Let’s not fool ourselves. Corporate communication has been around for decades, but every time, in better or worse ways, it resonates as a key and essential element for the success of organizations. it’s another thing if we want to see it that way. As a communications professional with more than 30 years of experience, I have been a constant witness to the transformative power of effective corporate communication. In this article, we embark on a journey to clarify the concept of corporate communication, its importance in contemporary organizations and the strategies that drive it.
But what is corporate communication?
In essence, corporate communication is the conversation between organizations and their different audiences. Let’s remember that in a conversation there are sender and receiver, channels, messages, language (code), noise, context… and that all this is back and forth, that is, that feedback (listening) is also part of this sophisticated, and wonderful, gear. So, let’s stop thinking of corporate communication as an exercise in quackery, single direction and propaganda, and let’s think about the enormous dimension it encompasses.
We are talking about self-awareness, purpose, narratives, strategy, systematic planning, execution and monitoring of the processes and activities that shape the image and reputation, and therefore the perception, of an organization. Corporate communication aligns the interests of internal and external audiences with the objectives, values and vision of the company, based on coherence, transparency and trust.
Objectives of corporate communication
Despite the fact that corporate communication is often defenestrated for its ‘supposed’ intangibility, the objectives are very clear:
- Build and enhance reputation Corporate communication plays a fundamental role in creating and maintaining a positive reputation for the organization. A good reputation can be an important competitive advantage that attracts customers, investors and top talent.
- Stakeholder engagement and alignment. nsures that all stakeholders, both internal (employees, management and shareholders) and external (customers, partners, regulators and the general public) are well informed and aligned with the company’s vision and objectives
- Manage and mitigate crises. Every organization is susceptible to a crisis at any time. Strategic crisis communication planning allows you to quickly address any incident or problem, mitigating damage and accelerating recovery based on transparency and trust.
- Promote products and services. As a marketing and sales tool, it helps promote the organization’s products and services by creating compelling narratives, highlighting unique selling points and fostering brand loyalty.
- Foster internal culture and employee engagement. Corporate communication fosters a positive workplace culture by keeping employees informed, motivated and engaged based on principles of transparency. The more and better informed they are, the more connected they will feel to the company’s mission and purpose and the more effectively they will contribute to its success.
- Effective change management. In a society such as the one in which we are immersed – fast-moving and technologically innovative – change is inevitable. Corporate communication helps organizations’ target audiences to navigate these changes more smoothly through the most appropriate management processes. This minimizes resistance, fosters acceptance and facilitates the implementation of strategic changes.
- Regulatory compliance and legal protection. Compliance with industry-specific legal and regulatory requirements protects the company from potential problems and reputational damage.
- Global expansion and entry into new markets. For organizations seeking to expand globally or enter new markets, corporate communication is vital. It involves adapting communication strategies to resonate with diverse audiences, cultures and languages, while understanding and complying with local regulations and standards.
- Measure and adapt. Corporate communication is not static; it is a dynamic process. Measuring the effectiveness of communication efforts and adapting strategies based on data and feedback is critical. This continuous improvement ensures that the organization remains agile and responsive to the constant change I was talking about earlier.
What are its elements?
Corporate communication is not an isolated function, but an integral part of business management. It must contribute to business decisions, helping to shape strategy, product development and market positioning. But what makes corporate communication so fundamental to an organization?
- Voice. It is essential to build and maintain a coherent and solid image. It refers to the way in which a company expresses itself and communicates with its audiences, the type of language it uses (formal, informal, friendly, technical, authoritative, empathetic…). The tone, which should always be in line with the culture and values it represents.
- Image. It has to do with the perception that the public has of the company and that has been created based on experiences, information received and observed behavior of the organization.
- Purpose, coherent narrative and clear messages. An organization is not an organization if it does not have a clear purpose that guides its activity. Corporate communication helps to define that purpose and integrate it into a business story that gives coherence to what the company is, what it says it is and what it does. This story will be grounded in concise, clear and transcending messages.
- Adherence to the brand identitya. Communication maintains consistency with the organization’s brand identity, ensuring that all messages and actions are in line with the brand’s promises and values.
