ZeePedia HOME       CONTACT

Fundamentals of communication,

Corporate Communication & Responsibility: corporate communication

<< Previous
Rhetoric, Persuasion and Propaganda: rome, love, definitions, variety
  Next >>
Press releases, special events and sponsorships: PR specialist

There are those, among both academics and managers, who believe that the 21st century is an era
characterized by unprecedented dynamic changes posing new problems, as challenges to be met, and
demanding new types of corporate personnel along with innovative approaches to problem solving and
possession of specific skills and talents relating to effective communication. Taking into consideration the
existing realities in the Information and Communication Technologies, the 'zeitgeist' seems to suggest
a rapid transition from the information age to the knowledge age.

This chapter will familiarize the readers with the basic concepts of corporate communication and corporate
relations and their role in ensuring the success, prosperity and survival in a highly competitive globalized
economic climate to small, medium and large scale private and public enterprises and organizations.

Corporate Communication

Corporate communication is considered as the sum total of a corporation's efforts to properly,
pragmatically and ethically inform its various stakeholders, so as to insure a uniform basis of its vision
and the acts needed to remain competitive by gaining and properly using various competitive advantages
compared to its competitors. In this framework stakeholders are considered to be the corporation's
employees, customers, agents, vendors and representatives, suppliers, stockholders, press and other media
and regulating local, regional and national authorities. In traditional public relations terms these are the
various 'publics' with which private enterprises and public organizations have to deal.

Effective corporate communication will ensure that the stated vision is understood and accepted by
management and employees and so the desired corporate culture will come to successfully permeate all
levels of authority and responsibility of the organizational chart. Effective internal communication will
solidify the corporate identity and enrich its culture. Pragmatic, innovative and convincing corporate
vision will strengthen the corporate culture among those who constitute its Human Resources and,
furthermore, will reflect favourably on all other stakeholders (or publics) related in a variety of ways to
the corporate entity, i.e. the private or public enterprise or organization. Desired corporate reputation
(that is internal and external stakeholders' overall assessment of the corporation) can be secured and
strengthened by creation and application of proper communication strategy and tactics.

Although the level of complexity that characterizes specific private or public SMEs (Small and Medium
Enterprises) or LSEs (Large Scale Enterprises) or organizations may vary from one to another, in
everyday reality the available range of Information Communication Technology media are used by all.
Within the corporation, managers, middle level and line staff and employees use available LAN (Local
Area Networks) and computer networks, e-mails, interactive video (or Skype), land-line telephones and
currently, at substantially diminished levels compared to a couple of decades ago FAX, is also used on
a daily basis.

Corporate communication with outside stakeholders (or publics) is usually delegated to the corporate
communication department (or public relations department). In this way uniformity in relating the
necessary information to them is secured and the corporation presents an image of authority and
credibility in its statements. Projecting and presenting the corporation's image properly and authoritatively
to its stakeholders, reinforces their respect and trust and provides much needed competitive advantage
in a world characterized by fierce competition.

News magazines or 'in-house publications', are available in printed and/or digital form in the vast majority
of Large Scale Enterprises and organizations (as well as in some SMEs) in informing their employees
on matters relating to their on-going as well as their future activities. Large scale private and public
enterprises and organizations publish magazines some of which are intended exclusively for internal use
and others for external use. It is not rare to find that such publications are made available to in-house
as well as outside audiences. There is a plethora of such magazines in internationally operating private
enterprises and public organizations and a usual practice is to have the original edition published at
their headquarters in their mother tongue while their international subsidiaries have the same contents
translated and published in the host Nations' language. Classified in this category are usually the annual
company reports publicizing corporate and organizational activities, annual budgets and significant
developments in production lines or management and future plans.

While employed in the past as the public and industrial relations manager for the Greek subsidiary of
the 'Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company', I was responsible for preparing and publishing on a quarterly
basis, every year, two different magazines bearing the titles of 'Goodyear Hellas – family' and 'Goodyear
Hellas – news'.

The 'GY-family' magazine was the publication aimed for 'in-house' distribution featuring internal stories
on employees and their activities such as being awarded the prestigious 'lapel pin' bearing the number 5,
10 or 15 indicating the years of continuous employment in Goodyear Hellas; social events such as births,
engagements and marriages of employees; interesting 'vignettes' from the daily work of people working
in various departments ranging from the production facilities in the plant located in Thessaloniki to
the accounting and sales personnel based in the Athens offices; vignettes would also cover news from
personnel dispersed in the Greek mainland and the dozens of Greek islands. Included in this quarterly
newsletter were also some significant and interesting news coming from Goodyear Headquarters located
in Akron, Ohio, covering news of the company's world wide operations.

