Oxford Learning Lab - Marketing Communications: Exploring corporate communications

Exploring corporate communications

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Using the Corporate Reputation Framework as the central element for this lecture, this video presents some of the issues associated with managing corporate reputation through corporate communication. Following an introduction to the framework, the lecture considers some of the fundamental aspects of corporate identity and branding, before exploring the elements that make up the Corporate Identity Mix. The video also explains how Message Framing, Reputational Platforms and Storytelling can be an integral part of corporate communication.

Course expert

Chris Fill

Author & Consultant - Marketing Communications


The corporate communication chapter will cover three main topics such as the corporate reputation framework, the principles of corporate identity and branding and concepts and issues in corporate communication. More information will be provided regarding what corporate reputation is, why it is important and how can it help sustain a better relationship with stakeholders.

Several definitions of corporate reputation describe it as a set of meanings by which an organization is known and through which stakeholders can relate to it, the overall estimation in which an organization is held by its constituents or as an individual’s collective representation of past images of an organization established over time. So in the end it is not so much about what an organization can provide, but rather about the projections of stakeholders on that specific organization; therefore, stakeholders are very important for the corporate reputation. To manage corporate reputation we must take into account input factors represented by the value resources secured by an organization: goods and materials, staff and knowledge and output factors that measure the performance of an organization: share value, market share, market entry, value added. To get a better perspective, the corporate reputation framework will be used. This starts from corporate personality which usually reflects the values and principles of the organization. Next in the framework there is corporate identity. To project this identity the corporation will use several forms of communication, named identity cues like logos and slogans. The final component, corporate image, emphasizes how the organization is perceived by stakeholders which sometimes differs from the projections of the company; therefore, if there is a big gap between corporate identity and corporate image, this could represent a problem because the company is perceived in a negative way so further investment should be done to change this perception. Corporate Images can be instantaneous but reputation is born in time and should be nurtured through corporate communication. Fombrun proposes four facets of corporate reputation: credibility, trustworthiness, reliability and responsibility so if we want to develop a strong reputation we need to focus on these key issues.

All organisations have an identity but not all of them choose to manage it or to develop their identities into a brand. Essentially, a brand represents a promise to deliver tangible or intangible benefits to stakeholders. Reputations are built on the consistency with which these promises are perceived to be delivered and if this fails to happen, the reputation of the organization will decline. In essence, organisations own brands but stakeholders own reputations so stakeholders and audiences are the ones who must be influenced.

Corporate personality has two main components: corporate strategy and corporate culture. Corporate strategy refers not to the strategy itself which can easily change but to the way this strategy is formulated, this being a reflection of the corporate culture within the organization. Taking risks, the ability to implement things quickly, freedom to be innovative and creative or restrictiveness, bureaucracy, authoritative approach are examples of features that can describe a particular type of corporate culture. Corporate culture may be intangible but it has a big impact on the way organizations operate and the degree to which they are successful in meeting their objectives. Changing this structure can be very expensive and time consuming.

Corporate identity can be seen as a function of the symbolism and communication we use and the behavior that the organization manifests. These three elements can be seen as a corporate identity mix. Behavior is a very important element in this mix and in order to change the behavior of staff we can use different methods like training regarding the corporate objectives, mission and values of the organization. Corporate identity and corporate image are interrelated and the organization needs to understand what it tries to communicate about itself and measure on a regular basis how it is actually perceived by stakeholders.

Having identified the identity mix, we need to concentrate on the means of communication with our stakeholders; therefore corporate communication plays an important role. Fombrun mentions the four components of corporate reputation as being credibility, trustworthiness, reliability and responsibility but we can add a few more like visibility-the ease with which an organization is recognized and distinctiveness- the degree to which an organization stands out. We can notice that in this case corporate communication is used as a means of positioning the organization. Transparency is also important; it represents an organization’s ability to be clear and open with its stakeholders. Transparency is also correlated to authenticity, the degree to which an organization operates in a genuine manner. Lastly, consistency refers to the reliability of brand presentation and facilitates recognition and understanding.

The identity mix influences not just external audiences but also internal audiences through devices such as symbolism, communication and behavior. This part explores the structures of symbolism which include corporate name, corporate logo and slogan and corporate colours. All these elements reflect the identity and values of the organization in a symbolic way.

Van Riel published in 1995 a study on corporate communication in which he identifies three forms of communication: managerial communication, marketing communication and organizational communication. In his view, marketing communication includes the tools included in the marketing communications mix but he excludes public relations which he considers part of the organizational communication. In association with these three elements we have message framing. This technique allows us to present a message to stakeholders in a positive way. Framing enables selected materials or facts, values and beliefs to become salient factors used by stakeholders on their decision making, so it basically represents a framing of their perceptions.

Organization have the capability of telling stories and they communicate by telling stories about several issues. Stories can be told about how a company has started, how it overcame early difficulties and how it achieved success. Heroes are also a popular topic of many stories. A few examples are offered to show how a negative event can be framed into a hero story which takes an unexpected positive turn.

Reputational platforms are the basis upon which an organization positions itself strategically. From reputational platforms, organizations can tell stories which are generally based around three themes: activity theme, benefits theme and emotional theme and examples are provided for each category.

Many brands choose to communicate through associations and behavior plays an important part in this process. This refers to the behavior of the sales team, operational staff, senior managers, call centers, support staff and retailers. It is important that their behavior is in line with the values of the organization which in this way becomes a mean of identity. A very inspiring example is discussed, of how Accenture decided to associate themselves with the master of golf, thus expressing symbolically their core values such as the right combination between aptitudes and attitudes, consistency, endeavor and determination.

This final chapter covers the aspects of corporate communication and the fields it affects. We start with media relations which are a vital component of the way we communicate our organization’s value and ideas. Two increasing areas in importance are corporate responsibility and corporate advertising but the range of corporate communication also includes public affairs and investor relations. To conclude, we can notice that corporate reputation is a reflection of past activities and events but in the same time it represents a means of influencing the future. Organizations should use corporate communications in all its three dimensions: symbolism, communication and behavior to shape the way they are perceived, understood and perform.

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