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"How to play the game" stellt neue Tools und Ansätze für ein erfolgreiches Kommunikationsmanagement vor und versucht angesichts all der unterschiedlichen Erklärungsansätze ein gemeinsames Verständnis des Wertbeitrags von Kommunikation zu schaffen. Auf der Grundlage einer ausführlichen Literaturanalyse von weit über 800 Publikationen sowie zehn Case Studies mit führenden deutschen und international tätigen Unternehmen, entstanden fünf neue Modelle, die folgende Fragen beantworten: Welche Rollen übt der CCO aus? Wie tragen Kommunikationsabteilungen zum Unternehmenserfolg bei? Welche zentrale Ziele werden von der Unternehmenskommunikation beeinflusst? Wie können Kommunikations- und Unternehmensstrategie verknüpft werden? Wie kann Kommunikation gemanagt und gesteuert werden? Vier Interviews mit den Kommunikations- und Strategieverantworklichen von thyssenkrupp, Osram, GIZ und Voith geben einen Einblick in die Unternehmenspraxis.
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COMMUNICATION INSIGHTS
Strategic tools for managing corporate communications
and creating value for your organization
HOW TO PLAY
THE GAME
Issue 3
TABLE OF CONTENTS
How to play the game 4
Strategic tools for managing corporate communications and creating value for your organization
Which roles are performed by Chief Communication Ofcers? 8
The Communication Manager Roles Grid reects the multiple roles of today’s communicators
Interview: Communication professionals as strategy advisors 13
Insights into the CCO’s advisory role at OSRAM and Voith
How do communication departments contribute to success? 16
The Communications Contributions Framework identies eight strategic and operational contributions
Current practices in corporate communication departments 21
Bridging the gap between what communicators do and what top managers expect
What are the core values generated by communication? 22
The Communication Value Circle: A new framework visualizes the value of communication
How can communication be aligned with corporate strategy? 28
A closer look at the process of strategic alignment and its success factors
Interview: A behind the scenes look at strategic alignment 32
How organizations set up their communication strategy
How can communications be managed and steered? 35
A new toolbox compiles key management tools for communications
References 41
Academic Society for Management & Communication 43
Imprint
Publisher: Academic Society for Management & Communication – An initiative of the Günter Thiele Foundation
Burgstraße 21, 04109 Leipzig, Germany | info@academic-society.net | www.academic-society.net
Authors and editorial team: Sophia Charlotte Volk, Karen Berger, Ansgar Zerfass, Luisa Bisswanger, Marcus Fetzer, Karolin Köhler
Citation of this publication (APA style): Volk, S. C., Berger, K., Zerfass, A., Bisswanger, L., Fetzer, M., Köhler, K. (2017). How to play the game.
Strategic tools for managing corporate communications and creating value for your organization (Communication Insights, Issue 3). Leipzig, Germany:
Academic Society for Management & Communication. Available online at www.academic-society.net
Konzept, Layout, Graken: Zitronengrau GbR, Leipzig, Germany
Proofreading: Anna Ward
Pictures: Aeko via Fotolia (p. 13), ellagrin via Fotolia (p. 35), ellagrin via Shutterstock (p. 25), enotmaks – Thinkstock (p. 8), Icons made by freep-
ik from www.aticon.com (p. 18-19, 21, 29, 38-39), Icon by Nikita Golubev (p. 29), robu_s via Fotolia (p. 16), sentavio via Shutterstock (p. 28),
Tobias Tanzyna (p. 3)
Print: MERKUR Druck- und Kopierzentrum GmbH & Co. KG, Leipzig/Püchau, Germany
All rights reserved. © May 2017
Note: Throughout this publication, gender-specic terms may be used in order to ease the text ow. It should be understood as referring to both
genders, unless explicitly stated.
EDITORIAL
Dr. Ansgar Zerfass
Professor and Chair in Strategic Communication, University of Leipzig
Communication has become an increasingly important driver of success for corpo-
rations in today’s hypermodern world. Organizations and their leaders have to cope
with a turbulent political landscape and fragmented media environments. Digitali-
zation and new communication needs from stakeholders are forcing communication
departments to reinvent themselves. However, one objective has remained the same:
corporate communications has to create business value by serving the overall stra-
tegic goals of a company. Nevertheless, both corporate practice and academic research
lack a generally accepted ‘big picture’ of value creation through communications.
