Definition of strategic communication

Communication is strategic when it is completely consistent with a corporation’s mission, vision, values and is able to enhance the strategic positioning and competitiveness of the organisation.

The most important concept to understand in relation to communication strategy is that communication should be seen from the audience’s perspective. One way to think about this is each time a person or organisation communicates, they should ask themselves the following question: “As a result of this communication, my audience will…”

Interviews with chief executive officers and other c-suite executives, such as the chief financial officer, show that strategic communication must be clear, true, repeated, consistent and delivered with passion.

Corporations choose to communicate strategically due exogenous crises, internal corporate crises and other situations including:

  1. regulatory imperatives such as Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD), this law says that you have to tell everyone material information (such as something that can affect stock price) at the same time (tell one tell all).  That means you cannot say one thing to your investors, and another thing to you customers;
  2. dynamic constituent expectations about how the organisation should be run because audiences, or constituencies, change their opinions, therefore their expectations can be difficult to meet.
  3. short-term orientation of senior management, who are typically in jobs for less than five years.  The average tenure for a chief executive officers is four and a half years and for a chief marketing officer it is 18 months.  Naturally, they are going to have a short-term orientation rather than being able to plan and work for the long term.
  4. organisational complexity due to muliple locations and size of operations and various constituencies who may have very different goals and needs, such as customers and employees, so an organisation may have to deal with conflicting interests.

Example

Starbucks maintains its socially responsible image by partnering with NGOs, increasing its own transparency when they faced challenges based on how it sources coffee.  Also, McDonald’s combats public obesity concerns with a public awareness campaign focused on living an active lifestyle. [1]

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