Monday, December 10, 2007

21st Century Communications Trends

Globalization: Globalization is the tendency of businesses, technologies, or philosophies to spread throughout the world, or the process of making this happen. The global economy is sometimes referred to as globality, characterized as a totally interconnected marketplace, unhampered by time zones or national boundaries. The proliferation of Microsoft around the world is an example of globalization; the fact that they change their software to suit local needs is an example of glocalization (also known as internationalization), a combination of globalization and localization.
Whether or not the establishment of the global marketplace will be beneficial is in dispute. Proponents believe that globalization has the potential to create greater opportunities for growth throughout the world, benefiting the developed nations while leveling the playing field everywhere else; opponents of globalization believe that it will merely increase the opportunities for the wealthier nations to take advantage of the poorer ones and, furthermore, could eradicate regional diversity and lead to a homogenized world culture.

Diversity: Globalization, virtual offices and corporate takeovers mean today's employees and managers with different backgrounds, work ethics and communications styles are increasingly expected to come together toward a common purpose. As companies do more and more business around the world, diversity isn't simply a matter of doing what is fair or good public relations. It's a business imperative.
If companies are going to sell products and services globally, they will need a rich mix of employees with varied perspectives and experiences. For example IBM with more women and minorities in its management rank sharply increased the business that accounted for $300 million in revenue in 2001

Flexibility: A number of recent changes affecting the corporate world have increased the need for workplace flexibility and helped move flexibility to the forefront of organizations’ agendas. Globalization and the resulting shift toward operating across geographic and time boundaries have increased work hours and business travel for many employees. In order to increase productivity without increasing headcount, employees have also expanded their work hours and are taking less vacation in order to respond to increasing demands. Additionally, demographic shifts—such as the influx of women into the workplace and the dramatic increase in dual-career couples in the workplace—have changed the profile of the typical employee and his/her work/life needs. In the midst of all of these trends, the new generation of employees comes to work with different expectations about what work means to them, the role it plays in their lives, and how work is defined.

Flat: In a greater competitive marketplace, speed or response time is critical. How organizations response to customers and other stakeholders or be the first to market may make a significant difference as time is at a premium. Organizations that can develop new technologies faster or can adapt to changes in the market faster are the ones that will survive the competition. To maximize response time, organizations have been flattening their hierarchies and structures, in addition to other initiatives such as downsizing and networking. Flat organizations make decisions more quickly because each person is closer to the ultimate decision-makers. There are fewer levels of management, and workers are empowered to make decisions. Decision-making becomes decentralized.

Networks: Organizations that flatten tend to encourage horizontal communication among workers. Rather than working through the organizational hierarchy, it is often faster for workers who need to coordinate with each other simply to communicate directly. Such organizations are highly networked. Networked organizations are particularly important in industries with complex products where technologies and customer needs change rapidly, such as in high technology industries. One advantage of networks is that organizations have greater flexibility and thus they can become more competitive in the global marketplace

All the five trends and the tensions they produce result in greater organizational or system complexity for both leaders and employees in organizations. The tensions produced by these trends cannot be solved. They have to be managed. Effective approaches in organizational change will involve not one strategy but many alternatives and will require leaders and employees to develop greater resilience in confronting these tensions.

Corporate Vs Product Advertising

Corporate Advertising: is defined as paid use of media that seeks the benefit the image of the corporation as a whole, It presents a clear identity of the organization, many companies use corporate advertising to strengthen their identities following structural change. As companies merge and enter new business through corporate advertising they explain their vision, organization, and strategy to constituents who struggle to understand the new organization. Corporate advertising helps organization to differentiate themselves from rivals for example The “Color My World” spot featured Coca-Cola as part of a “red” theme that launched the red line of clothing from sportswear company. Organizations do corporate advertising to attract investment for example United Technologies Corp ad with the tag line “ You can see everything from here” sparked investors curiosity in the UTC brand. Corporate advertising creates strong reputation and helps to attract and retain employees.

Product Advertising: Product advertising is designed to create product awareness and increase market share in an ever-changing and demanding environment. Product advertising is an essential function of any business whose goal is long-term success. Product advertising consists of determining the needs and wants of potential customers, developing strategic advertisements to appeal to those needs and wants, and implementing a plan that incorporates those strategies focused around the specific product being advertised. Product advertising requires more attention in today’s marketing arena since the competition for attention is much greater. Increased Sales are directly linked to product advertising and Return of investment can be easily measured. For example Toyota runs a separate ad for Lexus to concentrate on their high-end customers that helps in increasing the sale of Lexus cars.

