Corporate Communication and Public Relations
Corporate Communication and Public Relations
A major criterion for the success of an organization is the perception of the public about the organization. What the general public, competitors, and employees perceive about the organization is what defines its respectability, its position, and ultimately its success. The primary objective of corporate communication and public relations is to establish a good perception (true or otherwise) in the eyes of the public and its stakeholders since the fortune of the organization is influenced by the assessment of the public and the stakeholders.
Corporate communication and public relations is a way for the organization to heighten and strengthen its position. It is a professional task. It normally involves communicating with the media or professionals to introduce the organization in the most impressive way possible. It also involves coordinated efforts between independent society and the organization to create kindness within the society and propagate the image of the organization.
The significance of corporate communication and public relations lies regarding ‘controlling how the world sees the organization’. For example, in a crisis, regardless of what actually happened, it is the understanding of the public and the stakeholders of the crisis and how it has been tackled defines their reaction to the organization. If the organization does not present itself as quiet, dignified, and peaceful, and projects aggressive behaviour then it is going to be questioned by the stakeholders. The significance of the corporate communication and public relations is to understand how the public and the stakeholders are going to react to such behaviour. The corporate communication and public relations is to ensure through press releases, newsletters, advertisements and other modes of communication that the public and stakeholders gets only that information which the organisation wants them to have.
Corporate communication and public relations is the managing of relationships with public groups. It is all about managing relationships by informing, persuading, dialogue, and negotiating and is considered as an important tool of the organizational management. It is done to influence the behaviour of parts of the important relationships. Communication is the most important mean of public relations and relationships are the outcome of it.
There are various definitions of the corporate communication and public relations which provide some idea about its nature and scope. Some of these definitions are given here. One definition is ‘establishing a bond of relationships and contacts between two groups of public. Another definition is ‘deliberate, planned, and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and the public. One other definition describes corporate communication and public relations as ‘an attempt, through information, persuasion, adjustment and contacts, to seek for some activity, cause, movement, institution, product or service’.
The Institute of Public Relations states that the corporate communication is the ears, eyes and voice of the organization. It is crucial to match corporate strategy with corporate communication policy and practice.
The Institute of Public Relations states that the ‘public relations’ is the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between on organization and its publics. It is the management of communication between the organization and its publics. It is the attempt by information persuasion and adjustment to engineer public support for an activity, cause, movement or organization. It helps the organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.
In 1978, the World Assembly of Public Relations agreed upon a definition of public relations, which is known as ‘the Mexican definition’. It states ‘public relations is the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counselling organizational leaders as well as planning and implementing a programme of action that will serve the interest of not only the organization but also that of its publics’. Fig 1 shows publics of the organization in public relations.
Fig 1 Publics of the organization in public relations
Corporate communication and public relations is described as the set of activities involved in ‘managing and orchestrating all internal and external communications’ which are designed to create favourable starting points. It is based on giving out of information by a variety of specialists and generalists in an organization. It is concerned with people, organisational processes, activities, and media. There are two views regarding corporate communication and public relations.
The first view states that it is the management of communication to mix the activities of the advertisement and promotional fields in the best possible way. It is the view which considers corporate communication and public relations as ‘a tool of marketing’. This is the view which no one wants to express explicitly, when asked for.
The second view is diametrically opposite to the first view. As per this view, corporate communication and public relations refers to managing communication by direct or indirect relationships, in order to gain the trust of public groups and to monitor their trust and the consequences it has for the organization. At the same time, corporate communication and public relations is the management of information about what is going on inside and outside the organization, with the goal of anticipating future situations or to solve already established problems in a proper and less harmful way to the organization. This can only be done by establishing communication, i. e. relationships. Thus corporate communication and public relations is concerning communicating about the organization within society. It also refers to ‘managing relationships’.
Corporate communication and public relations is an inevitable activity which determines how effectively it creates trust and credibility and communicates the same effectively to its stakeholders who are the building blocks of the organization. It derives its significance from the fundamental need of the organization to achieve profitability, coherence, and managing cordial relationships with the stakeholders and transmitting a strong sense of ethics, reliability to public at large and also to gain a strategic competitive advantage over its rivals. It is also instrumental in not only organizing and managing internal and external activities of the organization but also in motivating the employees towards higher productivity.
