The chapters in the book entitled “Corporate Communication” were written in a manner that keeps the reader interested in the subject. The use of companies generally known to readers (e.g., Enron, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson) as examples to drive home specific points was an effective move. The author, Paul Argenti, also issues statements herein that could cause quite a stir in top management circles. But through it all, he has ably proven that almost all problems that occur within corporate entities could be solved or could have been avoided through proper communication channels and systems.
In the third chapter of the book, Argenti insinuates that public relations originally became a concern of companies decades ago mainly for the purpose of protecting top management bigwigs from assaults directed to them by external parties (Argenti 2009: 46). While this statement may have applied to some companies like Mobil, it does not have to be accepted as a general truth. No one is to say that all the companies with operational public relations offices right within their organizations are simply after deflecting criticisms that may be flung at them. After all, whatever the complete list of purposes there may have been for the establishment of public relations offices by individual companies, there would be companies that were simply after ensuring that all the communications addressed to them by third parties – their investors, creditors and clients, and the government agencies – were all properly attended to.
It is not surprising that corporate communication has come to receive much attention amongst companies. After all, people are more communicative and expressive now. They air their views and opinions for the world to know about, and there would always be people to hear them. There once were just the radio, television and printed news are means to reach the public. It used to take a lot – in terms of time and money – to be able to announce for all to know any information bit about a particular company or product. The same does not anymore hold true. These days, the internet has become a media that everybody can easily access. A blog empowers any person to speak out his mind, and he does not even have to be right. In the light of all the freedom and intricacies brought about by the internet age, corporate communication – just like all other areas of concern – was never the same as before.
In the same third chapter of the book, Argenti contends that it is imperative for a company to build a good reputation and to win the trust of both its employees and the public (62). He eloquently illustrates this point by naming Martha Stewart’s company as a concrete example. This statement holds more truth now more than ever. While America is right in the middle of a financial crisis that has dragged the rest of the world into the same mess, it is worthwhile to remember that America’s reputation as the world’s strongest economy has suffered a big blow. The system, too, has crumbled and would need a total makeover to win back the public’s trust in it. The present time is an important point in history when the confidence in economies, financial instruments issued by industry giants, government systems overseeing the banking and investment sectors, and even government leaders is at its lowest.
Argenti is right to cite the importance of rebuilding trust. America can recover its lost footing only when it has regained the trust of the rest of the world. Thus, companies from various industries – in the same way as those from the financial industry – would have to start anew in dealing with concerned parties right. The employees are the best people to work on first. Once they are won over, they would make up the best army to defend the company’s reputation against all its detractors. They become the company’s loyal ambassadors sowing seeds of its goodwill whether they are at work or not. The same is true with the government. The entire system is based on trust and without it, everything disintegrates. The people will be suspicious of their leaders’ every move, and the leaders would be crippled by such distrust.
Argenti further states that a company’s reputation is the sum of how it is viewed by all its constituents, and that the idea of a company managing its reputation is unrealistic (55). The reputation is too big an issue to be manipulated or controlled. No company can keep up with pretense for long. In this time and age of innovative information and communications technology, it is almost impossible to keep secrets. To establish a good reputation is, therefore, to be truly worthy of it. This is the only way to have the right to earn one and to maintain it.
The seventh chapter, which covers internal communications, emphasizes the importance of personal communications between the employees and their respective managers (199). The author recommends personal interaction between a company’s senior managers and their respective teams as the way to keep the company dynamic and growing (199). This keeps the employees abreast of the general direction the company is taking, the concerns of the management and the real issues for the company as a whole to tackle. This furthermore does away with the difficult and uneasy dialogue when management would surprise the employees with an announcement of unexpected developments (laying off of employees, e.g.). After all, employees – especially those who are made aware of the company’s true form and true designs – would somehow know that it was coming. They also would naturally want what is for the best interests of the company. For these people who have been in the know, there would not be any need for these awkward moments. In fact, there might be some solutions that were collectively generated by the employees to counter the need for downsizing. An example of this would be the move for the company to issue them reduced pays thereby relinquishing the necessity of chopping off some heads. Solutions like this could come in concrete form only within companies where communication levels within the organization have been kept healthy.
Constant interaction between managers and their subordinates can help the company in more ways than one. After all, these subordinates are all representatives of the company, too. To fail to tap their vital contributions to the overall goodwill and well-being of the company would, indeed, be a huge mistake. Companies spend millions to build up their images and to prop themselves up as model companies to hopefully merit the admiration of the public. And yet, these props – advertisements and billboards – could only go a limited distance from the starting point. The most valuable asset of any company is its people – the company management must capitalize on them through time. Eventually, there will be considerable benefits and profits to be reaped.
There is no substitute to personal interaction. For all that students learn from online educational products and tutorial software programs, better learning processes are more fondly looked back to by students who were personally taught and supervised by professors during their school years. The same applies to corporate communication. Sometimes, a pat in the back is worth a sizeable bonus. Sometimes, a sincere compliment from an employee’s boss leads him to further improve his performance. In the same way, a company’s stocks are known to rebound the next day after its CEO personally announces that a recent setback (e.g., last quarter’s operating loss) will be addressed and will not happen again. There is power in corporate communication and it should not be overlooked.
Indeed, so many things have happened – events that can never be undone – to require companies to give more attention to corporate communication, both internal and external. Internal communication must be well-supervised to erase doubts and to encourage the employees’ participation in the company’s overall programs. External communications must equally be worked on to repair the company’s damaged reputation, image, and relations with the public. After the Enron fiasco, employees and investors alike are understandably wary of management teams of companies and its tendency to hide things from them and worse, to do unsavory things behind their backs. Just as practically nobody expected Enron’s top management to engage in a fraud of such magnitude, everybody now easily believes the worst of companies and its officers. Dwelling on how the current financial crisis came about does not help. There is dire need to rebuild relationships and to reestablish confidence in public and private entities alike. Communication, internal and external, is more needed at this time than at any other time.
No company can operate smoothly and successfully with mounting worries or distrust of its employees left unaddressed. Management would have to keep lines between them and the personnel open all the time. Each company has to assure its employees that it is no Enron. This simple move would make a mighty difference in the confidence level of employees. It should not be surprising that the same will trigger an increase in the prices of the company’s shares in the bourse. After all, we live at a time when the world has become smaller, and everybody – even investors out there, big and small – has become almost within earshot. This applies to giants whose shares are publicly traded and to smaller-sized private companies. Argenti is right to emphasize the need for understanding between the company and its employees. Goodwill is built first within an organization and then it just would thrive and grow when provided with the right habitat and enough attention. Corporate communication is the potent tool to help the company achieve this undertaking.
List of References
Argenti, P. (2009) Corporate Communication. Boston: McGraw Hill Irwin.