The pressing question of how communications contributes to corporate success
has seldom been asked and has never been answered sufciently. To address this
gap, a unique three-year research project has focused on investigating the value of
communications in its complexity. The aim was to develop a consistent storyline and
establish a common understanding of the essential terms, concepts and tools of value
creating communication. Headed by Ansgar Zerfass, Christine Viertmann and Sophia
Charlotte Volk, a research team at the University of Leipzig reviewed more than 800
scientic books and articles across many disciplines, analyzed dozens of corporate
documents and interviewed chief communication ofcers from global corporations.
Many thanks go to Joachim Schwalbach (Humboldt University Berlin), Karen Berger
and other team members in Leipzig, and also to our advisory board of communica-
tion leaders from BASF, Bosch, Deutsche Bank, OSRAM and Roche for supporting this
research.
The most interesting ndings are presented in this issue of Communication Insights
and the following questions are answered: Which roles are performed by today’s Chief
Communication Ofcers? How can the communication department’s contributions to
success be explained? What are the core values generated by communication? How
can communication targets be linked to corporate strategy? And what kind of tools
can be used to manage communications strategically? These ndings are comple-
mented with insights into the practice at thyssenkrupp, OSRAM, GIZ and Voith.
The project at hand is part of Value Creating Communication, the world’s most
comprehensive research program in corporate communications. It was initiated and
funded by the Academic Society for Management & Communication. Since 2015, two
projects have been realized within this program – this one on contributing to corpo-
rate success and another one at the University of Münster about megatrends and the
digitalization of communications. In a next step, these two universities together with
the University of Vienna will start another project focusing on internal and external
interfaces and collaboration processes in corporate communications.
We hope you will benet from our insights and enjoy reading this issue!
3
COMMUNICATION INSIGHTS – ISSUE 3
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
STRATEGIC TOOLS FOR MANAGING CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS AND CREATING
VALUE FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION
Empirical studies around the world indicate that communication departments continue to struggle with a rather low status in organiza-
tions. Top managers tend to underestimate the role of communications as an essential driver of value creation and corporate success.
Communication professionals, on the other hand, often perceive their own role in the management group as more signicant than
executives do. It would be short-sighted to blame the executive level for this gap. Instead, communication professionals should raise the
question: how can we explain the contribution of communications to corporate success more effectively?
It is difcult to grasp the essence of effective corporate communica-
tions today. Nevertheless, one aspect is unanimously mentioned by
researchers and leaders around the globe: communications need to
serve the overall strategic goals of a company and help to fulll its
mission. Creating value for business is the main rationale for the rapid
expansion of the eld. Most board members and top managers recog-
nize the critical importance of communication for their organization
– but they are unclear of what role communication practitioners have
and frequently view them as channel producers or technicians (Brønn,
2014; Falkheimer et al., 2017). At the same time, many communi-
cation executives complain about a lack of appreciation from top
management, unclear role descriptions and vague key performance
indicators (Tench et al., 2017).
There is a simple explanation for the diverging perceptions of top
managers and communication executives on the value of communi-
cations: communicators themselves lack a consistent understanding
of how their work contributes to business goals. Several studies show
that communicators use multiple rationales to explain the value of
their work to top management – from building reputation, to boosting
publicity, or gaining the ‘license to operate’ (Kiesenbauer & Zerfass,
2015; Zerfass et al., 2015; Macnamara et al., 2015). In addition,
communication professionals often report their success based on evalu-
ating day-to-day operations or key projects. They seldom measure how
the department contributes to the overall strategic goals of the organ-
ization (Zerfass, Vercic, & Volk, 2017). Communication management is
still often inuenced by gut feeling or based on experience, instead of
strategic analyses or sophisticated data analytics.
It is plausible to assume that the multitude of stories told by communi-
cators creates uncertainty among business leaders. Without a common
explanation of communications’ contributions to corporate success,
it is difcult to convince top managers to invest bigger budgets. If
communicators want top management to appreciate them more, they
need to tell a consistent story of how their work creates tangible
values and builds immaterial assets. Our research project therefore
seeks to answer the following questions: Which story should commu-
nicators tell? Which aspects are critical for convincing top managers?
How can communicators start the conversation and link their story to
existing rationales?
systems. A reection on the different roles of communicators is
needed to understand their personal contributions to corporate
success. Our research team explored the new responsibilities of
today’s CCOs.
The new Communication Manager Roles Grid visualizes the diver-
sity of roles performed by today’s communication executives
in eight dimensions. It can be used to dene success proles,
examine competencies, set up personal goal agreements, or
reect on individual performance in everyday business. (p. 8-12)
1. Which roles are performed by Chief
Communication Ofcers?