Corporate communication and public relations is an important function or activity of the organization. Hence, it is to be entrusted to effective and experienced executives. Each corporate communication and public relations activity can have different objectives, strategy, and plan, such as, to create a positive image of the organization, to handle an organizational crisis, to motivate the employees, to create curiosity about a product, to advertise a product, or to inform about an event in advance. Corporate communication and public relations plans to achieve each of the above mentioned objectives with different approaches. Some of these approaches are press conferences, press releases, parties and get-togethers before any special event etc. Corporate communication and public relations and advertising and media are inter-related and can have common characteristics and activities.
Corporate communication and public relations creates an efficient and effective avenue of communication with employees, consumers, investors and many others, locally and globally. A great deal of management’s current concern for employee productivity and the need to empower people has revolved around the use of teams. But more frequently what is needed is the simple requirement of effective communication.
Corporate communication and public relations is both an art and a science. It has the beauty and emotionality of art and the system of science. It can mean different things to different people. Its techniques, strategies, and practices vary from organization to organization. However, the fundamental way of getting public approval is to deserve it.
Code of ethics is a very crucial requirement in any profession. Corporate communication and public relations professionals are no exception to this requirement. They have access to information or knowledge about events to come and hence any pressure or temptation to commercialize this information is to be avoided at all costs. While serving the interests of the organization and the employees, the corporate communication and public relations professionals are to ensure that they adhere to a code of ethics and a code of conduct so that they are not labelled as fixers or manipulators.
Functions of corporate communication and public relations
The important functions of corporate communication and public relations include (i) dealing with crisis control, (ii) enabling sophisticated approaches to global communications, and (iii) comprehension and utilization of complicated communication tools and technologies. The functions also include the following.
Corporate communication and public relations policy – The corporate communication and public relations policy is to be developed, approved, and shared with all the departments of the organization.
Statements and press releases – The responsibilities of corporate communication and public relations include preparation of corporate statements. Sometimes speeches for executives and press releases are to be prepared by the personnel of the corporate communication and public relations department. In the process, they are in a position to articulate and project positive image of the organization, or product, or policies.
Handling of publicity – The responsibilities of corporate communication and public relations include issuing announcements of the activities and the products of the organization to media and community. Planning promotional campaign using media is also a vital function. Handling inquiries from press and people at large is a part of the function.
Maintenance of relations – The corporate communication and public relations personnel are expected to maintain liaisons with the external agencies. They are expected to uphold good relations with the community as ‘good neighbours’. This includes communication between organization and external agencies which is an important part of maintaining relations.
Publications – The responsibilities of corporate communication and public relations include preparation of corporate and promotional videos, as well as preparation and publishing of in-house magazines, publicity pamphlets, and corporate brochures etc.
Relationship between corporate communication and public relations
Functions of corporate communication and public relations are comparatively the same, though the objectives and tactics of both are different and even conflicting. While corporate communication adheres to the complicated by-laws of compliance in both internal and external communication, promoting the integrity of the organization with very little room for creativity, public relations, on the other hand, creatively promotes the favourable image of the organization to the public. Further, while they are very different, both types of communication play pivotal role in the success of the organization.
Corporate communication is important primarily since it creates (i) positive and favourable public perception about the organization, (ii) is effective and efficient path of communication, (iii) reflects strong corporate culture, corporate identity, and corporate philosophy, and (iv) creates genuine sense of corporate citizenship.
Corporate communication builds a healthy organizational environment. In the organization information is to be disseminated by the specialists and generalists to a variety of people besides sharing information with the employees, stakeholders, media and customers. Corporate communication creates and maintains the brand and looks after the organizational reputation. It projects the organizational brand within and beyond the organization. It ensures a liaison between an organization and external world. These days, it is used as a tool (i) to project a positive corporate image, (ii) to build strong relationships with stakeholders, and (iii) to inform the public about new products and achievements.
