The IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication: A Guide to Internal Communication, Public Relations, Marketing, and Leadership. 2nd edition, c.2011, 429 pages + index.
Recently I found an attractive job I knew I ought to apply for in the Public Relations Dept. of a large consulting firm in No. VA. They were looking for a business writer to join their team of 4. Because I've never worked within a Corporate Communications Dept., I wanted to strengthen my knowledgebase on what would be expected to ensure my best outcome for the job interview. This is how I learned of The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and this handbook.
Founded in 1970, the IABC provides a professional network of nearly 15,000 business communication professionals in 80+ countries. Members run the gamut of positions in Public relations/Media relations/ Corporate Communications/Public Affairs/Investor Relations/Government Relations/Marketing Communication/Community Relations/Writing and more.
Over thirty-one authors wrote a chapter for this book. The Handbook is comprised of five parts:
1. Foundations of Business Communication
2. Managing Communication
3. Internal Communication
4. Public Relations
5. Marketing Communication
Each of these parts contain insights and lessons learned from a professional with a personal stake in making communication work effectively and lead to meaningful, practical results.
Chapter 1 has the grabbing title, "Characteristics of Excellent Communication." One of my favorite quotes on communication is, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." ~George Bernard Shaw. I'd have to say during my decades in the business world this illusion occurs. Never underestimate the value to a business of competent communication that connects and resonates. The authors extend the excellence theory to a global theory thereby covering the widest range of relevance. This chapter gives numerous citations to research on enhancing the Strategic Role of the communication function.
Chapter 2, The Corporate Communicator, is written by a senior level strategist who brings home the message that the role of Corporate Communicator is one for the thinking adult capable of being involved with the Big Picture business/organization orientation and vision. The skill set needed for the effective Corporate Communicator is presented. Understanding the culture and organization type is required for success. Seven roles performed by the Corporate Communicator are identified. Ultimately, the continued business health and integrity of the company is the responsibility of the corporate communicator.
Chapter 3 is solely devoted to Organizational Culture. Paul Sanchez nails it in his first, well-written paragraph articulating the global challenges to corporate leaders and the factors to include when setting the norms for workforce behaviors. Culture is defined, and the company and people impact of it are discussed. America Online / Time Warner are included as a Case in Point to drive home the chapter's lessons.
And, then there is the matter of Trust, addressed in Chapter 4. "To be trusted is a greater accomplishment / compliment than to be loved." GEORGE MACDONALD. These chapter authors argue that as a result of the 2008 global financial meltdown, we have entered an unprecedented trust crash. They say that few understand what makes for a trustworthy company/organization. Trust is not a minor thing as it impacts a wide range of stakeholder behaviors and influences the overall business performance.
Chapter 5, is titled, Communication Ethics, Think like a Professional: Don't be Idealistic When Sorting Out Right from Wrong. This will get your attention--Transparency International [(...)] based in Germany, is the global civil society organization leading the fight against corruption. Page 54 lists the country clusters classified from least-likely -to-bribe to the fourth cluster, Most-likely-to-bribe. These clusters grew out of 11,000 interviews with business executives from around the world being asked what countries engage in "extra payments or bribery" in order to do business. I was unaware of this organization but am pleased they are out their keeping an eye on those behaving badly and outing them. In the event you went through school without taking any courses in ethics or need a refresher, the factors that affect ethical decision making are offered.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), The Communicator's Role as Leader and Advocate is the title of Chapter 6. Standardization of and global reporting initiatives on CSR are provided. Author conveys why CSR deserves your attention.
In Chapter 7, Rob Riggs continues on with CSR by adding the sustainability dimension and shows how to structure CSR in a large firm. Numerous communication tactics are listed and available to the reader to utilize in their environment.
Chapter 8 titled, Strategic Approaches to Managing the Communications Function, informs that once an organization has over fifty employees it is then twice as likely to have someone besides the CEO/Owner appointed as the Primary Communicator. And, the best place for this individual to reside in the org chart is reporting directly to the CEO. If this `primary communicator' strives to be effective they have to have a seat at the table with the CEO. How to ensure funds flow for the responsibilities of the primary communicator is demonstrated. The added value derived from the communication function is presented.
Chapter 9 makes the case for Planning, more specifically Strategic Planning. Mr. Potter states that Timeless Wisdom Still Shapes Successful Communication Programs. Strategic agility is seen as the differentiator elevating your business above your opponents. Like so much in `modern society' technology is transforming Strategic Planning. Chapter covers good basics on the strategic planning process and includes the salient aspects of a communication plan. The importance of competent research is promoted (in this chapter and throughout this handbook).
Chapter 10 tackles Issues Management and shows the Linking of Business and Communication Planning. A Five-Step issues process is put forth, ensuring little is overlooked or deemed not relevant. A leading commercial real estate firm is showcased as the Case in Point to drive home the chapter's lessons.
