Corporate Communication - What Is It, Top Challenges and Best Practices
With the average employee spending 50-80% of their workday communicating with others, there’s no question that communication is tremendously important in our daily lives. That’s why psychologists tout the importance of having an effective communication style in both personal and professional relationships.
While it is fairly easy for human beings to communicate one-on-one, we also sometimes need to communicate important messages between large groups of people. One such form of mass communication is corporate communication.
What Is Corporate Communication?
Corporate communication is all about how companies interact with various stakeholders.
Northeastern University names some of these stakeholders as “customers and potential customers, employees, the C-suite and investors, the media and the general public, government agencies, and third-party regulators.” Clearly, corporate communication covers a broad range of responsibilities.
What Are the Types of Corporate Communication?
The two main types of corporate communication are internal and external communications.
Internal Corporate Communication
Internal corporate communication is about employees, managers, executives, and board members communicating within a company.
Some examples of internal corporate communications are a memo sent from management to all employees, an all-hands meeting between different departments, or even a team chatting on Slack. Internal corporate communication can be formal or informal, and it can involve many employees or just a few.
The way your teams communicate internally is very important because it contributes to your company’s corporate culture. Finding the right tone, frequency, and method for internal communication is crucial to your business’ long-term success.
External Corporate Communication
External corporate communication is the face a company presents to the outside world. It’s important to manage this type of corporate communication because it affects your company’s public image. A public misstep can change the way consumers view your product, thereby affecting sales.
External corporate communication doesn’t necessarily mean issuing a formal announcement or a press release. In the age of social media, companies are also able to interact with consumers in a casual way using tools like Twitter. Both formal and informal external communications can have an impact on your company’s brand image.
Why Is Corporate Communication Important? [with Examples]
Running a successful business is all about effectively communicating with people. Internal corporate communication is the key to building a strong company culture, while external corporate communication shapes your company’s PR image.
Here are some real examples from the business world that show why corporate communication is important:
Communication Supports Crisis Management
Both internal and external corporate communications are particularly important in times of crisis. Internal communications ensure that everyone is on the same page about the crisis situation, while external communications can help convey appropriate messages to the public.
One example of successful crisis management comes from Maple Leaf Foods in Canada. When a listeria outbreak was linked to the company’s products, they managed the crisis using clear communication. The CEO publicly apologized, the company quickly acted to recall the items, and the tone of their messaging was transparent and accountable throughout.
Communication Builds Company Culture
Thoughtfully-written internal communications show a commitment to transparency on the part of leadership. If the business is facing challenges, leaders can address these and outline a plan for the future in a tactful message to staff. Collaboration in and between teams also helps to strengthen company culture.
On the other hand, problematic internal communications can have corrosive effects on a company’s culture. Some examples of this were seen at companies like Uber and Away, when internal communications like memos and Slack chats were leaked to the public.
Challenges with company culture can lower employee morale. This may ultimately end up affecting business performance and making it harder to keep up with competitors. In fact, a survey by Deloitte showed that 82% of CEOs and HR leaders believe culture is a potential competitive advantage.
Communication Helps Businesses Grow Their Audience
“External corporate communications” includes all marketing campaigns, press releases, and PR efforts. These forms of communication help companies grow their reach and develop a voice in the public sphere.
One example of a wildly successful corporate communications effort was a social media marketing campaign from the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading, UK. Initially, this small museum had about 10,000 followers on social media.
However, after Program Manager Adam Koszary began targeting a Millennial audience by tweeting humorous historical images of animals, the museum grew its Twitter following more than tenfold. This helped it bring in more visitors the following year. In particular, a humorous image of a sheep was retweeted more than 30,000 times.
Methods of Digital Corporate Communication
It’s one thing to want to communicate effectively, but it’s quite another to actually execute an effective corporate communications strategy. To streamline your organization’s corporate communications methods, you’ll need to have the right tools.
Here are just a few of the tools companies are currently using for corporate communication. Since there are so many different tools being used both internally and externally, we’ll narrow our focus to internal communications in this section.
With the growing popularity of remote work, videoconferencing has become an increasingly popular option for communicating with colleagues and team members. Videoconferencing offers a lot of the perks of face-to-face collaboration (body language, visual impact…) with the added convenience of working from anywhere.
Some of the most popular tools for videoconferencing include Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams.
Despite its many benefits, videoconferencing also has its drawbacks. Some workers report experiencing “Zoom fatigue”, because video calls require more focus than face-to-face contact. Many people prefer to mix videoconferencing with other forms of corporate communication during their workday.
Project-Oriented, Transactional Communication
Not every interaction requires videochat. Smaller and more frequent messages can be communicated using email, or chat software such as Slack. These corporate communication methods may be more comfortable for introverted employees, and they can save time as opposed to meetings.
Email interaction is so popular that the average employee spends 28% of their workweek managing email, according to McKinsey. However, some employees and executives choose to structure their day by putting aside a certain amount of dedicated time for email.
There is also an alternative form of corporate communication that can be used alongside email and videoconferencing. The advantage of this type of communication is that it’s easy to use, flexible, and offers more choices than any of the above options alone.
