Unraveling the Misunderstood World of Corporate Communications

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It is a given that effective corporate communication is the cornerstone of success for organizations worldwide. Yet, amid the dynamic shifts in technology, public sentiment, and media consumption, the realm of corporate communications remains enigmatic and, at times, misunderstood. In this opinion piece, Godfrey Adejumoh, an eminent authority in the fields of Public Relations, Sustainability, and Public Affairs, draws from a wealth of experience to provide invaluable insights into navigating the challenges of the modern corporate communications landscape, among other issues.

By Godfrey Adejumoh

Communications and Sustainable Business is a professional discipline that often finds itself misunderstood and misconstrued. Practitioners often have to navigate a complex landscape of public perception, brand reputation, and societal impact. While some other disciplines may face similar challenges, studying and understanding how these professionals thrive in such circumstances can offer valuable insights.

This career path attracts a multitude of opinions about what should be done and where practitioners may fall short. Whether dealing with internal or external communications, satisfaction seems elusive. There’s an ever-present feeling that the communications team fails to deploy impactful messages effectively, leaving products and corporate brands less known compared to their competitors. Internally, employees complain about being uninformed, while board members look for who to blame for messages termed “not engaging enough.” Sustainable business department encouters similar fate, if not worse.

One can frequently hear claims of organisations empowering thousands of women, upscaling youths, and supporting communities on health, education, and more. Despite these efforts, they feel invisible, lacking influence in shaping critical business policies with the government. Competition, on the other hand, seems to effortlessly excel in these areas, appearing omnipresent across various media channels, while the Corporate Affairs team is often perceived as ineffective and disconnected. In times of crisis, they struggle to respond appropriately, leading to negative narratives about the organisation.

Experiencing such realities on a daily basis is common for those involved in this discipline, be it as a consultant or internal member. The dissatisfaction, criticism, and harsh judgements are shared experiences regardless of which side of the coin you find yourselves.

Amidst these challenges, occasional moments of respite emerge when individuals receive praise for a job well done. However, such moments are fleeting, and the questioning of one’s relevance and contribution to the business soon returns.

Underlying issues contribute to the complexity of reputation building in this field. People, investors, and stakeholders demand answers from organisations, especially when it comes to the impact they have on communities and society as a whole. While companies talk about their commitments to various causes like climate change, net-zero targets, decarbonisation, gender, equity and diversity, many individuals still struggle with everyday economic challenges. The lofty targets and rhetoric set for distant years like 2025, 2030, and beyond may not resonate with those facing immediate challenges such as inflation, stagnant wages, and unaffordable healthcare, education, and housing. This raises questions about why they should care about corporate narratives that seemingly offer little relief.

In recent years, the world has undergone significant changes that demand a shift in organisational engagement. The old approach of spending time and resources on numerous presentations and documents to appease all stakeholders is no longer sustainable. The practice of trying to please everyone often leads to failure, and professionals in this industry are better off avoiding this perilous path.

To build a lasting brand with a positive impact and legacy, organisations must start with fundamental questions. What do we want to achieve? What is our brand’s purpose and vision? How do we want to be perceived and known? The answers to these questions should guide the visioning process and provide clear direction. Standing for something unique and purposeful, especially in an interconnected world, is essential for gaining relevance and differentiation.

It is vital to recognise that reputation building is not solely the responsibility of the corporate affairs team. Instead, every individual connected to the organisation contributes to its reputation through his/her actions and inactions. While the corporate affairs team provides guidance, other departments and divisions must own and lead their operations in alignment with the company’s purpose, vision, and goals. The truth is that operating with integrity, respect, and agility enhances the organisation’s reputation.

With a clear understanding of the brand’s purpose and vision, crafting narratives to achieve these objectives becomes critical. Achieving stakeholder alignment with these narratives and fostering a unified voice is essential. Organisations have an impact on society in various spheres, and the messaging should be consistent, regardless of the platform, partnership, or channel used. Convergence – not divergence – of voices and messaging is key.

The human-to-human approach is a powerful strategy for reputation building. Beyond numbers, rhetoric, and business jargon, leveraging real people can resonate with stakeholders. Short viral videos, podcasts, speaking platforms, partnership engagements, media relations, and courtesy visits can enhance brand reputation and engagement.

As the world continues to evolve, reputation management will grow more complex. The interconnectedness brought by technology will increase, presenting both opportunities and challenges. Stakeholders will demand even greater accountability and relevance from organisations. To navigate this ever-changing landscape, communication professionals must be agile and dynamic, continuously reviewing and critiquing their strategies. Indeed, the ability to adapt and pivot will be crucial for staying relevant and maintaining a positive brand reputation.

Godfrey Adejumoh is a PR, Sustainability, Public Affairs Expert || Co-Founder, PR Hub.

Gmail: [email protected]

IG: Godfrey.adejumoh

FB: Godfrey Adejumoh

1 Comment
  1. Ken says

    A very interesting read. Anyone working in corporate communications would easily agree with every point in this well-written post. Kudos to the Author. He clearly wrote from his breadth of experience.

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