Chapter 11 - Communicating Change--When Change Just Doesn't Stop: Creating Really Good Change Communication. When a communication professional masters this I believe she/he has taken a leap forward in their value to the firm they serve. Perhaps Jack Welch got it right, "Change before you have to." It is always wise to be aware of the Purpose of your communication. Author notes there is an alignment to be sought between change communication competence (deliverer) and change communication expectations (recipients). StateSmart in Australia is offered as the Case in Point.
Chapter 12, Crisis Communication, is likely a communication type from here into perpetuity. In a prior book I reviewed on Corporate Communication (Argenti, 6th ed.) this was the longest chapter. Ms Sapriel makes the case for Moving from Tactical Response to Proactive Crisis Preparedness. Face it, stuff happens despite the best laid plans. So get prepared for earthquakes, workplace violence, organizational misdeeds, technological snafus, rumors gone wild, man/woman-made disasters and other shenanigans that surface--doing so is exercising prudent, good judgment. Author offers more crises to consider. I never knew we have an Institute for Crisis Management in Louisville, KY, founded in 1989 by Robert Irvine--where training and consulting is offered. The Case in Point is Crisis Management at a Multinational Organization.
Chapter 13, The Role of Communications in Company Business Strategy. Author counsels that knowing your company's business strategy and ensuring the work you are doing is furthering the business strategy needs to be assured. She walks reader through the fundamentals of business strategy. Asking Senior execs what pain points they have about communicators and how you can better address their needs is a smart approach.
Chapter 14--The Impact of Technology on Corporate Communication. Author's focus is on:
* The conditions that led to the rise of online communication
* The key tools communicators need to know
* The shift in communication behaviors
Page 189 has a then/now table of comparison of styles of communication.
Chapter 15-- Internal Communication. Some believe that this is The most important communication a company does. The building blocks of internal communication are provided. Social media is included and defining who is an employee is explored. Chapter closes with recognition of the limits of what one can accomplish due to the reality of the need for various involvements that don't always occur.
Chapter 16 - Communicating with a Diverse Workforce. Most organizations today have diversity sensitivities interwoven into their modus operandi. And, there are benefits and challenges that manifest in this area of the business environment. Raising awareness and providing training are part of how to be successful with diverse backgrounds. Lockheed Martin MS2 is the Case in Point to drive home the chapter's lessons.
Chapter 17 - Integrating Employee Communications Media. Today there is a wide gamut of options a tuned-in communicator can choose from to deliver the message to employees--print, video, pictures, internet, intranet, audio, blogs, and the new `thing' that will be out in a few months.
Chapter 18 - Internal Branding, Employer Branding. There is significant wisdom and benefit in putting forth the effort to properly inform employees about the business they work at so that their commitment is solidified and woven into the jobs they hold. This employee branding starts with recruitment and is ongoing. Each employee should hold a clear appreciation of corporate objectives. Author gives an example of the wrong way to proceed (unidentified large company) that thereby lost out on the employee contributions and resulting value that could have been theirs. A great example is included to serve as the Case in Point at chapter's end.
Chapter 19 - Communicating for a Merger or an Acquisition. Thomson Reuters compiled a 2011 year end Mergers & Acquisitions review, [ ... ) making activities. According to the NY Times (Sept 24, 2012), in the third quarter of 2012, mergers and acquisition activity was $455 billion worldwide. The U.S. share was 43 percent, or $195 billion. Author discusses reasons why M & As fail, citing the 2005 merger of Sprint and Nextel Communications. For the uninitiated, M & A lingo is explained to ensure the best understanding of this activity. Chapter walks you through how to prepare and communicate this event to all stakeholders. The challenges that follow an M & A--postmerger cultural integration--are addressed.
Chapter 20- The Challenges of Employee Engagement, Throwing Rocks at the Corporate Rhinoceros. Author postulates that there is not a complete buy-in by executives that employee engagement is a good thing, though I find that mindset a bit incredible. Despite this, the business case For Engagement is significant, thereby ignoring it is not recommended. High-engagement businesses simply have healthier growth and better earnings per share. A historical perspective is offered to demonstrate the human capital leadership track record that helps frame the challenges faced with embracing this employee unleashing. Reasons for hope are provided, pointing to the likelihood that the days of tolerance for autocratic management customs are dwindling. Research is discussed that validates the optimism for employee empowerment. Practical steps are given to put together a plan for action.
Chapter 21- Measuring the Effectiveness of Internal Communication. This chapter closes part 3 of the book that focuses on Internal Communication. Author puts forth a compelling case for doing your research before you act. A five step plan is given that covers the ways to success. Case in Point: Communications Impact Modeling. Due to advances in statistical analysis techniques the business communicator can identify predictive drivers and assess the impact of communication. Research can clarify the topic and reduce the occurrence of bad actions.