Corporate Advertising employs the same methodology and toolbox used in product Advertising, but it also elevates the approach a step further into the board room, where additional issues around stakeholder relations (shareholders, media, competitors, governments and many others) can help the corporation benefit from a strong and well-managed corporate branding strategy. Not surprisingly, a strong and comprehensive corporate branding strategy requires a high level of personal attention and commitment from the CEO and the senior management to become fully effective and meet the objectives.

Changing Environment Of Business

Business environment changes rapidly and has become more complex and competitive. It is agreed that the changing environment throws up opportunities for organizations to exploit. It is also agreed that if an organization exploits these opportunities then it can benefit. Some of the factors that contribute to these changes are:
  • Political
  • Economic
  • Social
  • Technological

Political: It is a well established fact that the political environment impacts businesses. The economic environment is often a byproduct of the political environment. Legislation's, policies (foreign and economic) are dependent on the ruling political party. Any alteration in policies can pose threats or opportunities to organizations. For instance, IBM and Coca Cola had to literally pack their bags and leave India in 1973 due to political considerations.

Economic: It is the purchasing power of the people that brings in new businesses, for instance 10 years ago in India we have to wait for 2 years to get basic telephone connection but now things have changed, I could see all college going kids carry cell phones, this change is possible due to change in economic condition and all multinational companies want to introduce their product in India because people are young and are ready to try new technology no matter what the cost is.

Social: Social change is when the people in the community adjust their attitudes to way they live. Businesses will need to adjust their products to meet these changes, e.g. taking sugar out of children’s drinks, because parents feel their children are having too much sugar in their diets.

Technology: Technology has become a paramount factor for organizations. Collating, storing, analyzing information has become technology based. A firm has to decide on how to embrace technology to improve operations and at the same time keep a watch at substitute products emanating from new technology. One does not only have to view the technological environment pertaining to the industry in which he is in. technology can throw up opportunities and threats in a multitude of ways. The example of Satyam, Infosys is very appropriate at this juncture. This well known company was once associated with an industry totally unrelated to information technology. It was formally involved in the construction business. However, the trends indicated that IT was ripe for investment and thus ensure the foray into IT from construction and Satyam Infosys was the thus the first private Internet Service Provider in India. The government was embracing IT in a big way and the environment in India was conducive to investment in IT industry. These factors prompted the switch and it seems to have been judicious.

In conclusion, Business that can adapt to these rapid environmental changes can survive in market and others will have to die.

Vertical, Horizontal, and Diagonal Communications

Communication can be characterized as vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. Initially greater emphasis was directed at vertical organizational communication as compared to lateral communication but that is no longer the case. Diagonal communication is an even more recent emphasis in the organizational communication literature.

Vertical Communication: Vertical communication occurs between hierarchically positioned persons and can involve both downward and upward communication flows. Downward communication is more prevalent than upward communication. Larkin and Larkin (1994) suggest that downward communication is most effective if top managers communicate directlywith immediate supervisors and immediate supervisors communicate with their staff. A wealth of evidence shows that increasing the power of immediate supervisors increases both satisfaction and performance among employees. This was first discovered by Donald Pelz (1952) and is commonly referred to as the Pelz effect. Pelz was attempting to find out what types of leadership styles led to employee satisfaction (informal/formal, autocratic/participative, management oriented/front line-oriented). He found that what matters most is not the supervisor’s leadership style but whether the supervisor has power. One way to give supervisors power is to communicate directly with them and to have them provide input to decisions. Ensuring that supervisors are informed about organizational issues/changes before staff in general, and then allowing them to communicate these issues/changes to their staff, helps reinforce their position of power. When the supervisor is perceived as having power, employees have greater trust in the supervisor, greater desire for communication with the supervisor, and are more likely to believe that the information coming from the supervisor is accurate (Roberts and O’Reilly 1974). Jablin (1980), after reviewing almost 30 years of research, pronounced the Pelz effect to be “one of the most widely accepted propositions about organizational communication.”

Downward Communication: is more than passing on information to subordinates. It may involve effectively managing the tone of the message, as well as showing skill in delegation to ensure the job is done effectively by the right person.Although the content priorities of downward communication have not been definitively demonstrated, there is some level of certainty with respect to the best approach to downwardcommunication (Jablin 1980), i.e.,

  • Top managers should communicate directly with immediate supervisors
  • Immediate supervisors should communicate with their direct reports
  • On issues of importance, top managers should then follow-up by communicating withemployees directly

Perhaps the most tried and true rule of effective downward communication is to: Communicateorally, then follow up in writing (Gibson and Hodgetts 1991).

