Corporate Communication

Abstract

The article The Communication Advantage: A Constituency-Focused Approach to Formulating and Implementing Strategy (Argenti and Forman, 2000) addresses the issue of how senior management can utilize communication practice to ensure strategy is implemented. It presents a systematic methodology for conveying plans and visions to relevant audiences (“significant constituencies”). Such a methodology is necessary since foregoing studies have demonstrated how organizations fail or succeed depending on how they transform a strategy on paper into concrete manifestation. Many earlier studies do not clarify the link between strategy and communication. Furthermore, they present communication strategy obliquely, not as a central focus, and concentrate instead on communication as an element of strategy. The article responds to this deficit by theorizing as follows:

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Maybe it is the unseen consequence of being the designated "writer". Maybe every foreigner is a de facto "translator". Maybe the company does not know who should be doing what. Maybe the company sees little value in labeling departments – as long as the work gets done. Maybe there is only one person in the whole company who can do communications competently. Whatever the reason, individuals who thought they were one kind of communicator can find themselves dabbling in a variety of communications work, inevitably with equally varied results.

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Let’s begin with what I term the "Apart" or “Silo” model. This describes organisations in which public relations and marketing communications are regarded as separate, non-overlapping, discreet, and functionally distinct activities. In organisations that apply this model, “Public Relations” are probably handled by one team in one office; “Marketing” is the work of another team in another office. And never the twain shall meet.

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In the second model, the two are still mostly separate in functional terms. However, a small proportion of the workload is describable as both PR and Marketing - a good example would be advertising, especially advertising as an element of a multi-channel campaign involving a celebrity.

This model indicates that management consider the two functions as generally separable. Only a small number of jobs require collaboration. Those jobs maybe regular, i.e. identifiable as a set category of jobs, but never constitute a quantity sufficient to dominate the workload of either function. The activities that require cross-functional working are so few and in commercial terms so trivial, all but this (and possibly the "Apart" model) are invalid. Thus, the separation of the two functions remains. The separation generates efficiencies that facilitate the company's strategy.

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In communications terms, companies operating this model prioritize marketing or consider marketing to be the natural and functionally optimal environment for PR to operate inside. In other words, PR is operated as a function of marketing.

Notionally, for the anti-silo integration it implies, this model may appear positive. Indeed, for companies whose strategy is best served by allocation of resources to marketing and/or whose need for public relations is infrequent or challenging to justify through a cost-benefits analysis, this model could be superior to any other.

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Companies who put Marketing inside (and by implication under the control of) Public Relations were once unusual. This is the inverse of the C-Mark model. Progressive currents in business theory propose such a model. Typical claims made in its support are premised on the concept that all business activity meets a public or a "stakeholder" one way or another, even if that public or stakeholder is an employee or a vendor, i.e. an "internal stakeholder".

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To me, this is the strangest, most illogical of the five models. The model describes the merging of Public Relations and Marketing into a single entity. In this model, the two are indistinguishable, at least conceptually. It is difficult to imagine, however, that the outputs of this hybrid would all be as much PR as marketing in nature and vice versa. There are, of course, marketing activities that have PR implications; and PR activities influence business performance so have implications for marketing. Nevertheless, the absolute equalisation of the two seems unfeasible or at least counter-intuitive if we accept the two are different, as older models declare and as certain current applications still suggest is the case.

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The following model (by Cornelissen, 2020) shows the relatedness and constituent activities of marketing and PR. The C area intrigues me most. According to the author, activities in C concern price, distribution, and product development. Of the solid rings in the model, C is by far the largest. Does this mean therefore that a company's marketing is achieved through operations? Distribution (another name for "logistics") is typically managed as an "operation". Product development - although influenced by marketing - usually occurs as a separate operation (series of operations, to be specific), i.e. outside a marketing department, usually in a technical or engineering function.


(source: Cornelissen, 2020: 22)

A: corporate advertising (promotion of the brand, not a specific product)
B: direct marketing and sales promotions (e.g. e-mail and freebies, respectively)
C: distribution, pricing, and product development
D: corporate PR (internal communications and public affairs)
E: marketing PR (publicity and sponsorship, i.e. traditional public awareness activities)
F: mass media advertising (traditional advertising)

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If, as is shown in this diagram, PR enclosed all communications and marketing activities, then it acquires commercial significance at a stroke. A logical case for this is also apparent: since all marketing activities concern publics, then Public Relations is the natural sphere in which those activities should be managed. For this to be refuted, marketing would be forced to make the bizarre assertion that its activities do not concern publics! Seen this way, only a small portion of the PR activities are indirectly commercial.

To me, the following configuration is an obvious solution to the problem of ascertaining the role of PR in revenue generation:

(Adapted from Cornelissen, 2020: 22)

A: corporate advertising (promotion of the brand, not a specific product)
B: direct marketing and sales promotions (e.g. e-mail and freebies, respectively)
C: distribution, pricing, and product development
D: corporate PR (internal communications and public affairs)
E: marketing PR (publicity and sponsorship, i.e. traditional public awareness activities)
F: mass media advertising (traditional advertising)

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Kotler and Mindak (1978 – take note of that date) recognised five main models that describe how companies operate their Public Relations and Marketing departments. (You could also interpret these models as indicative of how a company’s structuring reveals its management’s perceptions of the two functions’ relative importance, similarity, and relatedness of the requisite skill sets).

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