Corporate communication at its simplest is primarily a mechanism for developing and managing a set of relationships with public or stakeholders who can affect the overall performance of the organization. These relationships are to be viewed in a long-term strategic way. Hence, corporate communication is used to build the image among its audiences to enhance the overall performance of the organization. Corporate communication creates the identity for the organization, builds its brand, and manages its reputation.
Corporate communication is the strategic initiative taken by the organization to communicate the corporate brand and its core messages to a spectrum of growing audiences in a globalized environment. At its core, corporate communication is very simple and is the way the organization communicates. It identifies that as a strategic initiative, corporate communication helps the organization to create its identity, build the brand, and manage its reputation. It goes beyond the traditional method of communication and harnesses the potential of the print, audio-visual and digital media for the organizational reputation. It uses advertising, public relations, community relations, corporate literature, exhibitions, event management, research, sponsorship management, traditional media and IMC (integrated marketing communication) to build the reputation of the organization, its brand, and its products and services. Some of the tools which are used are shown in Fig 2.
Fig 2 Tools for corporate communication
‘Public relations’ is distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance, and cooperation between an organization and its publics. It involves the management of problems or issues, helps management to keep informed on and responsive to public opinion, defines and emphasizes the responsibility of management to serve the public interest, helps management keep abreast of and effectively utilize change, serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends, and uses research and sound and ethical communication as its principal tools.
‘Public relations’ is a strategic communication process which builds mutually beneficial relationships between organization and its publics. In simple way, it can be said that the basic concept of public relations is a communication, conversation, or discussions process, which can be one way, or two ways or in any way. This process can be strategic in nature and stressed on ‘interdependent relationships’.
A smooth and affirmative relationship with all stakeholders helps in maintaining and sustaining a positive corporate image. The organization requires a respectable image and reputation. Increasing competition, accessibility of information, and the media explosion have made ‘reputation management’ a priority for the management of the organization. This is handled in a professional manner by the employees having responsibilities of the public relations.
The present view of public relations assumes that markets are attracted to and kept by the organizations which can create beneficial relationships. The paradigm of public relations is changing dramatically into the ‘underpinning assumption that public relations is a relationship-building professional activity which adds value to the organization since it increases the willingness of markets, audiences, and publics to support the organization rather than to oppose its efforts.
‘Public relations’ is the relationship management. It is aimed at building relationships with the public. It constitutes managing of strategic relationships. The long standing thinking is that the communication is the bedrock of public relations.
In the present day environment, it makes no sense to differentiate between communication and relationships. There is no clear difference between communication and relationships. What one sees as communication is what another uses the word for relationships. Communication is necessary for managing relationships with public groups. It is all about managing relationships by informing, persuading, dialogue, and negotiating. It is also to influence the behaviour of parts of the important relationships.
Relationships can refer to the relations between parties, to the process of relating, and even to the other party itself. Relationship building is not necessarily a merely reciprocal / symmetrical concept. Relationships are obviously a broad and complex concept. Communication is the most important mean of public relations and relationships are the outcome of it.
There are two views of the above concept. The first view states that it is the management of communication to mix the activities of the advertisement and promotional fields in the best possible way. This view refers to public relations as ‘a tool of marketing’, which is a view no one wanted to express explicitly, when asked for. The second view is diametrically opposite to the first view. As per second view, ‘public relations’ refers to managing communication by direct or indirect relationships, in order to gain the trust of public groups and to monitor their trust and the consequences it has for the organization. At the same time, ‘public relations’ is the management of information about what is going on inside and outside the organization, with the goal of anticipating future situations or to solve already established problems in a proper and less harmful way to the organization. This can only be done by establishing communication, i. e. relationships. This statement comes close to the view that ‘public relations’ is communicating about the organization within society. It also refers to managing relationships. However, it is also given as an argument for managing communication.
Roles of corporate communication and public relations
The important roles of corporate communication and public relations are (i) communication management, (ii) reputation or image management, (iii) issues management, (iv) crisis management, (v) relationship management, (vi) media relations management, (vii) risk management, and (viii) strategic management. Fig 3 shows roles of corporate communication and public relations.
