The strategic value of communication

Antonio López. President. DIRCOM

26 January 2004

A new business environment calls for fresh company communications strategies and more skillful communicators.

Communication is an essential function for development of two basic institutions in the west: the market and democracy. This function is currently boosted by demands imposed by the importance of the image, by the weakness of political, social and religious thinking, and by the need for differentiation experienced by both ideologies and companies. Communication has gone from being an instrument of public and private policy to being a substantive policy in itself.

Companies choose different communication strategy models according to their needs, the situation in which they find themselves and their sector, or the skill with which they are managed. It is essential that the organization communicates the company’s mission and vision to analysts, shareholders and investors. They, in turn, must know the organization’s leaders. Today’s new company is starting to shape itself into a community where the different stakeholders participate on an equal basis. Corporations are heading toward a new model, based on three new core issues: sustainable communication, commitment and ethics - while maintaining their obligation to ensure profitability.

Within this framework, communication has different objectives nowadays. It must recover credibility and manage those intangibles that create value for the company, and must also improve the relationships it enjoys with the public and public opinion. To achieve these goals, it is important that communication instruments be employed in a coordinated fashion under one sole command.

Successful management of intangibles can better integrate the company within society. A change of brand or improvement in reputation requires renewing attitudes, strategies and personnel. Communication thus becomes an agent for change and a dynamic factor inside the company.

A modified mission

The new role that communication must adopt is to align business objectives with those values that ensure the firm’s sustainability. Being watchful, a skilled manager of intangibles, a driving force and an ethical corporate conscience are today, more than ever, the elements of the business communication mission. This mission requires planning, anticipation, vision and impeccable execution.

With this model, the communication function must be located at the highest hierarchical level in the organization. Professionals who look after communication needs must be aware of the company’s true situation. They must not only communicate organizational policy, but also help formulate it. The role of the person responsible for communication has evolved positively within the organization, although there is still a long way to go. One matter yet to be resolved for communicators is how to earn confidence of the company and the mass media.

This new world of information is demanding, critical, and in some cases, an unprecedented phenomenon. Factors that make it so include the global nature of information, the speed at which news is transmitted, the impact of Internet-based media, lack of transparency, concentration of media giants, the importance of public opinion and loss of credibility in the capitalist system. As for the digital media, they play a decisive role in breaking conspiratorial silences.

This definition may sound naive, since the real world often reveals deceitful communication that is on the defensive and reluctant to accept ethical concerns. However, reality also shows us that this type of communication is unhealthy and has contributed to a society that now mistrusts the system. Recovering this trust is vital. To this end, what is needed is strong, truthful communication, not the sick brand we currently have to put up with.

We are facing an entirely new configuration for communication. It is a challenge that affects the organization as a whole, its system of values and fundamental policies. Communication has gone from being the privilege of a chosen few to something that belongs to us all.

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