Social communication tools like Workvivo look and feel like social networks. They’re an engaging way to share information within your company. Think of it as a digital town hall or as a social network optimised for employees that brings the heartbeat, pulse and purpose of the organisation alive, while keeping everybody informed.
If you can imagine a tool that provides a collaborative workspace, employee recognition initiatives, access to corporate announcements, a social network, pulse surveys, and analytics all in one, that’s Workvivo.
Problems That Effective Corporate Communication Can Solve
As previously discussed, effective corporate communication can help businesses in many ways. It can shore up organizations against crises, solve culture problems, and encourage growth.
Here are some specific ways communication can help your corporate culture:
Get Organized and Increase Productivity
Streamlining your corporate communication efforts will lead to a more organized workday. If stakeholders know exactly when and where to expect corporate communications, they can focus their time on them only when needed.
Workvivo customers sometimes mention that they chose to go with an integrated corporate communications platform so they could consolidate information into one channel. This makes it easier for employees to quickly find and access relevant information.
Organization is important, because it makes it less likely that team members will miss crucial updates. It also reduces time spent searching for information, thereby increasing productivity.
Some types of work require uninterrupted focus. The more time workers spend switching between tasks (or context switching) because they can’t find information, the less time they’ll be able to spend on focused work.
Break Down Silos
Effective corporate communication can help you break down silos and increase collaboration within your company.
This is important, because studies have shown that companies which promote collaborative working are up to five times as likely to be higher performing. Leaders also recognize that collaboration is key; about 75% of CEOs name it as an important factor in innovation.
Create a Culture of Transparency
Frequent, thoughtful corporate communication from leadership shows a commitment to transparency.
Transparency is very important to employees. In fact, 50% of workers feel their company is being held back by lack of transparency, and 70% say they’re most engaged in their job when senior leadership regularly communicates their strategy. Lack of trust is another culture problem that can be solved with more effective communication.
Which Corporate Communication Method Does My Business Need?
Choosing the right corporate communication methods for your business depends on how your team is structured.
One factor to keep in mind is that a remote work environment can increase communications stress. Since employees aren’t able to walk up to each other to communicate in person, all communication needs to be done online. It’s therefore very important to invest in the right tools for remote teams, especially since remote employees may sometimes feel isolated or excluded.
Most businesses use a combination of different communication methods, including videoconferencing, email, chat, and social platforms. While diversity in communications can be a good thing, it can also get confusing. There are some benefits to using a centralized platform like a social intranet.
5 Steps to Set Up Your Corporate Communication Process
If you feel like your corporate communication strategy needs some work, there’s no better time than now to revisit it and implement a more effective plan.
By taking these five steps right now, you’ll be well on your way to improved communications.
Step One: Define Your Goals
As with most forms of business planning, the first step is to understand what your goals are for corporate communications.
Are there existing problems that need to be solved? If you’re already conducting pulse surveys, perhaps employees have been voicing their opinions about some issues (such as lack of transparency in the workplace or difficulty finding information).
If no particular problems stand out, brainstorm a list of corporate communication goals for your company within the next year. Out of that list, pick a small number (3-5) to prioritize.
Step Two: Decide Who is Responsible
The next step is to decide who will “own” your corporate communications strategy.
This may be a number of different people. However, ideally these people should collaborate and be aligned with the communication goals defined in Step One.
C-suite roles and HR managers are typically responsible for internal corporate communication, while marketing and PR specialists manage external communication.
Step Three: Create a Roadmap
Once you’ve decided who is responsible for your communications strategy, it’s time to create a detailed plan for corporate communications.
The following information might be included in your plan:
- What are our major goals for corporate communications?
- Who is responsible for the strategy?
- What is the voice and tone of our internal and external messaging?
- How can we measure success in corporate communications?
- How can we ensure accountability in corporate communications?
- Do we need to invest in any new tools or solutions?
- If so, what will these be, and how will we implement them?
- If so, what will these be, and how will we implement them?
Step Four: Set Your Budget
Another important consideration for corporate communications is budget.
Most types of communication ultimately cost money. IT infrastructure, marketing platforms, and internal communication tools are all typical communications investments.
Chances are, you already have communications infrastructure in place. However, this is the perfect opportunity to evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and see if the budget allows for further investments that could streamline communication.
Step Five: Put Your Plan Into Action
The last step is to apply your plan “in the field”. If you need to restructure departments, implement new tools, or put into place a monthly communication schedule, this is the point where you can do that.
Don’t forget to include regular re-evaluations of the plan as part of your strategy, so that you can see what’s working and what’s not.
“Corporate communication” is a broad term, and it can mean anything from social media posts to Zoom meetings to corporate memos.
What all these forms of communication have in common is they make up the fabric of your business. Your internal culture and your external brand define who you are as a company.
Communication is a crucial part of all relationships in our lives, from friendships to romantic partnerships and parenting. Business relations are no exception. With this in mind, corporate communication is surely worth your attention, time, and investment.