section will review the literature on
corporate communication strategies, it will also look at the meaning of
stakeholders, principles of stakeholder engagement and steps in stakeholder
engagement finally, it will look and theories and how the theories explain the
2.1 CORPORATE COMMUNICATION
explained by Bahtiar et al (2008), corporate communication strategy can be seen
as the functional strategy which provides the focus and direction for an organization’s
communication with its stakeholders. Corporate communication entails deciding
the communication that should be done to assist in achieving organizational
goals, therefore corporate communication strategy is the approach that directs
the function of corporate communication and provides an indication of its
positioning for the future. It is the mechanism that leads this function
towards effectiveness rather than towards efficiency.
should be noted that the corporate communication strategies should be developed
within the context of the organization’s mission and vision, goals and
objectives, corporate culture and policies. It produces a profile that can be used
to determine which stakeholders of an organization should get more or less
attention. Corporate communication strategy is a proactive capability to adapt
the organization to changes in the expectations and opinions of their stakeholders.
It can create a competitive advantage for an organization through the early
detection and management of issues, involving strategic stakeholders in decision
making – giving the organization the autonomy to concentrate on achieving its
communication strategy follows the more modern approaches to strategy, e.g.
adapting the organization to trends, events, and stakeholders in the environment
(‘adaptive’ strategy). It also focuses on relationships, symbolic actions and
communication, emphasizing attitudinal and cognitive complexity among diverse stakeholders,
which is the essence of ‘interpretive’ strategy. Taking this approach to strategy
is easily explained when considering that the task of corporate communication is,
by definition, ‘building and maintaining relationships with stakeholders/publics.
corporate communication strategy serves as a link between the function of
corporate communications and the business. Although the corporate communication
strategy is influenced mostly by the organization’s enterprise strategy and provides
strategic inputs in the enterprise strategy, it also supports the corporate and
process of developing a corporate communication strategy provides the strategic
approach required by organizations to identify issues and stakeholders proactively, and to manage communication with
their strategic stakeholders..
stakeholder is any individual or group that either positively or negatively,
impacts or is impacted by the decisions and actions of an organization. It can
also be referred to any individual or group who has a vested interest in the
outcome of an organization’s actions. Stakeholders are classified based on the
extent to which the decisions of the company affect them. We have those who are
directly affected by the decisions of the company; and there are those who are
not directly impacted by the decision of the company.
of direct stakeholders include: Employees, Creditors, Contractors, Investors,
Owners, Customers, Clients, Consumers, Shareholders, Vendors, Distributors,
example of indirect stakeholders include: Government, Unions, Community,
Cooperatives, Industry Associations, Media, Trade Associations, Competitors), Civil Society, NGOs, Academic
are also classified as internal and external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders are the individual or bodies within a business
(e.g., employees, managers, the board of directors, investors) while External stakeholders are
entities are not within the business but care about or are affected by its
performance (e.g., consumers, suppliers).
2.3 STEPS IN ENGAGING WITH
(AccountAbility, 2011) model the steps involved in engaging with stakeholders
Identify Stakeholders and Key Issues
stakeholders to recognize their interests, knowledge, and capacity to engage; Categorize
or map stakeholders based on their influence in the organization. These are: no
influence, low influence, some influence or high influence. Other dimensions
that can be used to map stakeholders include: dependence on the organization,
proximity etc. This can be accomplished through rating scales or other methods
appropriate for the company and context. It is important to prioritize the
issues and stakeholders that are most important to the business. Identify who
are the legitimate and accountable representatives of each stakeholder.
Establish Objectives and Process
on the scope of the process; frequency, level of engagement, channel and
method. Set strategic goals and agree on expectations. Determine the best
possible methods to achieve the set objectives and how outcomes can be
measured. Identify all requirements for disclosure and engagement which may be
regulatory or financial. Assign the people or group responsible for the process
and carrying out the different components of the plan.
the available resources required for engagement and identify training needs in
order to achieve effective stakeholder engagement. This may include knowledge
sharing on the process and issues, supporting development of specific skills,
or increasing resources, time or access to information. Establish a method for
documenting progress and outcomes.
make sure that the process moves forward as planned, gather data, and coordinate
with any third parties that are involved; Embed commitment to engagement across
all levels of company corporate and operating areas; Communicate progress to
all stakeholders on a frequent and transparent basis; Enact written grievance
mechanisms to allow stakeholders a chance to provide feedback during the
Review and Report
track of how outcomes correspond with original objectives. Use findings and
feedback to revise the plan as needed and capture key learning’s that can be applied
in future stakeholder engagement initiatives. Provide regular and transparent
information to stakeholders about the results of the engagement.
