If the keywords for PR are third party endorsement and media relations, then the ones for Corporate Communication are reputation and stakeholders. Every discipline has its own rules of engagement, and Corporate Comms fascinates me with its structured, stakeholder-centric approach to communication.
During my BA course in Amsterdam, I took an optional module called Reputation Management which was based on Corporate Communication theory and focused heavily on the Reputation Quotient model by famed author Charles Fombrun. However, the nature of that education was such that communication was taught with marketing in mind, whereas the MA in PR that I’m doing at Westminster, focuses…well on PR.
At Westminster, I once again chose to follow a course in Corporate Communication, and to my delight, I was met with a brilliant mix of guest lectures, field trips, course lectures and student presentations. I can honestly say that this was the most pleasant course to attend, and the one that I was most excited about while joggling about for an hour in the bus on my way to the Marylebone campus. We were visited by a variety of professionals working in all kinds of corporate communication spheres, such as Lobbying, Internal Affairs, CSR and Risk Management. Kicking it off with a modern look on the issues of risk and reputation in an online environment by Jessica Frost from Regester Larkin, we were then graced with a brilliant lecture on internal communication by veteran academic and professional Kevin Ruck from the PR Academy. Moving on, we were visited by an eloquently spoken American from Glasshouse Partnership called Michael Hoevel who talked to us about the advances in Corporate Social Responsibility and in particular the shifting paradigms in the Accountability Structure and the CSR Framework. Finally, we listened to lobbying stories about influencing the Entertainment legislation of the UK and altering the fate of entire sectors by Chris Lowe from College Public Policy.
The highlight of the course for me was the final assignment. We assumed the role of an in-house communication director tasked with recruiting an external PR agency to tackle an organisational challenge. We got to write an actual brief on a preset communication problem and pitch it to a board of directors occupied by fellow students in order to secure funding for the project. My choice of case study was a potential campaign by the Lib Dems aimed at re-asserting their identity after working in coalition with the Conservative party through fresh ideas for a new brand identity. I chose to focus the brief on shifting stakeholders along the power-influence matrix, as I thought that could maximise the potential for publicity and capture untapped masses of voters at the next election. I then strapped a humble £100,000 figure to my remuneration offer and boldly marched into the board room to present my ideas.
Thinking about the ensuing rather stressful episode in class, all the guest lectures, the visit to the British Library, the presentations by our fellow Chinese students about the often absurd world of communications in their country, and the discussions about the Pope’s inauguration at 10 in the morning never fails to put a smile on my face.