Along with the professionalization of the
communication function, the job prole of the
Chief Communication Ofcer (CCO) has changed dramatically over
the past decades. Communication leaders are no longer respon-
sible for managing media relations and boosting the public
prole of their CEO. They monitor public opinion building around
the clock, manage globally spread communication teams, and run
agile departments in a digitalized environment. CCOs increas-
ingly act as consultants to top management in corporate strategy
processes and as supporters of all business functions. This devel-
opment is manifested in new success proles and incentive
FIVE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS
In order to develop a consistent story of value creating communication, several aspects were explored during the research project. These aspects
are related to each other and include the new roles of the communication executive, core contributions of the communication department, and
new prerequisite for steering communications strategically. The following ve fundamental questions seemed to be most pressing:
4COMMUNICATION INSIGHTS – ISSUE 3
2. How do communication
departments contribute to success?
Studies reveal that top executives and
internal business partners, e.g. leaders of other
departments, rate communication departments quite often by
the success of single campaigns and events. They often lack
a comprehensive understanding of the strategic contributions
to organizational success. Communicators, on the other hand,
often report success in terms of media outputs, outreach of
online communications, or other operational activities. They
rarely document the department’s critical impact on reecting
and adjusting corporate strategies. Against this background, it
is essential to make a distinction between different strategic
and operational contributions to corporate success. Reecting
on strategic contributions counteracts the tendency of commu-
nications to be reduced to an operational support function.
The newly developed Communications Contributions Frame-
work illustrates four core contributions of communication
departments to corporate success. It is useful to systematize
assigned tasks into strategic and operational dimensions – a
popular approach in management. This allows prioritizing
communication goals and allocating budgets in a systematic
manner. It facilitates the collaboration with top manage-
ment and other departments, and helps to leverage the full
potential of corporate communications.
(p. 16-20)
3. What are the core values
generated by communication?
The communication industry has not yet arrived
at a commonly agreed-upon understanding of how
communication creates value for organizations. Looking into
academic research is no help because various research traditions
provide different theoretical answers. They are seldom combined
or recognized by each other. Thus, an interdisciplinary reection
of the multi-faceted dimensions of communicative value proved
necessary. It helped us to develop a holistic understanding of the
overarching impact of communications.
The Communication Value Circle describes value creation
through communication in 12 dimensions derived from four
generic corporate goals. It can be used as a tool to identify
and structure communication goals at the level of business
impact, and to match every goal with a set of performance indi-
cators. By setting the same priorities, the Communication Value
Circle establishes prerequisites for aligning the communication
strategy with the overarching corporate strategy. (p. 22-27)
4. How can communication be
aligned with corporate strategy?
The importance of aligning communication
goals with overarching business goals has been
acknowledged consistently. Yet, strategic alignment remains
the most enduring challenge for the profession. In fact,
today’s communication goals are seldom linked to corporate
strategy. Established management tools for ensuring align-
ment are missing. Processes differ widely across compa-
nies. In order to interact with top management on an equal
footing, communication departments have to demonstrate
that their strategy is in line with corporate strategy. To
advance the debate, the conceptual foundations of align-
ment and the process of linking communication to strategy
in daily practice were explored during the research project.
The Alignment Process visualizes how to link communica-
tion goals to overarching corporate goals. Our research nd-
ings contribute to a better understanding of the concept of
alignment – from alignment to strategy, to culture, identity
or people – and highlights the need to communicate corpo-
rate strategy in order to ensure a consistent orientation of
employees.
(p. 28-31)
5. How can communications be
managed and steered?
Growing communication needs pose new
challenges for communication executives who
have to fulll manifold managerial responsibilities. These
range from coordinating and steering teams and resources
to integrating and orchestrating all communication activities
of the organization. In times of restructuring and cost-cut-
ting, the effective management and organizational set-up
of communication departments becomes even more crucial.
Various management tools can be adapted to evaluate process
efciency, optimize internal workows, foster communication
activities and measure impact. However, only few are used in
communications, and a comprehensive overview is missing.
The Toolbox for Strategic Communication Management
provides an overview of established management tools and
communication tools for analyzing, planning, executing,
and evaluating communications. It can be used to strategi-
cally steer and manage communications.