for Successful Engagement
with stakeholders early and often: Proactive, transparent
communication with stakeholders helps to build trust and shows that the company
is committed to engagement. It is important to remain in communication with key
stakeholders even when there is not a pressing need as this can pave the way
for more effective problem solving when an issue does arise.
it easy for stakeholders to understand: Ensure that the format
(language, technology, medium, etc.) of engagement is understood by and
accessible to stakeholders.
a long-term approach to engagement: Cultivating a long-term
relationship with stakeholders can improve operational stability and
thoughtful and sincere: Listening is important. Successful
engagement can enhance a company’s reputation and brand, and stakeholders will
be more willing to participate if they feel they are being heard.
define expectations: Establishing goals and a feasible
engagement plan increase ownership and accountability. These should still be
flexible enough to accommodate different interests that arise.
engagement to the context: Different stakeholders will
require different levels of engagement depending on the company or project
type, stage, size, and many other factors. What is important is the quality and
legitimacy of stakeholder engagement.
to stakeholder dynamics: Culture, gender, and political
balance can be important to different stakeholder groups. Make an effort to
understand these and ensure that the company is interacting with a person or
group that is viewed as a legitimate authority by the stakeholders it is trying
challenges: Engagement requires time and resources. It also
raises stakeholder expectations and can lead to disappointment if their views
are not adequately incorporated into decision-making.
2.4 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.4.1 AGENDA SETTING THEORY
theory was set by McCombs and Shaw (1972), the theory highlights the importance
of the media in shaping how people think and how to think about issues. The
media not only tell people what to think about in broad terms, but additionally
how to think about specific items, and then what to think. In other words, media shape top-of-mind
presence regarding issues.
provide a host of cues about the salience of the topics in the daily news –
lead story on page one, other front page display, large headlines, etc.
Television news also offers numerous cues about salience – the opening story on
the newscast, length of time devoted to the story, etc. These cues repeated day
after day effectively communicate the importance of each topic. In other words,
the news media can set the agenda for the public’s attention to that small
group of issues around which public opinion forms.
theory aligns with corporate communications in that companies use the media as
a strategy to change the mind of their stakeholders and the general public.
With the media, companies publish what they want their stakeholders to believe,
they shape the mind of their stakeholders with the media and they use the media
to align the mind of their stakeholders to what they want their stakeholders to
DIFFUSION OF INNOVATIONS THEORY
is the “process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels
over a period of time among the members of a social system”. An innovation is
“an idea, practice, or object that is perceived to be new by an individual or
other unit of adoption”. “Communication is a process in which participants
create and share information with one another to reach a mutual understanding”
It is a theory that seeks to explain how,
why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread. Rogers argues that
diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated over time among
the participants in a social system. For Rogers (2003), adoption is a decision
of “full use of an innovation as the best course of action available” and
rejection is a decision “not to adopt an innovation”.
Diffusion research has focused on five areas:
(1) the characteristics of an innovation which may influence its adoption; (2)
the decision-making process that occurs when individuals consider adopting a
new idea, product or practice; (3) the characteristics of individuals that make
them likely to adopt an innovation; (4) the consequences for individuals and
society of adopting an innovation; and (5) communication channels used in the
Rogers proposes that four main elements
influence the spread of a new idea: the innovation itself, communication
channels, time, and a social system. This process relies heavily on human
capital. The innovation must be widely adopted in order to self-sustain. Within
the rate of adoption, there is a point at which an innovation reaches critical
mass. The information flows through networks. The nature of networks and the
roles opinion leaders play in them determine the likelihood that the innovation
will be adopted.
theory is relevant to this study in that it shows how information is
communicated and adopted by audiences over time. When companies send out
information, the information goes through different stages, before it is adopted.
Those who adopt it on time are called early adopters, those who do not adopt it
on time are called late adopters while those who do not believe the information
or find it hard to reconcile with the information and what they see are called
laggards. The theory also shows that the most effective way of getting people
to adopt information or an idea is to use word of mouth or personal referrals.
People tend to believe their colleagues and friends; in other words information
and ideas are adopted faster when it is done through word of mouth and
referrals. Companies seeking to engage stakeholders should understand how
information and ideas are adopted among group of people.
2.4.3 GATEKEEPING THEORY
Lewin (1947) coined
the word called “Gate keeping”; it means to block unwanted or useless things by
using a gate. Here the person who makes the decision is called “Gatekeeper”.