Fig 3 Roles of corporate communication and public relations
Communication management – Communication plays a key role in the maintenance of a satisfactory, long-term, trusting relationship with publics and stakeholders. One of the major roles of the corporate communication and public relations is the management of the flow of information between the organization and the public. The communication objective is developed in line with the overall objectives of the organization and it sets a two-way communication process facilitating exchange of information between key publics and the management.
Reputation or image management – One of the roles of the corporate communication and public relations of the organization is to shape the image of the organization. Under the guidance of the management, it crafts an overview of how the organization wants to be perceived, and how it is going to project a positive image. This role includes planning and implementing of policies, procedures, and strategies which demonstrate the commitment of the organization to the public. The social responsibility and the ethical behaviour of the organization affect the reputation of the organization.
Issues management – The corporate communication and public relations identifies and analyzes problems, issues, and trends which can affect the organization. It also develops strategy and executes programme to deal with the issues. Research, study of public policy matters, and business environment monitoring are part of the corporate communication and public relations.
Crisis management – The corporate communication and public relations plays a critical role in protecting reputation of an organization when there is negative or unfavourable rumours and adverse publicity, which if left unchecked can negatively affect the organization. The corporate communication and public relations not only establishes policies and procedure to face an emergency affecting the public, but also responds to the crisis situations through effective communication to mitigate concern of public.
Relationship management – Another important role of the corporate communication and public relations is to identify key publics and establishing strategies for building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with those publics. Through various techniques, the corporate communication and public relations earns trust and support of the public to achieve the organizational objective.
Media relations – Media play an important role for the organization. The corporate communication and public relations establishes an effective relationship with media to get favourable publicity to influence public and change their behaviour in the desired direction. It also helps in getting third-party endorsement for a product, service, issue, or the organization.
Risk management – The corporate communication and public relations helps the organization to identify potential danger and risk factors and alerts the management. It also suggests the necessary changes to avoid the risk.
Strategic management – The corporate communication and public relations serves on the management team helping the organization develop sound policies which are in the best interests of the public as well as the organization. It integrates the concerns and attitudes of key publics into the organization’s managerial decision-making process.
Major areas of the activities
The major areas of the activities of corporate communication and public relations are described below.
Cordial relations with media – The personnel of the corporate communication and public relations are required to maintain cordial relations with all types of media for example, print media, and electronic media. In fact, both the corporate communication and public relations and the media are dependent on each other. Providing well written and well-timed press releases helps the media reporters and correspondent to write their articles. Easy accessibility, forbearance of press criticism, avoiding biases and undue favours to some section of the media are some of the features of media relations.
The personnel of the corporate communication and public relations are to project the organizational culture while disseminating information about the product or service. Since the reporters need news and the organization needs publicity, hence, there is a give and take between the reporters and the personnel of the corporate communication and public relations. This Inter-dependence between the two is to be understood in the right perspective.
Advertising – The consumers / customers are to be aware of the qualities and the size ranges of the organizational products so that they can purchase the products for meeting their requirements. For meeting this requirement, the organization needs to publicise the products through advertisement. The purpose of advertising can be to disseminate information, persuade or influence people to purchase and use the products. This advertisement is done through print or / and electronic media, and through special run campaigns. The product information can also be given to the customers by the distribution of the news-letters, pamphlets, catalogues, brochures, or product videos.
Publications – The corporate communication and public relations brings out brochures, folders, pamphlets, circular letters, in-house-magazines, corporate videos, and similar materials for the organization. While preparing the material, simplicity, clarity, cost, true image of the organization and attractiveness are the points which are to be taken into account.
Other coordination – The corporate communication and public relations brings up the organizational image through hoardings, audio-visual media and corporate films, and participation in the exhibitions. It is also to liaison with the local communities, local leaders, and local authorities. Good public speaking and courteous speaking over the phone can also add to the positive image as spoken words are still one of the best modes of communication.
