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The Importance of Corporate Communication, 1984
Hirowo Itow, from Minolta CI Story
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1. The Modern Significance of Corporate Communications
A company is essentially a body which supplies products and services to the market, thereby creating social benefits and appropriate profits on a long-term basis. A company is able to exist only so long as it maintains the acceptance of the society in which it operates. Unfairly earned profits or other antisocial activities will bring social censure, and the company may reach the point where it can no longer continue to operate. This is especially true in the information-oriented society in which we live today, with news networks that carry a variety of data to a wide audience at rapid speed.
In short, whether it be a modern company or an administrative body, the criterion for activity is that it be socially oriented, and only within this context will things function normally.
The advance of the information-oriented society has quickened the pace at which public attention is focused on antisocial behavior, putting pressure on companies to comply if they want to stay in business. In that sense, corporate communications is the accountability of the management to their endeavors. It relates to the investments that yield appropriate long-term profits. There-fore, corporate communications has become the greatest concern of today's forward-thinking business executives.
2. The Concept of Corporate Communications
Corporate communications can be summed up as a modern company's conscious effort to enhance the likelihood of the firm's sustained existence in terms of its relations with the society in which it operates. It is mandatory for companies that seek to fulfill their social responsibilities and continue to chart steady, long-term growth. This effort involves adver-tising, public relations and other forms of communication, centered on a company-wide perspective aimed at gaining an accurate societal understanding of the "corporate heart." To get the various messages across, a company must understand the environments in which its various publics exist and then tailor its communications for optimum understanding, thus giving those communications a "social direction." And insofar as it brings together information and available methods, the communication must have
"strategic direction." The structure of the information must also be given "intellectual direction" by defining objectives equally carefully and then tailoring the words, approaches, ways and means to insure that those objectives be correctly understood by all those who are to be reached. In terms of structure, corporate communications begins with a management philosophy, a policy which translates this philosophy into specifics, and a business organization through which the policy is implemented. Professor Peter F. Drucker has provided a concept, "Profit Centers built into a corporation," and following this thinking we have a management philosophy in which the information is organized and controlled through the "Communications Center," with an information network branching out from there.
It is vital that a corporate philosophy be written down in one form or another so it becomes accessible to all concerned.
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The corporate management philosophy is the fundamental "way of thinking of the incorporated company, which exists as one element of society, in the conduct of its business. This normally corresponds to the "code of conduct" or other clearly stated business goals stated in the company charter. Normally, employees will have little or no contact with the company's formal charter, and there is also little awareness of the company's code of conduct as a management philosophy. Because of this, it is desirable to express these concepts in written form, Furthermore, management's policy will also become action guidelines when doing business, complete with specific "do's and don't's."
In terms of activities, corporate communications may be classified as "information gathering activities" and "information disseminating activities." In short, it is the inputting and outputting of corporate informa-tion. These activities are all checked for consistency with corporate policy at the "Com-munications Center," and it is vital that all information be transformed intellectually into such forms as appropriate, and that all internal-bound information be enlightening or educational.
There are several widely practiced corporate communications activities that are realistic, flexible and responsive in regard to today's business environment. Those that we have in mind here, however, involve the aggregate effect of an entire communications effort by a company, including its advertising, public relations, inhouse publications, salesman-customer dialogues, executive speeches, social-betterment programs, negotiations with government agencies, and other similar activities.
Corporate Identity becomes a factor, of course, when a company's communication activities involve our visual and auditory senses with the object of unifying a desirable image of the company, using devices such as specific symbols or logotypes. The official symbol is part of the face that a company presents to society when communicating its message through various products, neon signs, advertisements, employee uniforms, various types of written materials, business cards and so forth.
The true nucleus of CI activities is the company symbol. And accordingly, the quality of the design of the symbol, including configura-tion, color and all other elements, will have a great bearing on corporate image. In Buddhist teachings there is the saying, "The heart demands shape, shape stimulates the heart." In terms of what we are dealing with here, a visual element which yields a precise expression of the company's nature, its customs and traditions, management profile and so forth - in other words, the symbol- will impress upon the minds of people who see it the image of the company itself, and contribute to understanding of that firm's "corporate mind."
3. Corporate Communications Organization and its Control System
It is desirable that the corporate communications control organization have a "Com-munications Center" as its core system. In other words, it is best to have the communication activities of a company linked directly to the top management, with all information input and output passed through the "Commu-nications Center" and coordinated so that it is both intellectual in nature and congruent with the company's management philosophy. Once this step is taken, advertising, PR and other existing methods advanced with a company-wide perspective will produce an appropriate understanding of the "corporate heart" among the public at large.
It is vital that the "Communications Center be staffed with personnel able to select information from the perspective of the overall corporation and check it with management philosophy for consistency and adapt it to achieve specific purposes. The center should also be given the authority to issue communication orders under the direct jurisdiction of the president. From the standpoint of current corporate organization, putting the "Communications Center under the control of the president's office or a division supervising both advertising and publicity functions is a most realistic approach.
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4. The Concept of the Japanese Way of Looking at Corporate Communications
Much of Japanese management does not look at communication as an investment per se, since its results are not tangible in the sense that money spent for plant and machinery is. This is part of a controversy over whether publicity and advertising constitute expenses or investment. The established theory is that "advertising is an investment geared to stimulate demand and to lower per-unit production costs." But despite this, publicity and advertising budgets have often been among the first to be offered up as sacrificial lambs during the economic recession in the name of "reducing expenses." Corporate communications activities should be understood as "investments" which will contribute to stable long-term growth for the company. Confucius once said: "A man who thinks of one year will plant rice; a man who thinks of ten years will plant trees; a man who thinks of 100 years will attend to education." It is in this sense that corporate communications seek long-term "social education" with regard to the corporate philosophy and as such is an "investment in the company's future."
A company exists as a member of society, and it must continue to increase the benefits it brings to society, charting appropriate profits on a long-term basis and maintaining stable growth as it works as an organization to fulfill all social responsibilities; thus corporate communications must have "social direction," or orientation toward those to be reached with "intellectual information." At the same time, communications must inherently be two-way, i.e., convincing and being convinced. It is also vital to consider "social education" targeted at repeated appeals for an aggregate effect. Furthermore, instead of defensive communications used in order to rectify an adverse situation after such a situation arises, a company should take a more positive stance with which to try constantly to spread a correct understanding of its "true profile" or "management philosophy."
In short, effective corporate communications is the single most important concern of forward-thinking executives today.
About Logo Histories’ Extra Issue
Logo Histories’ Extra Issue unlocks opinion and insights lost to time, buried within the pages of rare out-of-print design books and magazines. Through this series, you'll come to understand the challenges and opportunities corporate identity designers of the past faced to help you better understand design practice of the present. For Logo Histories, click here.