The Communication Function Belongs to the C-SuiteBy Carlos Mateos | Tue, 12/14/2021 - 12:46
Although large national and multinational corporations have strategically integrated the corporate communication function into their leadership teams, there is still a long way to go. In the specific case of Mexico, we still see large companies debating whether this is a function that should depend on the CEO or human resources or marketing, usually under the argument that it is a function that does not "generate value" in a tangible way, when viewed from a narrow accounting approach. It seems to me that this vision constitutes an error of appreciation that is often costly for the company.
This accounting vision leaves out the intangibles with which the company must work every day and which today can be decisive in ensuring the continuity of the business or the success of its products: hyper-segmented audiences, a globalized and increasingly polarized world, authorities that respond to the feelings of the audience, the need to combat fake news, a severe competition for information in the media, the values of an evolving society that determine the decision to buy or join based on the ethical behavior of the organizations, among a vast variety of factors.
Corporate communication is strategic in that it allows organizations to establish a dialogue with their different stakeholders and thereby achieve their business objectives. When a company delivers professional communication, it is better perceived by its target audiences and, therefore, better valued.
The vision of corporate communication is to establish an articulated, coherent, and consistent communication process based on the business objective, with all the audiences of an organization, such as employees, suppliers, customers, investors, authorities at different levels, social interest groups, trade associations, academia, media, and a long etcetera, depending on the interests and scope of the organization. As a company grows, so do the needs to communicate with an increasing number of audiences.
Just like individuals, an organization needs to build its reputation. The successful path requires discipline, consistency, and effective and honest communication. Who do we relate to and do business with? With those people we know and what values define them, those people with a defined personality and who we know have a good reputation as trustworthy and honest; those people who we know will, in case of failure, do their best to make it right. The same happens with companies and with all types of organizations.
Corporate communication is precisely in charge of making sure that the whole world (internal and external audiences) knows the company, its values, its actions, its products and services, and that such communication generates loyalty and, in case of a crisis, that all its audiences may give it a second chance.
The communication function should be part of the leadership team of any organization and should report to the CEO and should participate in all strategic decision-making meetings. If the person responsible for corporate communication does not have access to this information and to the decision-making discussion process, he/she will hardly be able to design an effective communication strategy that explains these objectives to those audiences that are critical to making the company’s goals a reality. Communicating is persuading and it is necessary for any organization seeking to add allies to its causes.
In the same way, the function of corporate communication is to identify the communicational, political and social risks faced by the company. Therefore, participation in leadership team meetings becomes critical, as it is important that the person responsible for this function raises his or her hand to warn of the risks faced by the organization in advance and prepare a plan of action to avoid or minimize the impact of such business decisions.
Consider a company that is in the process of transforming from a medium-sized operation to a nationwide operation. This dynamic will cause the top management to focus on strictly operational issues, such as hiring personnel, opening new locations, supplying inputs, along with an avalanche of day-to-day problem-solving. However, by focusing exclusively on operational and financial aspects, other aspects that are also essential may be neglected, such as brand identity, communication for change aimed at aligning all employees under the same vision and mission, as well as communication with external audiences to ensure that the growth of the organization is being perceived correctly.
On the other hand, it is essential that the communication strategy takes into account the potential or imminent risks involved in accelerated growth, which may result in dissatisfaction among customers and consumers or among the employees themselves. If the company did not foresee these situations, its response will be improvised and will probably not be the most appropriate.
When the senior communication executive is involved in the organization's strategic plans from the very beginning, he/she can conduct a risk analysis and propose plans to mitigate them, which will allow the organization to avoid a lot of headaches that could turn into sanctions, lawsuits and, in the end, unforeseen expenses.
The corporate communications function is as strategic as finance, legal, human resources, operations, commercial, and any other critical area to ensure the functioning of the business and the loyalty of its different audiences