The Evolution of Corporate Communication Into Strategic Corporate Communication

Jill Wyman

Jill Wyman, Student & Alumni

This role of a communication professional has moved from a tactical doer and executor to a strategic partner today in an organization’s growth.  Communication professionals need to be advisors to the senior most decision-makers and act as an ethical conscience for the organization, and a strategic advisor.  This in many cases, requires taking a longer term view of a company’s success.  

Ten plus years ago, “a single minded focus on shareholder value meant stock price was a sole measure of success for a CEO.” (Fitzpatrick, 2006).   When I entered the industry, I found this a true statement, but today, I find overall corporate health, a focus on doing the right thing that produces the right results, and a longer term view to be important, which Bowen (2008) also found in her research.  I don’t think the importance of stock price, in a public company especially, will ever diminish. I just believe smart CEO’s are realizing what an important role communications professionals are in achieving corporate results.

To be successful and able to advise on ethics and decision-making, I found Bowen’s (2008) findings on barriers to be important:

  • Having access and credibility to the “dominant coalition,”
  • Having a seat at the senior most table for strategy
  • Having the autonomy to make decisions
  • And collaboration and relationships with other key organization departments.

Having a strong, well-vetted brand and brand strategy provides a framework (values, mission, beliefs, COE, goals) that becomes the architecture for ethical decision-making, strategic growth and direction. Today not only is the industry becoming an important strategic partner, but building relationships and collaboration in terms of working across business lines lend itself to trust, transparency, and success.  This is why structure of an organization, with the communications leader being positioned in the tier with top leadership, helps because it gives automatic credibility and level to advise with honesty. Having someone with a different frame of reference and perspective is invaluable to a CEO as decisions are being made or strategy developed.

The idea of “strategic integrator” rang true with me (Fitzpatrick et. al., 2006).  Today taking a more integrated approach to communications, with PR, marketing, social media, consumer research, etc., housed and led within one department maintains brand consistency and a provides a more strategic approach to achieving corporate goals.  The Purdue Online Communication Master’s Program has not only helped me understand issues facing the field, but educates how to maximize and succeed in communications today.  It helps unwind strategies, tactics, theories and aligns them with actual exercises and hands on work that helps the student-professional easily apply the learnings on the job!  

Bowen, S., (2008). A State of Neglect:  Public Relations as “Corporate Conscience” or Ethics Counsel, Journal of Public Relations Research, 20:3, 271-296.

Fitzpatrick, K., Bronstein, C., (2006). Ethics in Public Relations Responsible Advocacy, Thousand Oaks California, SAGE Publishing.  

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Jill Wyman is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.