(p. 35-40)
» Reect on the organization’s current situation
and strategic direction for the future
» Use the CVC to analyze where communication
can add value
» Identify and prioritize business goals
(inner circle of CVC)
» Derive core communication targets
(outer circle of CVC)
» Break down communication targets into
concrete measures
» Dene KPIs and measurement methods
» Ensure that all projects are linked to
your targets
» Verify that communication goals are aligned
with corporate goals
ANA
LYZE
DERIVE
DEFINE
VERIFY
1 CONVEY & MULTIPLY
Strategic
Operational
2 ALIGN & CONTRIBUTE 3 STEER & MANAGE 4 ADVISE & COACH
Conveying the corporate
strategy and positioning
to key stakeholders
critical for the long-term
success of the organiza-
tion
Dening overarching
communication goals
and a communication
strategy aligned to the
corporate strategy and
positioning
Steering key resources
and critical processes of
the communication
department (building
potential for future
success)
Consulting and advising
on the strategic
development of the
organization and its
functions (independent
from the communicati-
on function)
Multiplying the
corporate strategy and
positioning to all
stakeholders and
interested publics
Delivering professional
communication
activities that support all
functions of the
organization and secure
day-to-day operations
(messaging and
listening)
Managing day-to-day
operations of the
communication
department (harnessing
its potential through
planning, budgeting,
resource allocation,
measurement)
Coaching and partnering
with all members of the
organization and
enabling them to
communicate professio-
nally
MANAGEMENTTOOLS
COMMUNICATION TOOLS
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5
COMMUNICATION INSIGHTS – ISSUE 3
ABOUT THIS RESEARCH PROJECT
The research project is part of the overall research program Value Creating Communication initiated by the Academic Society for
Management & Communication based in Leipzig, Germany. It explored the aforementioned ve questions by combining different
qualitative methodologies in three research phases.
Phase 2 - Case studies
In Phase 2, we conducted qualitative case studies in 10 organizations
across different industries, combining in-depth interviews with heads
of corporate communications and document analyses of more than
50 internal and external strategy documents, planning documents,
and strategy formulations in annual reports. The interviews lasted
between 90 and 180 minutes and included an interactive exercise
to trigger the interviewees’ opinions about how communication
contributes to corporate value creation. In addition to the empirical
material, we conducted a supplementary literature review to contrast
the empirical data with the ndings from the latest international
research in the elds of communication and management. The goal
was to reconstruct the current realities in communication depart-
ments and compare the self-descriptions of communicators with
concepts discussed in research.
Phase 1 - Literature review
In Phase 1, we systematized existing academic knowledge on
value creation published from the year 2000 onwards. The litera-
ture review identied 815 publications in 36 international journals,
books as well as professional publications across several disciplines
(public relations, marketing, management, etc.), which investigate
value creation through communication. Moreover, various concepts
of value creation in business were explored and integrated into our
analysis. Based on this extensive review, we developed a rst theo-
retical rationale of value creating communication. We presented our
preliminary ndings in an interdisciplinary workshop with leading
international researchers, communication and business experts and
collated the know-how and experience from corporate practice and
neighboring research disciplines.
» Extensive interdisciplinary literature review
» Interdisciplinary workshop with leading researchers and communication experts
» Empirical case studies (interviews + document analysis) in 10 German organizations
» Supplementary literature review to contrast empirical ndings with latest know-how
» Analysis of all theoretical and empirical results
» Deriving new concepts, tools, and frameworks
» Summarizing all ndings and discussing them in industry and academic conferences
Phase 1
Phase 2
Phase 3
Overview of the research project ‘The value of corporate communications’ at the University of Leipzig
6COMMUNICATION INSIGHTS – ISSUE 3
Communication professionals can benet from the results and
perspectives presented in this publication in multiple ways.
Throughout this issue, renowned chief communication ofcers
will provide rst-hand insights into best practices in their
organizations. Readers will nd suggestions on how to:
Reect on your multiple communicator roles – and report
on your individual contributions.
Report on the strategic contributions of the communi-
cation department – not only key projects or opera-
tional activities.
Explain consistently how communication creates value
for the company – and measure success.
Ensure the alignment of communication goals with
corporate strategy – and visualize it.
Combine communication tools with established manage-
ment tools – and steer communications strategically.
Your takeaways
Phase 3 - Analysis and results
In Phase 3, we summarized and synthesized all theoretical and
empirical results, leading to the development of new frameworks,
perspectives and concepts: the Communication Manager Roles Grid,
the Communications Contributions Framework, the Communica-
tion Value Circle, the Alignment Process, and the Toolbox for Stra-
tegic Communication Management. We have started to present our
ndings at industry and academic conferences across Europe, the
United States, the United Kingdom and Asia to collate feedback from
academics as well as communication executives. We have used the
feedback to derive real-world implications for corporate practice with
scientic claims and to develop new perspectives for future research.
