Blogs  / January 7, 2021

Understanding the purpose and contribution of the communications team to organizational success

by Erik Wagner, Head of Growth Marketing

In many organizations, a major fragmentation exists between executive leadership and the communications function. The communications team may not be held accountable for contributing to corporate and financial goals, so oftentimes, the department is either held to a lesser standard or operates in a vacuum rather than being seen as a strategic partner. As a result, communications professionals often become vulnerable to budget and headcount cuts.

To kick off 2021, Onclusive is looking at the communications function through the executive lens while keeping the communications pro’s perspective in mind, and bringing it all together in our upcoming webinar, The Executive’s Guide to Building and Leading an Impactful Communications Department.

During the month of January, we will be taking you through the highlights of this report. The focus of the first article is to review the key concepts of value, purpose and contribution of the communications function to organizational success.

What is the value of communications in an organization?

Your communications team owns your company’s earned media, which is key to building the trust amongst all of your stakeholders, be it customers, employees or investors. Communications is a major driver of corporate reputation—your biggest brand asset. It also plays a big role in your entire customer lifecycle, including brand awareness, recognition, and the emotional connection that drives purchase decisions. 

Based on a survey of over 600 European business leaders in large corporations (CEOs, presidents, managing directors, full-time board members, etc.), most top executives agree that public opinion and corporate reputation are more relevant for business decision-making today than they were in the past, which means that communications has an impact on the achievement of organizational goals. However, more often than not, this does not translate to an increase in the influence or budget for communications professionals working in these organizations.

As an executive setting the overall strategy for your company, you play a decisive role in making sure that your communications team is not just a necessary cost center—but that it is empowered and given the resources it needs to contribute to your company’s major business goals, serving as your trusted adviser and strategic partner in corporate decision-making.

Understanding the purpose and contribution of the communications team to organizational success

Onclusive has observed that in many companies, communications often bounces between strategic relevance and task-oriented project work, unless a crisis is unfolding. We’ve also seen that in many cases, communications goals are separate from marketing and business goals, which may stem from a lack of clarity about the purpose and contribution of communications versus other functions, including marketing.

At the same time, the performance of corporate communications depends heavily on the perceptions, beliefs, and expectations that top executives hold towards this function and its contribution to organizational goals.

What is the purpose of the communications team, then? While motivating employees and building the company image, reputation and trust are arguably the two most important objectives of corporate communications for top executives, the scope of the communications function is a lot more comprehensive and includes:

  • Employee engagement & communications
  • Company & brand awareness
  • Company & brand reputation
  • Communicating messaging to external audiences
  • Media relations, including mass media and social media (journalists, social influencers, bloggers, etc.)
  • Other stakeholder relations (investors, analysts, policy makers, society, etc.)
  • Monitoring public opinion, the media, and competitors
  • Identifying opportunities and issues that arise in the internal and external environment
  • Crisis management

This list covers not just speaking to the organization’s stakeholders and influencing public opinion (outbound activities), but also—very importantly—listening to and fostering a dialogue with all of these stakeholders (inbound activities). Business leaders agree that both are critical for organizational success.

As an executive, where would you like your communications team to make an impact?

To gain clarity around the unique contribution you’d like communications to make to your company, here are the key questions to ask:

  • What are your corporate goals and objectives?
  • Where can the strengths, capabilities and assets owned by your communications team make the most impact for your organization?
  • How can the communications team best support your company’s business goals, serving you as a trusted adviser and strategic partner?

Join us for the The Executive’s Guide to Building and Leading an Impactful Communications Department webinar on Tuesday, January 26th! Our panel will discuss how executives can better engage with their communications teams and ensure their KPIs are aligned with company goals. You’ll hear both the executive’s and communications pro’s perspectives on engagement best practices and how to lead a successful corporate communications operation.