- Transparency and trust. Transparency is the basis of trust. Corporate communication is responsible for providing information in an open, honest and ethical manner, building trust among stakeholders.
- Planning. It must be strategically planned to achieve the organization’s overall objectives and be seamlessly integrated into the business plan and support and promote those objectives.
- Stakeholder engagement. Fundamental. It involves understanding how corporate communication works, what resources it needs, what implications it has and what the degree of accountability is.
Types of corporate communication
Each type of corporate communication has its own competencies, characteristics and key features, but all are essential to the success and image of a company.
- Internal communication. It focuses on communication with the members of an organization. It aims to foster collaboration, cohesion and employee engagement. Characteristics: clear messages, effective channels, promotion of organizational culture. Includes announcements, memos, newsletters, intranet platforms and meetings.
- External communication. Aimed at a company’s external audiences, such as customers, suppliers, the media and the community in general. Its main tools are press releases, media meetings, websites, social networks, advertising, sponsorship and public relations activities.
- Financial communication/investor relations. This is the transmission of relevant financial and economic information to investors, shareholders and analysts. It is very sensitive information and is based on transparency, accuracy in financial reporting and regulatory compliance.
- Crisis communication. It is a communication that cannot be improvised. It must be planned, organized and rehearsed in advance to know how and when to inform stakeholders. It manages actions, messages and responses during emergency or crisis situations that may affect reputation. Processes must be well-defined, with the ability to make quick decisions and to handle information effectively, empathetically and assertively.
- Marketing communication. It focuses on promoting products or services among customers and potential customers. It includes advertising, sales promotions, direct marketing, content marketing, email marketing, branded content, relationships with influencers or management of paid spaces in social networks to boost sales and brand recognition.
- Institutional communication. It positions the organization as a benchmark in its sector and strengthens its role as a specialized source. Its objective is to influence regulation and provide specialized knowledge to the political strata.
- Public Relations. It has to do with all kinds of actions and events organized by the company to participate in the social life of its country, city, sector, community… in order to strengthen the public perception of the brand.
- Digital communication. It refers to all the communication that organizations do on their digital channels, such as Facebook, X, LinkedIn and Instagram or on their own channels such as the web, blog, podcasts or brand journalism They are used to interact with both internal and external audiences and help reinforce brand perception. They are also used as channels for customer service.
- Community relations. Organizations are part of the social environment in which they operate and must participate in the local community to which they belong. This may involve supporting local charities, participating in community events and promoting sustainable practices.
- ESG Communication. This is communication that relates to sustainability. It informs stakeholders about the organization’s commitment to social, environmental and governance responsibility. It includes sustainability reports, philanthropic activities and initiatives to reduce the organization’s environmental footprint.
- Brand communication. Builds and maintains the organization’s brand identity. Includes messaging, visual design and brand manual.
What corporate communication is not about
Although many companies consider that the so-called low profile is the best guarantee of security in front of public opinion, they are unaware that non-communication also communicates. Silence speaks for them. To consciously renounce to the management of your corporate communication in favor of “better to be silent than to make mistakes” is the most tangible sign of what a company really is and what it represents. Sooner or later this lack of professional management of your communication will take its toll in one way or another and will affect the perception of your brand, its value and the attraction of talent.
Keeping silent in front of employees during important events (mergers, acquisitions, sales, bankruptcies…) only causes confusion and disengagement and does not fall within a strategic corporate communication, but communicates, possibly something different from what is desired. Ignoring negative comments that come through digital channels, is not corporate communication but a wrong strategy that will lead to aggravate or create a reputation crisis.
Corporate communication is the cornerstone of an organization’s success. Its strategic importance, its need for resources and its direct impact on the perception and image of the organization cannot and should not be underestimated. It is key to fostering dialogue and trust, building reputation and achieving excellence.
But it should not be anchored solely in the communications department; it should be a cross-cutting philosophy and involve the entire organization – from top to bottom – so that the purpose and the story work in a way that is consistent with the company’s way of being and acting.