Building a strong corporate communication strategy

Zodwa Mkandla

BY Jonah Nyoni
Corporate communication can never be left to chance. It must be intentional. A clear strategy on communication should be built.

The better you communicate, the greater your brand value. It is not about having a good product as a company, but also how effective you communicate about that good product.

Nowadays, accelerated technological growth has shifted how we generally communicate, and as such new tools, and platforms must be adopted.

According to Xinke Xu (2002) “Corporate communication strategy is conceptualised as a functional strategy, providing focus and direction to the corporate communication function.

Acting as a framework for the communication plans developed to implement the strategy, it makes the corporate communication function relevant in the strategic management process by providing the link between the organisational mission and communication plans.

Corporate communication strategy is seen to be the outcome of a strategic thinking process by senior communicators and top managers taking strategic decisions with regard to the identification and management of, and communication with, strategic stakeholders.”

Pillars of strategic communication
Strategic communication is built from different disciplines and according to Kirk Hallahan (2004) strategic communication is built of six pillars.

Management Communication — This promotes the understanding of the organisation’s broader mission, vision, goals, objectives and day to day operation or activities and this happens at administrative and management level.

Public relations — It creates mutually beneficial relations with the customers or key stake/ stock holders. This involves the Public relations personnel, Human resources, and even finance.

Technical communication — It improves efficiency in communication and the effective use of communication tools.

Marketing communication — It involves marketing and advertising to promote and raise awareness.

Political communication — It involves talking to government affairs and advocacy. Finally, there is information/social Marketing Campaigns which promotes social causes. This is mainly in NGOS, corporate affairs and governmental spaces. So, these six pillars are important and training is needed for an organisation to master and effectively apply them to realise a strong communication strategy.

Adaptive communication strategy
Communication tools have changed from analogue to digital. For digital communication technologies they are changing every day, and if you do not adapt a company might be using obsolete means to send their message.

The obvious danger is, you will be talking to a clientele that has long changed its taste and relocated. So, communication does not need to be linear, but use nonlinear mechanisms to send the message.

To effectively communicate you have to do an environmental analysis (where and with whom do we want to communicate), a diagnostic approach (what do our clients need and how will they approach them) and apply the right tools to communicate. So like in any strategy formulation process, strategic communication needs diagnosis, planning, implementation and review.

Big companies struggle to adapt to change, because their standard operating procedures have grown too hard a spine for them to turn quickly.

This takes companies that have agility, speed and disruptive thinking. What worked yesterday, might not work today. So in building a communication strategy, you need to include how you swiftly deal with change, chaos, complexity and competition.

Brand ambassadors
Brand ambassadors are another way of communicating the image of a company through an influential personality.  This person might be very famous and has a huge following. As a company having this brand relationship will make the brand visible to many people. For example, sports persons or celebrities stand for a special brand.

However, this comes with a number of risks. If the character of that person is tainted, it has a trickle down effect. We have seen personalities drop because of negative images.  Some companies have scarified their brand by having famous people, but with not so much of a palatable character.

Customer Service
Customer service personnel should never be taken for granted. These should be trained on sales, marketing, communication, public speaking, public relations and effective management of customer complaints.

They are the face, and the voice of a company. They give a wow experience to the customer if they are well empowered. Remember, people buy into an experience.

Brand Communication
Brand grows through communication as such business communication becomes pivotal ingredient for any serious company. Communication creates, builds, manages and grows brand equity.

It takes intentionality on the part of leaders. Also leaders should be well equipped, trained communicators as they become the face of an organisation.

Strategy Communication
A corporate strategy must be effectively communicated. A strategy is the backbone or life blood of any company. First of all it should be fully communicated to the number one customer; the employee.

This will make them effectively execute, and be able to communicate the right message with the broader outside clients who buy the product and the service.

Most companies are into making money, but are not seeing that they are losing so much of it because the employee is not well trained

Digital Communication
Most of the communication is now done at an informal level. Secondly, now the customer has power and autonomy to communicate about your organisation.

These new tools have given power to the consumer. Social media is now part of our everyday life as a platform for communication and it is inevitable. Reckless use of social media can ruin the image of an organisation.