Internal coordination – Along with the external coordination, the corporate communication and public relations is to coordinate with internal departments within the organization for its various activities and this includes maintaining relations with the employees, executives, and senior management personnel of the organization. This helps the personnel of the corporate communication and public relations to get all the information so that they can keep themselves informed of all the happenings in the organization.
Seven principles of the corporate communication and public relations
There are seven principles which are important and to be practised by the personnel of the corporate communication and public relations while executing their duties. These seven principles are given below.
- The corporate communication and public relations are required to tell the truth so that the public know what is happening in the organization. They are to provide an accurate picture of the character, ideals, and practices of the organization.
- The corporate communication and public relations is to prove by action. Public perception of the organization is determined 90 % by what the organization does and 10 % by what is said.
- The corporate communication and public relations personnel are required to listen to the stakeholders. They are to continuously track and monitor the opinion of the public and stakeholders about the organization. They are to understand what the public and the stakeholders want and need. They are to keep the decision makers and the concerned employees informed about public reaction to the products, policies, and practices of the organization.
- The corporate communication and public relations personnel are to manage for tomorrow. They are to anticipate public reaction and take advance action for eliminating those organizational practices which can create difficulties. They are to generate goodwill in their dealings.
- The corporate communication and public relations personnel are to conduct public relations as if the whole of the organization depends on it. The corporate communication and public relations is a management function. No corporate strategy is to be implemented without considering its impact on the public. The personnel of the corporate communication and public relations are to have the capabilities to handle a wide range of situations which normally crops up during the organizational functioning.
- The corporate communication and public relations is to realise that the organizational true character is expressed by its people. The strongest opinions, good or bad, about the organization are shaped by the words and deeds of its employees. As a result, every employee active or retired is involved with the corporate communication and public relations. The corporate communication and public relations is required to support the employees’ capability and desire to be an honest, knowledgeable ambassador to the public and stakeholders and local authorities.
- The personnel of the corporate communication and public relations are to have the qualities of remaining calm in adverse conditions, patient, and good-humoured. They are to excel in public relations with consistent and reasonable attention to information and contacts. This can be difficult in the present day environment where a large number of watchdog organizations exist. But when a crisis arises, it is to be remembered that cool heads communicate best.
Types of communication
There are two types of communication which are mainly used for the corporate communication and public relations. These types are (i) internal communication, and (ii) external communication.
Internal communication – It takes place between and among the management, and the employees of the organization. It is considered an important tool for binding the organization, enhancing employees’ morale, promoting transparency, and reducing slow destruction. The root cause of most internal problems faced by an organization is due to the ineffective internal communication.
Internal communication flows in different directions such as vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and across the organizational structure. It can be formal or informal. It helps in discharge of the managerial functions like planning, direction, coordination, motivation etc. The broad policies and objectives flow downward from the management to the lower level. Both written and oral or verbal media can be used to transmit messages. Written media consists of instructions, orders, letters, memos, house magazines, posters, bulletins boards, information racks, handbooks, manuals, and activity reports etc.
External communication – It takes place between members of the organization and the external agencies. External communication is also very important as it enhances and enables important functions of creating positive image, brand preservation, and maintaining public relations. In a present day global society, external communication helps in marketing as well.
External communication is concerning transmission of required messages to the external agencies. External communication promotes goodwill with the public and the external agencies. There are certain facts and information which are essential to be shared and exchanged with the external agencies. Both written and verbal media can be used for this purpose.
Two major areas which are connected with the communication activity are (i) composing of the message and (ii) transmission of the messages. For composing a message, 7 Cs of communication is to be kept in mind. These 7 Cs are (i) conciseness which means that the message is to be concise in nature so that it can easily catch the attention of the reader, (ii) concreteness which means that the message is to be short in length while having all the required meanings conveyed in it, (iii) clarity which means that the message is to give appropriate and explicit meaning which does not diversify and confuse the reader at any moment, (iv) completeness which means that the message is required to have complete meaning and provides sufficient information to the reader, (v) courtesy which means that the message is conveying courteous tone of the sender and is giving some compliments and benefits to its readers, (vi) correctness which means that the message is checked for correctness before its transmission, and is free from all the mistakes including grammatical errors, and (vii) consideration which means that there is to be proper consideration in the message and it is not to emphasize on the sender attitude for which the use of the words ‘I’ and ‘we’ are to be avoided as far as possible.