The Gatekeeper decides what information should move to group or individual and
what information should not. Here, the gatekeeper are the decision makers who
letting the whole social system. The gatekeeper is influenced by such things as
social, cultural, ethical and political in deciding which information to let
through. Through gatekeeping the unwanted, insensible and controversial information’s
are removed by the gate keeper which helps to control the society or a group
and letting them in a right path.
a news editor who decides which news to publish or a pastor who decides which
message to preach or a teacher who decides what to teach and what to omit.
Companies also use gatekeeping theory to decide which information to pass to
their stakeholders. Some information are hidden while some are shared.
Model (adopted from http://communicationtheory.org/gatekeeping-theory/
2.5 EMPIRICAL FRAMEWORK
(2002) in his study on crisis communication lesson from 9/11 published in
Harvard Business review he gave insights into working with employees during
crises. The information were derived from interviews with managers on their
responses to the 9/11 tragedies. In another study Arpan & Rosokos –Ewoldsen
(2005) in their study stealing thunder an analysis of the effects of positive disclosure
of crisis information they showed in their study an experiment that studied the
idea of stealing. Stealing thunder was defined as when an organization releases
information about a crises before the news media or others release the
information. The result found that stealing thunder results in higher
credibility ratings for a company than allowing others to report the crisis
information first. They gave additional evidence to support the notion of being
quick in a crisis and telling the organization’s side of the story. Barton (2001).
In his article gave insights into crises management, he showed role of communication
and public relations/affairs in the crises management process and the need to
speak with one voice. The article provided information on crises management
process and the need to speak with one voice.
& Jorden (1993). Their article emphasized the need for a message strategy
during crisis communication. They insisted that developing and sharing a
strategy helps an organization to speak with one voice during crises.
a further study by Coombs (2004) Impact of past crises on current crises
communication: insights from situational crises communication theory published
by Journal of Business communication. He showed that past crises intensifies
the reputational threat to a current crisis. Since the news media reminds
people of past crises, it is common for organizations in crises to face past
crises as well. He counseled that crises managers should adjust their
reputational repair strategies, If there were past crises, crises managers
would need to use more accommodative strategies than they normally would.
Accidents are a good example. Past accidents indicate a pattern of problems so
people will view the organization as much more responsible for the crises that
if the accident were isolated. Greater responsibility means crises is more of a
threat for the reputation and the organization must focus the response more on
addressing victim concerns
Coombs (2004b). he showed in his study a case analysis of the west
pharmaceutical 2003 explosion at its Kinston, NC facility. The study showed the
case documents the extensive use of the internet to keep employees and other
stakeholders informed and also developed a list of crisis communication
standards. The crises communication standards offered suggestions for how
crises managers can match their crises response to the nature of the crises
& Holladay (2006). In his examined when a favorable pre-crises reputation can
protect an organization with a halo effect. The halo effect says that strong
positive feelings will allow people to overlook a negative event; it can shield
an organization from reputational damage during crises. The study found that
only in a very specific situation does halo effect occur. In most crises, the
reputation is damaged suggesting reputational capital is a better way to view a
strong positive pre-crisis reputation. According to the study an organization
accumulates reputational capital by positively engaging publics. A crisis
causes an organization to loss some reputational capital. The more pre-crises
reputational capital, the stronger the reputation will be after the crises and
the easier it should be to repair.
another study by Downing (2003) On American airlines use of mediated employee
channel after the 9/11 attacks published by Public relations review, the study
showed how American airlines used its intranet, websites and reservation system
to keep employees informed after 9/11. The article also commented on the use of
employee assistance programs after a traumatic event. Recommendations included
using all available channels to inform employees during and after a crises as
well as recommending organizations ‘gray out’ colour from their websites to
reflect the somber nature of the situation.
a study by Sturges (1994) Communicating through crises: a strategy for
organizational survival, published by management communication. The article
emphasized how communication needs shift during crises. The first need is for
instructing information, the information that tells people how to protect
themselves physically from crises. The next need is adjusting information, the
information that helps people to cope psychologically with the crises. The
initial crises response demands a focus on instructing and adjusting
information. The third and final type of communication is reputation repair.
Reputation repair is only used once the instructing and adjusting information
have been provided.
Taylor & Kent (2007) Their article
summarized the best practices for using the internet during a crises and
advocates more organizations should be using the internet especially websites
during a crises. The six best practices they cited are: (1) include all your tradition media
relations materials on your website; (2) try to make use of the interactive
nature of the internet for your crises web content; (3) provide detailed and
clear information on websites during a product recall; (4) tell your side of
the story on the crises website including quotations for managers; (5) when
necessary, create different webpages for different stakeholders tailored to their
interest in the crises and (6) work with government agencies including
hyperlinks to relevant government agency websites.
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