The 'GY-news' magazine was intended for external stakeholders and featured specific products coming
into the Greek market produced in the Thessaloniki factory or imported from other Goodyear factories
operating in Europe; research and product development news from the company's international facilities
and activities; news relating to the 'Formula One' world, the 'pilots' and developing stories of competing
pilots, teams of cars and car manufacturers (at that time Goodyear supplied competing cars with specially
built F-1 tires). In each issue there were 'special feature stories' highlighting the personal and family life,
difficulties, problems and successes of two retailers selected from among the various regional wholesalers
and local retailers of Goodyear tires and their sales shops representing different geographic areas of
Greece. The feature stories were the result of my personal interviews with the selected 'Goodyear retailers'
and, if they concurred, with members of their families.

Realizing that there was much to be gained in the area of corporate communications and relations with
the various 'publics' I took the decision, and was fully supported by the Goodyear Hellas CEO, to mail
both of these magazines, each time they were published, to a large number of Greek journalists and
media located not only in the capital city of Athens and the city of Thessaloniki (where as noted above
the Goodyear factory was located) but to other regional and local Media. The magazines were also
mailed to a variety of National, Regional and local authorities, other industrial enterprises and various
social organizations. I should note here that these mailings ended up bringing favourable responses for
Goodyear Hellas.

Corporate responsibility or CSR

At this point we should, even briefly, mention the concept of corporate responsibility or CSR, (Corporate
Social Responsibility) which denotes that modern enterprises and organizations should look beyond their
bottom line on the financial reports and be seriously concerned with good communal citizenship and
environmental respect. Modern Medium and Large Scale private and public enterprises and organizations
are challenged, within the philosophy of CSR, to show to all stakeholders that they are aware of the
ways their activities affect personnel, products and services, consumers and the environment and
provide assurances that they make all possible efforts to be responsible citizens. Successful corporate
communication ensures that the image of a corporation or an organization to the various stakeholders'
perception of its social responsibility is assured, providing it with the competitive advantage of being a
responsible producer of goods and services offered to consumers.

Surely there are those who claim that self-respecting private and public corporations and organizations
were always careful in their activities showing respect for their employees and affiliated persons from
suppliers to agents and representatives, to their consumers and the residents of the communities they
existed in and the environment in which they operated. On the other hand there are those critics who
claim that CSR is simply a modern, practical and obvious means of gaining 'good publicity' through
modern P.R. techniques and strategies. Be it as it may, it is true that the public opinion expects and,
occasionally, demands that regional, national and international corporations and organizations behave
in responsible ways.

I believe that it would be useful to bring to the readers' attention some personal experiences from my
tenure as a P.R. manager not in order to satisfy an inner need of self aggrandizement for success but in
the hope of pointing out and making it clear that, often time, P.R. personnel can creatively intertwine
personal experiences and specific P.R. tasks for the benefit of the private and public enterprise or
organization where they are employed.

At the beginning of my tenure with Goodyear Hellas, I had been successful in becoming a frequent guest
in the special television program of the 'Automobile and Touring Club of Greece' which under the title
'The Greek and the Automobile' aired every Sunday on Greek Television channel One, (the leading of
Greece's two TV channels at that time). As a guest I presented sociological analyses of road accidents
and discussed psychological profiles of Greek car drivers and their habits. This involvement helped my
activities as the P.R. manager of a multinational Tire company and was well received by the Greek public
and the Media as it brought forth useful insights needed in a country which held then, and continues
to do so even today, the top place in traffic accident fatalities, serious bodily injuries and vast losses in
property. Surely my presence as a guest of this TV show could be construed as 'gray advertisement' for
the company that employed me, but we overcame that potential 'pitfall' by avoiding reference to my
job as P.R. manager for Goodyear Greece using on my identity card, projected on the TV screen, my
professional title as Professor Dr in Sociology & Psychology.