Requirement of knowledge and skills
The personnel of the corporate communication and public relations are to equip themselves so that they are better and effective communicators. It helps them in composing and transmitting messages successfully. Listening skills can be self taught while interpersonal skills, negotiation skills, and rapport establishment skills can be learnt by observing successful and effective people. The presentation skills involve use of software-hardware which needs formal training. Similarly, there are training programmes for accent neutralization, public speaking, telephone etiquette, basic writing skills, decision making, and stress management. Time management skills can need some training, which is developed by some executives through experience.
Listening skills – Listening is an active process involving three components namely (i) hearing, (ii) understanding, and (iii) response. Hearing is the physical aspect of the body of the person receiving and interpreting sounds. One can hear words as part of a conversation. Hearing is critical to listening, but it is only the first part. Understanding is where the person’s brain processes the words which he / she hears and derives meaning from them in the context of the entire conversation. Information is communicated to the person at this stage. Once the person understands what he is hearing, he responds which is the last part of the listening process. Responding in a conversation shows that the person has heard what has been said and that the intent of the speaker has been understood. Responding can involve making a decision to act on the information the person has understood and perhaps replying with the person’s opinion or comments.
Interpersonal skills – Interpersonal skills refer to the measure of the person’s ability to operate within the organization through social communication and interactions. These are the skills which one uses to interact with other people. Having positive interpersonal skills increase productivity in the organization since conflicts is reduced. In informal situations, it allows communication to be easy and comfortable. People with good interpersonal skills can normally control the feelings which emerge in difficult situations and respond appropriately, instead of being distressed by emotion.
Negotiation skills – Negotiation is a process in which both the parties have unacceptable points regarding an issue or deal. Through negotiation, each party tries to convince the other. There are normally several issues and variables which can be used for such a trading. Both the sides are to be fully prepared. Through good negotiation, it is possible for both the sides to come out of a deal with satisfaction. Each of the negotiators is concerned with the trading concessions or give-and-take during the negotiations. A good negotiator is to consider all the possible variables before meeting, calculate or do estimate what each concession can cost, then decide whether it is to be given or not.
Presentation skills – These skills are used for communicating ideas and information to a group. A presentation carries the personality of the presenter and allows immediate interaction between all the participants. A good presentation has content, structure, packaging, and human element. Content contains information which the people need. The information is to be concise so that the audience can absorb in one sitting. Structure of the presentation has a logical beginning, middle, and end. It is to be sequenced and paced so that the audience can understand it. The person giving the presentation is to be careful to hold the attention of the audience. Packaging refers to the treatment given to the content. There is scope to use technologies like software, PPT (power point presentation) with use of software. A good presentation is remembered since it has a person attached to it. However, one still need to analyze the needs of the audience and select an approach.
Rapport establishment – Rapport is the establishment of trust and harmony in a relationship. It is the key element in the art of obtaining the support and co-operation of other people. Around 93 % of communication is transmitted by the body language and the way that one speaks (analogue communication). Only 7 % of the message is carried by the words (digital communication). The analogue communication is unconscious most of the time. By developing an ability to work at both the conscious and unconscious levels of communication, a person learns how to establish deeper rapport and builds trust and harmony, with virtually anyone, in a much shorter time frame. Majority of people are able to establish rapport with certain types of people but a master communicator has the ability to establish rapport with a wider range of people.
Effective decision making – Decision making can be a complex process. The personnel of the corporate communication and public relations need to have this skill. They have the challenge of effective decision making since they are faced with situations where they are to balance the different alternatives available. There are human and material elements involved in decision making. One has to assess or prioritize all these factors, anticipate the outcome, and take decisions in the best interest of all parties concerned.
Telephone etiquette, basic writing skills and public speaking skills – The personnel of the corporate communication and public relations are exposed to the three skills of telephone etiquette, basic writing skills, and public speaking skills and they need to acquire reasonably good proficiency so that they can apply these skills in their routine work.