Chapter 22--Public Relations Research and Planning is the first chapter in Part Four entitled Public Relations. "If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget I'd spend it on PR!" ~ Bill Gates. Authors cover the process and best practices involved in successful PR campaigns that include various corporate communication needs. Discussion is given on various research methods and when it is best to employ each method, e.g., secondary, qualitative and quantitative. The impact of PR on ROI is included. Having quality research resources and allocated budget dollars are critical components for success with this area of Corporate Communication.
Chapter 23 - Media Relations. Defining news for your target audience needs to include one or more of these values: Impact/Novelty/Prominence/Proximity/Timeliness. The explosion of news mediums has changed the definition of news into a larger group of topics all aiming to attract the audience for that subject matter/issue/concern. Author covers the selection of the right media and includes a list of Media Relations tools, thirteen in all. The how-to of measuring your results is addressed. Case In Point: More Than Mangos Company Launch drives home chapter teachings.
Chapter 24 - Investor Relations and Financial Communication. It has been said that the main objective of an IR program is to position the company to compete successfully for investors' capital. Assuredly, the effectiveness of any IR program is tied to the standard principles of good communication. In recent history, the investor has had their confidence in The Market rattled. In the future with ongoing financial regulation and reform, public company management will be reviewed and inspected thereby leading to investor relations messaging and sharing that shall have an important function and expectation. Putting forth the numbers and presenting The Story is discussed here. Page 319 has a graphic that depicts the key activities in IR. Author postulates that not all investors are created equal so it behooves the IR communication professional to know the diversity of their customers. The most important tools of the trade (chapter covers 14 tools) in IR has historically been the Annual Report, though some now argue this is diminishing due to the speed and use of electronic channels. Integrating IR with the bigger Corporate Communication messaging is addressed. What is trending globally in IR is included.
Chapter 25 - Government Relations, Connecting Communication to the Public Policy Process. For those new to this aspect of business communication, a definition of Government Relations in given along with models of Government Relations. Despite the fact that some well-known CEOs have not liked Government involvements with their company, Government is a key stakeholder. The processes to include in Government Relations activities are included, along with guidance on the structuring of GR programs. Case in Point: Canada: Client "Green" and United Kingdom - Government Relations within Communications.
Chapter 26 - Reputation Management -- Building, Enhancing and Protecting Organizational Reputation in the Information Age. Building, monitoring, enhancing, protecting and repairing the corporate reputation is covered. Case in Point: Good Health Pharmaceuticals. The secret to a successful reputation is revealed.
Chapter 27 - Measuring Public Relation Programs. This is the closing chapter of Part Four that addresses Public Relations. The science of PR is reviewed and PR research practices are discussed. Measuring the effectiveness of your results--a recurring theme in this handbook--is described. Chapter closes with a section on statistical modeling.
Chapter 28 - Marketing Communication. Defined here as all communications activities an organization undertakes to promote its agenda to its audiences. Contextual target marketing is reviewed and the science of persuasion is included. And, if you have ever wanted to know the 7 Golden Rules of Cult Branding, this chapter will give you the rules list. Make sure that your marketing message has something of value and substance to say.
Chapter 29, The Engagement of Brands. Every woman I know has a brand loyalty for a lipstick or a bra--unless she is still searching for this. And brand loyalty among cell phone owners can be a very strong force, as I've witnessed male friends waxing passionately about their phone and its amazing apps and features. Five aspects of how brands work are chronicled and the fundamental of branding is addressed. Author encourages brand marketing professionals to reach for the Big Ideas. There are seven best practice steps listed that ought to be followed for effectiveness. The importance of articulating the branding goal needs to be nailed down before the visual is created.
Chapter 30 - Customer Relations, Smart Organizations Think Like Their Customers. Author believes that segmentation is the key to knowing how the customer thinks. Analyzing profitability is seen as the way to improve focus. And, when the customer recognizes the value in your product or service, then your messaging is Working! The marketing message needs to fit, so know how to tailor messages to resonate with a given audience. Author argues that not all relationships should last forever, so learn when to hold them and when to walk away. Finally, multiple bullets are included that capture the road to success for the 21st century Marketing Communicator.
Chapter 31 - Measuring Marketing Communication. Handbook closes on the ways to measure marketing successes. What is measured is defined and checkpoints for measuring are identified. Five smart goals are listed and ensuring they are clarified is encouraged. And, like most every aspect of Corporate Communication, challenges arise when you perform the measuring of marketing communication. The media used in your marketing communication will impact the measuring activities. Case in Point: American Greetings demonstrates the teachings of this chapter.
This book competently serves as a practical, ready reference mentor and toolkit to the uninitiated who arrive in a Corporate Communications job. The handbook can broaden the scope and understanding for many readers on alternative ways to get to the desired results that serve your internal and external constituencies. The collective wisdom of the 31+ author contributors can turbo charge your communication operation while building strength and respect for the company you are privileged to be The Communicator.