The team of researchers at the University of Leipzig, Institute
of Communication and Media Studies, who contributed to this
research project included Karen Berger, Dr. Anne Linke, Dr.
Christine Viertmann, Sophia Charlotte Volk and Prof. Dr. Ansgar
Zerfass. Graduate students Luisa Bisswanger, Maria Borner, Marcus
Fetzer and Karolin Köhler supported as research assistants. Prof.
Dr. Joachim Schwalbach from the Institute of Management at
Humboldt University Berlin acted as academic advisor.
FURTHER READINGS
Communication Insights
Issue 1 „Was bringt das alles?“ provides a comprehensive overview of the most important concepts for
measuring and evaluating communications (German only).
Issue 2 „Wohin geht die Reise?“ focuses on changing conditions for communications through digitaliza-
tion, globalization and individualization, with a special emphasis on Big Data (German only).
Available for download at www.academic-society.net
Forthcoming book
Zerfaß, A., & Volk, S. C. (2018). Steuerung und Organisation der Unternehmenskommunikation –
Konzepte und Tools für Unternehmensleitung und Kommunikationsverantwortliche. Wiesbaden: Springer
Gabler.
This book in German language will address communication executives, communication consultants, top managers
as well as communication researchers, and will further expand on the ndings presented in this issue.
7
COMMUNICATION INSIGHTS – ISSUE 3
A perennial topic for research: multiple role
conceptions
Research into professional roles has been a very popular research
topic in communication and management sciences for decades. The
origins of roles research in the eld of communication in the late
1970s were characterized by a strong interest in diverging gender
roles and related salary gaps. Today, research investigates diverse
aspects such as leadership or competency development. Over the
years, many different role concepts have been suggested. Some are
based on theoretical conceptualizations, some on normative ideas,
others on surveys among professionals in different countries. Most
studies have indicated that practitioners perform between two up
to six different roles during their daily work (Fieseler et al., 2015).
PR managers and PR technicians
The pioneers of PR roles research, Broom and Smith (1979),
proposed a four-role typology:
1 The communication facilitator acts as an information broker,
liaison, and mediator between the organization and its publics.
2 The expert prescriber works on public relations problems
and offers solutions.
3 The problem-solving process facilitator collaborates with
line management and helps to apply a rational problem-sol-
ving process.
4 The communication technician is responsible for producing
communication materials for the public relations effort.
Over time, the four-role concept was simplied and reduced to
only two role dimensions: the PR technician and the PR manager.
In this widely known typology, technicians produce and dissemi-
nate materials, whereas managers develop communication strat-
egies based on research and analysis and play an important role
in decision-making processes. Despite further developments, the
two-role typology still remains popular especially in North Ameri-
can research (Broom & Smith, 1979; Dozier, 1984). Studies from
South Africa have built upon this and added a third role to the
manager-technician dichotomy – the PR strategist – arguing that a
more concise separation between strategic and operational roles is
necessary (Steyn, 2003).
WHICH ROLES ARE PERFORMED BY CHIEF
COMMUNICATION OFFICERS?
THE COMMUNICATION MANAGER ROLES GRID REFLECTS THE MULTIPLE ROLES OF
TODAY’S COMMUNICATORS
Communication leaders have manifold responsibilities, ranging from reputation management, to steering communication teams and
counseling top managers in decision-making processes. This can be observed in the changing success proles of Chief Communication
Ofcers (CCOs) and closer links to the C-suite. Yet, research into the many new roles of CCOs has been lagging behind. In order to
bridge this gap, we analyzed existing role conceptions in PR and communication literature and have also spoken with ten global heads
of communication about their multi-faceted responsibilities in daily practice. The newly developed Communication Manager Roles Grid
depicts the role diversity of today’s communication executives in eight dimensions. It can be used for assessing individual competencies
or setting personal targets.
8COMMUNICATION INSIGHTS – ISSUE 3
Reective and educational roles
In addition to the widely used two-role concept from North America,
European researchers have suggested
that communication practitioners
have two additional roles: a reective
and an educational role. According to
large-scale surveys across European
practitioners, the reective communi-
cation professional analyzes changing
standards, values and standpoints in
society and discusses these with the
members of the organization. The educational communication profes-
sional helps the members of the organization to communicate profes-
sionally (Ruler & Vercic, 2005; Tench et al., 2017). Empirical studies
of chief communication ofcers and their work routines support these
concepts and congure them in various ways (e.g. Nothhaft, 2010).
Management and leadership roles: insights from
management research
A look at the management literature can provide some interesting
insights. The management discipline has a long tradition in resear-