While employed as the public and industrial relations manager with Goodyear Hellas and living in Athens,
other colleagues and I, as social scientists, and along with us journalists, educators, law enforcement
personnel and medical professionals witnessed a rising problem in alcohol and substance abuse among
Greek adolescents and young adults. I felt that I could effectively utilise experiences I had gained
in previous years in the USA when I served as a Researcher and Director of various programs and
'Therapeutic Communities' in the areas of prevention, treatment and aftercare of people involved in
substance abuse. Hoping to combine my previous expertise with my activities as the P.R. manager for
Goodyear Hellas I asked the company's CEO and Board of Directors to permit me to proceed with the
publication and distribution, free of charge, of a booklet dealing with 'Alcoholism and Drug Abuse'.

The booklet was published in Greek with my name as the author appearing at the top part of the front
cover, the title 'Drug addiction – A burning issue of our times' in the middle of the front cover along
with a photo-collage of syringes and pills, and at the bottom the phrase-note 'Distributed Free as a public
Service Offering of Goodyear Hellas'. The book was produced in several thousand copies and distributed
free of charge to targeted individuals and groups. The booklet was delivered to the Principles and Head
teachers of all high schools dispersed throughout the country, the Directors and deputy directors of all
Police precincts, all Greek Bishops and heads of Church affiliated youth groups and organizations, the
Greek Boy and Girl Scout national, regional and local group leaders, journalists in all national, regional
and local Greek Media. Copies were distributed to all company personnel as well as owners or managers
of companies operating as Goodyear suppliers, to all wholesalers and retailers selling Goodyear Tires and
to the Board members of the Greek Labour Syndicates. Recipients were also all the Cabinet Members
of the Greek Government and all the Members of the Greek Parliament and the Prefects heading the
more than fifty Prefectures of Greece.

It provided all of us with a sense of significant accomplishment when the first edition was quickly
exhausted and the CEO and B. of D. of Goodyear Hellas authorized the immediate reprint and publication
of a 'second edition' adding several more thousand of copies for free distribution. The booklet was widely
acclaimed in the Greek Media as an act of 'social responsibility of a multinational corporation' at a time
when multinational corporations were under continuous criticism by Labour Syndicates and a part of
the press.

I had kept the copyright to that booklet, as its author, and as the problems of alcohol, drug and substance
abuse continued to rise in the 80s and 90s I proceeded to enlarge the contents of the original booklet
creating a new under the original title. This new booklet was published and, subsequently, distributed
'free of charge' by the Greek supermarket co-operative chain 'KONSUM'; by the Provident Health Fund
of the National Bank of Greece; by the cooperative Bank of Kozani and Western Macedonia of Greece
and by the Greek Armed Forces with the Chief of Staff and Head of the Army recognizing that the young
men serving their military duties should become more aware of problems relating to alcohol, drugs and
substance abuse. In total, several hundred thousands of copies of this booklet were printed and distributed
free of charge during the last three decades by the 'sponsors' mentioned here.

P.R. vs. marketing and advertising

Students enrolled in Business Administration, Management and Marketing programs may come across
some marketing textbooks in which the author (s) refer to and consider P.R. as an activity of the broader
field of marketing. Although such a claim is not adopted by all marketing academics and marketing
practitioners it does create an unnecessary blurring of lines demarcating the domain and the activities
of the two related fields. This sub-section will briefly familiarize the readers with the basic differences
existing between the fields of marketing, advertising and public relations.

Thomas (1923) identified the 'desire for recognition' as an innate need of humans. Maslow (1943) in his
human motivation theory and his globally acknowledged schematic presentation of a pyramid identifying
and differentiating the 'hierarchy of needs' presenting the 4th level of needs, and specifically that of esteem,
makes a reference to the need for 'recognition' that characterizes humans in our daily relationships with
others. It is true that both marketing and public relations share the common underpinning of efforts
aiming at establishing and maintaining 'recognition' of individuals, groups, enterprises or organizations
as well as the products and services they offer to consumers.

As mentioned earlier, the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) definition of the field states clearly
that 'Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships
between organizations and their publics.' (http://prdefinition.prsa.org/)

Crossing over to the field of Marketing we will be able to read that according to the American Marketing
Association (AMA) Board of Directors statement approved in October 2007:

'Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering,
and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.'

