy and to define specific communication goals."
STEER: By steering key resources and critical processes of the communication department in a future-oriented and strategic manner, the department adds to the prospective performance of the organization. Communicators are required to have a solid knowledge of management and controlling tools to ensure the department's strategic management.
"The communication department offers programs to improve the communication staffs' competencies. It also develops effective structures in order to optimize internal workflows."
ADVISE: By consulting and advising the organization on its long-term strategic development the communication department gains influence in strategic decision-making processes. Research on the advisory function has recently seen a new rise under the terms 'listening' and 'internal counseling'.
"The communication unit is increasingly counseling top management with regard to the societal needs and expectations towards the company. By monitoring critical issues and trends, communications provide an early warning system for upcoming crises and offers strategic advice."
MULTIPLY: The communication unit contributes operationally to corporate success by passing on the corporate strategy and positioning to interested publics. Communication departments have to break down the strategy into comprehensible messages and distribute these in annual reports and CEO interviews, on websites or social media.
"It's a 100% communication for corporate strategy. Clear words as well as the right channels such as brochures, videos, press conferences, online communications and annual reports play a key role in explaining our company's strategy to all our stakeholders."
CONTRIBUTE: The communication department delivers professional communication measures and supports the day-to-day operations of other organizational functions. Cross-divisional communications have to be integrated and orchestrated. Furthermore, messaging and listening competencies are needed.
"The communication team is in charge of communication campaigns, product publicity, or employer branding, and thereby enables the operation of other corporate functions such as product management and human resources."
MANAGE: Through planning, budgeting, allocating resources and measuring success, this contribution includes the management of the day-to-day operations of the communication unit. Leadership competencies as well as excellent project management competencies are important.
"The communication department has to do things right, by implementing processes efficiently, reducing costs, controlling operations and reporting on the broad range of activities."
COACH: By coaching the communicative competence of employees and executives, the department helps and enables all members of the organization to communicate professionally. In today's media environment, every member of the organization is and should be a communicator.
"We have set up different formats to offer regular communication trainings and teach employees and top managers how to communicate professionally on behalf of our company."
The Communications Contributions Framework can be used for different purposes:
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.
Tench, R., Vercic, D., Zerfass, A., Moreno, A., & Verhoeven, P. (2017). Communication Excellence: How to Develop, Manage and Lead Exceptional Communications. London: Palgrave Macmillan.