Upward Communication: Even less is known about upward communication. One consistent finding is that employee satisfaction with upward communication tends to be lower than their satisfaction with downward communication (Gibson 1985; Gibson and Hodgetts 1991:221-22). Larkin and Larkin (1994) found low levels of satisfaction with all the strategies commonly used to enhance upward communication, including employee surveys, suggestion programs, employee grievance programs, and employee participation programs such as quality circles and team meetings. Gibson and Hodgetts (1991:268-69) note several management-based reasons for this lack of satisfaction, particularly that these strategies often do not involve two-way communication, are not packaged well, are poorly timed, and are apt to trigger defensiveness on the part of managers. In addition, McCelland (1988) found a number of employee-based reasons why upward communication tends to be poor, including:

  • Fear of reprisal – people are afraid to speak their minds
  • Filters – employees feel their ideas/concerns are modified as they get transmitted upward
  • Time – managers give the impression that they don’t have the time to listen to employees

Lateral Communication: Lateral communication involves communication among persons who do not stand in hierarchical relation to one another. While recent trends to flatten organizations have enhanced the importance of lateral communications, studies on lateral communication still lag behind those on vertical communication. One fairly limited study found rather high levels of satisfaction (85 percent) with lateral communication among human resource managers (Frank1984), but lateral communication across managers of dissimilar functional divisions, while often cited as a major source of organization dysfunction, has not been subject to much empirical research. It has been assumed that lateral communication at the worker level is less problematic, at least within a functional area. However, with the greater importance of teams, more attention is now being directed at communication between team members. Lateral communications between workers in different functional areas is also becoming a bigger concern as greater attention is being directed at increasing the speed of production through simultaneous, as opposed to sequential, work processes. And there is greater emphasis on communication across distributed workers and geographically separated work groups doing similar kinds of work in an attempt to promote learning and the sharing of expertise, best practices, and lessons learned.

Diagonal Communication: Diagonal communication refers to communication between managers and workers located in different functional divisions (Wilson 1992). Although both vertical and horizontal communication continue to be important, these terms no longer adequately capture communication needs and flows in most modern organizations. The concept of diagonal communication was introduced to capture the new communication challenges associated with new organizational forms, such as matrix and project-based organizations.

References :

  1. Argyris, Chris. 1986. Skilled Incompetence. Harvard Business Review 64(5):74-80.
  2. Blumer, Herbert. 1972. Symbolic Interactionism. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
  3. Conrad, C. 1994. Strategic Organizational Communication – Toward the Twenty-First Century.Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
  4. Gibson, J.W., and R.M. Hodgetts. 1991. Organizational Communication – A Managerial
    Perspective. 2nd Edition. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Tips to handle media during crisis

Tell what you know when you know it. Investigations and study take time, but time is not on your side in a crisis. Even though there are things you can't say or don't know, tell what you know when you know it. If you don't, you invite speculation and a void that will be filled by others who may not know the full picture.

Decide what you're going to say and who is going to say it. What you say and who you select to say it speaks volumes about your business's ability to handle the crisis. While the facts of what happened are important to get out, so is the context in which those facts should be viewed. Seek to put facts in context, with an eye toward the bigger picture of what it means, especially for those harmed in any way by events. This is called "messaging," and it will give your key stakeholders an understanding of the crisis from your perspective. Be careful to limit the number of people speaking for the company so you can be sure of what's being said and to whom.

Tell the truth. Messaging isn't "spin." Your key stakeholders have got to know they can count on you to tell the truth, no matter how unpleasant that truth is. Even if you are not at liberty to tell all or you simply do not know all the facts, make sure what you do say is reliable and trustworthy. (An acknowledgement that you don't know all the facts doesn't absolve you from relating the truth of what you do know.)

Acknowledge the bad. It's important to acknowledge people's anger or frustration, even when not accepting blame for wrongdoing. Avoid the temptation to minimize objections and complaints. Let people have some kind of forum to be heard, and let them know you're listening.

Make sure you're reaching your audience. The media has never been as diverse and as diffused as it is now. That means it's harder than ever for businesses to reach their stakeholders through one central means of communication. Determine the myriad ways you'll reach your target audience well in advance of a crisis. That means well-thought-out media lists, as well as temporary and timely company Web sites available to the media and to the general public, and, if resources allow, coordinated advertising and marketing campaigns.

Keep your employees informed. Don't neglect your own company's internal sites or newsletters (if they exist) as a vital resource for your own employees. As best you can, monitor what's being said and written about you so that you can choose how and when to respond.
React appropriately. There will very likely be factors beyond your control that affect your ability to handle the crisis. Don't promise solutions you may not be able to deliver on. At the same time, make sure to vet your proposed solutions so that your response isn't viewed as too little, too late.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Corporate Identity

A company’s corporate identity is the group of attributes and values a company has: its “personality”, its reason of being, its spirit and soul. The image reflected by the “company’s personality” will make the company identifiable and different from the rest and it will also determine its importance in the business world. Corporate identity is the group of pieces, aspects, ideas, methods and techniques that your brand needs to be identifiable.

