How Corporate Communication Influences Strategy Implementation, Reputation and the Corporate Brand: an Exploratory Qualitative Study Janis Forman Anderson School at Ucla, Los Angeles, Ca Paul A. Argenti Tuck School at

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Corporate Reputation Review

Volume 8 Number 3

Top of Mind How Corporate Communication Influences Strategy Implementation, Reputation and the Corporate Brand: An Exploratory Qualitative Study Janis Forman Anderson School at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA Paul A. Argenti Tuck School at Dartmouth, Amos Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH

ABSTRACT This paper reports the findings of a qualitative field study of five firms from diverse industries on best practices in corporate communication, especially as they concern the links between a company’s corporate communication function, on the one hand, and its implementation of strategy, its reputation and its corporate branding, on the other. The overarching question addressed in this study is this: How can the corporate communication function operate successfully at the heart of an organization, that is, where companies are orchestrating buy-in for strategy and building the corporate brand and reputation? Results show the importance of the following elements: alignment between the function and strategy implementation, CEO as best reporting structure, focus on brand and reputation, importance of internal communications, innovative uses of information technology and the function as an art and science.

KEYWORDS: communication strategy, strategy implementation through communication, corporate branding, corporate communication strategy

INTRODUCTION Although an entire discipline is devoted to the study of organizational strategy, including strategy implementation, little attention has been given to the links between communication and strategy. (The exceptions are Ice, 1991; Eccles et al., 1992; Lippitt, 1997; Tyler, 1997; Argenti and Forman, 1998, 2000, 2002.) Even studies of strategic implementation (eg Galbraith and Nathanson, 1978; Lorange, 1982) make communication a peripheral concern, focusing instead on issues such as organizational structure and processes, reward systems and resource allocation. In the last decade, business communication researchers have become increasingly interested in the contribution of corporate communication to a company’s ability to create and disseminate its strategy. For instance, Botan (1997) has looked at how a company’s strategic communication campaign helps to build ethical relationships with the company’s key targeted constituencies; Seiter (1995) has analyzed a company’s mixed success in explaining its

Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 8, No. 3, 2005, pp. 245–264 # Henry Stewart Publications, 1363–3589

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How Corporate Communication Influences the Corporate Brand

strategy to employees, customers and the community; and O’Connor (2002) has investigated the organizational stories about a firm’s strategy that the CEO delivers to investors, employers, customers and partners. Yet, despite the discipline’s increasing interest in a company’s ability to communicate its strategy to key constituencies, researchers have yet to look specifically at the role of the corporate communication function — the unit responsible for organizational communication with key constituencies — in implementing strategy and building a company’s reputation and brand. The conspicuous absence of such discussion in the discipline as well as the importance of the topic suggest the need for a systematic study, one that, it is hoped, will establish a line of research for others to follow. In the fall of 2001 and winter of 2002, a qualitative field study of five firms from diverse industries was conducted to identify, in a preliminary way, best practices in corporate communication, especially as they concern the links between a company’s corporate communication function, on the one hand, and its implementation of strategy, its reputation and its corporate branding, on the other.1 The overarching question addressed in this study is this: — How can the corporate communication function operate successfully at the heart of an organization, that is, where...
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