Before the above definition of the general field, the following definition, concerning Marketing Research,
was approved by the American Marketing Association Board of Directors in October 2004:

'Marketing research is the function that links the consumer, customer, and public to the marketer through
information; information used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate,
refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of
marketing as a process. Marketing research specifies the information required to address these issues,
designs the method for collecting information, manages and implements the data collection process,
analyzes the results, and communicates the findings and their implications.'


One of the world-renown marketing gurus, Dr. Philip Kotler, has defined marketing as:

'The science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market
at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines measures and quantifies the size
of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of
serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.'

Kotler (2003) in his 11th edition of the 'Marketing Management' book, describes the most important
concepts of marketing in the first chapter, as: segmentation, targeting, positioning, needs, wants, demand,
offerings, brands, value and satisfaction, exchange, transactions, relationships and networks, marketing
channels, supply chain, competition, the marketing environment, and marketing programs. These terms
make up the working vocabulary of the marketing professional. For Kotler, Marketing's key processes
are: (1) opportunity identification, (2) new product development, (3) customer attraction, (4) customer
retention and loyalty building, and (5) order fulfilment. A company that handles all of these processes
well will normally enjoy success. But when a company fails at any one of these processes, it will not
survive. (In: http://www.kotlermarketing.com/phil_questions.shtml)

Matters relating to marketing and public relations, however, may appear to be less blurred and entangled
when one attempts to differentiate public relations from advertising. In this respect Theaker (2004) has
made a very clear point noting:

'The distinction between advertising and P.R. is more easily made: advertising involves paying a medium
(TV, radio, newspaper or magazine, for example) for air time or column inches in which to put across
a promotional message. The content of an ad is always controlled by the advertiser, unlike the content
of editorial pages or programmes, which are controlled by journalists. Public relations practitioners try
to persuade journalists to cover their products and services on the grounds of newsworthiness. An ad
doesn't have to satisfy any news value – it just has to be legal and paid for.' (p. 10)

In the same frame of reference Harrison (2000, p. 5) notes that the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising
defines advertising as the activity which presents the most persuasive possible selling message to the right
prospects for the product or service at the lowest possible cost. Harrison brings forth positive arguments
for P.R. by emphasizing that the term 'persuasive' is not a public relations aim, 'selling' is not the purpose
of public relations communications and, finally, the 'cost' element differs widely between public relations
and advertising. From my own personal experiences and those of other practitioners and academic
colleagues I can attest to the fact that P.R. budgets are relatively minute compared to advertising budgets.

Members of the public are aware that advertising messages are paid for and do not carry the same 'weight'
as public relations messages, which may appear as news or editorial statement and are judged as bearing
more impact in impressing the readers. Indeed the 'cost' factor is something the majority of public relations
practitioners will enlist as an argument that does strengthen their claim of 'success' in having their messages
published 'free of charge'. As a practitioner in the field of public relations and as an academic I have used
and presently continue using the same argument in differentiating advertising messages and broader
marketing activities from public relations messages and activities. There are cases where the success of a
public relations message in gaining media publicity and attracting the attention of the public may be labelled
as 'gray advertising' which, of course, succeeds in carrying through the enterprise or organization message
'free of charge'. This is the type of reality I alluded to above when I mentioned my frequent participation
as a commentator in the Greek TV program of 'The Automobile and Touring Club of Greece' (and kindly
ask, again, that this reference should not be misunderstood as a vanity based self-aggrandizing behaviour).

  1. Communication is a universal phenomenon: system of 4 components
  2. Human Communication: scheme of human communication, defining
  3. Body Language: darwins contribution, intrigue of body language
  4. Mass Media & social media: stone inscription, printing process
  5. The Role of attitudes in human communication: defining attitudes
  6. The birth of a speciality: roots in antiquity, historic glimpse
  7. Publics, Public Opinion and its moulders: historical evolution, term
  8. Rhetoric, Persuasion and Propaganda: rome, love, definitions, variety
  9. Corporate Communication & Responsibility: corporate communication
  10. Press releases, special events and sponsorships: PR specialist
  11. Leaders and Leadership: pantheon of leaders, persons, injustice
  12. Leadership, Power, Authority & Charisma: events, political, financial
  13. Leadership research at the Universities of Iowa, Ohio & Michigan:
  14. Modern theories of leadership in Private and Public Enterprises and Or
  15. Instead of an epilogue: Women leaders remain under a glass ceiling:
  16. References: Bibliography
  17. The Author: Dr Georgios P. Piperopoulos, sociology, psychology