A strong identity strengthens organizations brand, becoming recognizable to the target audience. It’s advisable to begin with the creation of a logo or company brand since the development of the identity will depend on them. The logo will be present in all the pieces that form the corporate identity system.

The corporate identity is a strategic way to make the image that the rest perceive fit in with the image the company wants to convey. Every company continuously conveys messages to its surroundings even if they do not communicate anything at all. The visual image is one of the most important means that businesses constantly use to convey and manifest their identity.

The corporate identity is a system of communication that is incorporated to the company’s global strategy and it is present in all its manifestations, productions, properties and activities.

The corporate communication goal is to increase the awareness of Organizations image and to establish empathy between the Organization and the target audience. The corporate communication must be dynamic, correct and planned, and it must show the target audience the Organizations global plans. Corporate communication means to transmit Organization’s identity, making it understandable and convenient and giving it a determined image. The corporate identity is the company’s being; it is its essence.

The corporate identity is the integration, in the mind of target audience, of all the messages conveyed by a company or organization.

Some aspects that must be taken into consideration when creating a corporate identity are: visual communication, the product design and launch, and the corporate architectural system. The strategic vision must be planned and studied, and sensorial stimuli that evoke this visual identity must be transmitted.

The corporate identity must symbolize the company’s ethic and attitudes, so that those who work for the company share the same spirit and communicate the identity to those related with it. The corporate identity must also remark the difference between the company and its product and services with the ones offered by the competition. Today the corporate identity is a first-rate strategic tool.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Effective Communication Strategy

Identify and Analyze Your "Audiences"

First, split your organization's audiences into "Internal" and "External" categories and then list the appropriate groups and subgroups for each. Your internal audiences may include staff, volunteers, and board members. You may further want to place these into subgroups. For example, the staff group could include executives, program managers, hourly staff, salaried staff, etc. Your external audiences could include media, donors, members, etc.
Once you've completed this exercise, determine the needs for each group / subgroup. Sometimes organizations choose to take a formal approach by conducting surveys (either delivered via email or phone) to determine needs. Some conduct their surveys more informally. How you do it is up to you. What you need to determine is the How, What, When:

  • HOW should each audience receive information from your organization?
  • WHAT type of information do they need from you?
  • WHEN is the frequency for communicating?
EXAMPLE: Using donors as the audience example, you may determine that a newsletter (the "How") detailing what your organization is doing for the community (the "What") on a quarterly basis (the "When") is the best way to communicate.

Audit Your Communication Vehicles

By this point, you've determined how you want to communicate to each group. Most likely, the majority of the "how's" you've included in your audience analysis are communication vehicles you already use: your Web site, memos, letters, emails, newsletters, and press releases.
Ask for some help getting objective feedback from the end-users of these pieces to see if you need to make some adjustments.

Ask a marketing firm to provide limited pro bono consulting to do this for you. If you can't find a firm that can help, send out a sample to your core audiences for their review. Ask your staff to anonymously complete a written survey on your internal communications pieces; send your members the most recent newsletter and ask for feedback; and/or ask your Web site users to complete an online survey about usability and message presentation.

Important note about your Web site: because of the nature of the Web, this will be your most dynamic tool - you can have the most up-to-date information available, and the site is interactive. If you don't have a presence on the Web, consider establishing one (you can even apply for a grant to provide funding for Web development).
When you get feedback, use it to make improvements that work within your budget and timeframe.

Build and Consistently Use Key Messages

Once you have your audience analysis and the vehicles you're going to use, then it's time to develop some key messages around your organization's mission. What are the 3-5 things you want people to know about your organization? Once you determine these facts, incorporate them into all your communication pieces, wherever appropriate.

Let's say your organization works to help the homeless. What are the 3-5 service areas of your organization? Do your staff and/or volunteers know what they are? If not, include them in appropriate communication vehicles targeted to your internal audiences. For external groups, include those 3-5 key messages on your Web site as a footer in your emails, in every press release, etc.

The important thing is to remain consistent. If your organization is addressing a crisis that is covered by the media, make sure your internal audiences are getting and delivering the same key messages.

Identify Your Organization's Communicators

You're almost done with your overall communications strategy. Now you have to choose the primary "deliverers" of your messages. You should have one group (or person if you're smaller) that creates all your internal communications to ensure consistency in style and content. The same guidance applies for external pieces: identify one representative (or more, if your organization is larger) to address any media inquiries, etc.

Gauge Your Communications Effectiveness

Once you start putting your strategy to work, it's time to test it and gather feedback to continuously improve this function of your organization. When donors provide gifts, ask where they heard of you. You might begin to spot a trend that will help you further target your communication efforts.