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A Multidisciplinary Approach for a New Understanding of Corporate Communication

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Purpose: To better understand the concept of communication in organizations through the comparison of definitions given by scholars from different business-related communication disciplines: marketing, public relations, organizational communication
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  A Multidisciplinary Approach for a New Understanding of CorporateCommunicationAlessandra Mazzei IULM University, Institute of Economics and Marketingalessandra.mazzei@iulm.it Published as:Mazzei, A. (2014). A multidisciplinary approach or a ne! understandin" o corporate communication. Corporate Communications: An International Journal  , #ol. 19 , $. 2, pp. 21%&2'0. http:d.doi.or"10.110*++-&12&2011&00' AbstractPurpose :   To better understand te conce!t of communication in organizations troug tecom!arison of definitions given by scolars from different business"related communicationdisci!lines: marketing, !ublic relations, organizational communication and cor!oratecommunication.  Approach :   # revie$ of !revalent definitions in te four mentioned disci!lines% discussion of communication aims, communication categorizations, teoretical background and innovationsin eac of tese disci!lines% and finally analysis of convergences and differences.  Findings :   #ll te disci!lines considered in tis study converge in looking at te entirecommunication of a business, ado!ting a relational !ers!ective, valuing some intangibleresources as outcomes of communication. Tey igligt also some nuanced differences. Research implications :   &iger value sould be attaced to researc results in tecommunication field tat come from considering multi!le !oints of vie$, because eacdisci!line contributes s!ecific connotations to te com!reension of communication. Originality!alue : Te !a!er com!ares some business"related communication disci!lines andconsiders eac as inde!endent $ile benefiting from cross"fertilization. Te multi!le !oints of vie$ allo$ a multidisci!linary a!!roac and te a$areness of te !olysemic nature of communication. "ntroduction 'at is cor!orate communication( &o$ do te terms cor!orate communication, organizationalcommunication, !ublic relations, integrated communication, olistic communication, businesscommunication and te like, eac of $ic refers to te communication of an organization,differ from eac oter and o$ do tey overla!(Many fields of study ave develo!ed different !oints of vie$ on te conce!t of communication: !olitical science, economics, sociology, !sycology, management science,antro!ology, linguistics, cybernetics, biology, !iloso!y and government )*arey, +-. Telist could be etended furter $it business"related communication field of studies: advertising,cor!orate communication, marketing, organizational communication, !ublic relations, masscommunication and semiotics. Eac of te above"mentioned fields is institutionalized as adisci!line, because tere are field"s!ecific manuals, /ournals, university courses, !rofessionalassociations and academic net$orks.Te contents of /ournals and courses in te different fields overla!, and as aconse0uence it is not clear if it is sim!ly te case tat academics call similar tings by differentnames )1elby, 2334-. Te abundance of terms could create confusion )5ro!! and 6incus, +2:  237-. It is not /ust a matter of $ords, because te conce!t of communication ado!ted is relevant bot for !ractice and researc )*arey, +-. Many scolars ave dealt $it te issue of multi!le disci!lines and terms referring to te communication of organizations because tisissue is linked to teir o$n disci!linary identity and te !ossibility of !roducing a better understanding of te communication !enomenon. Tis study contributes to te understanding of communication of organizations using !ers!ectives from several disci!lines in order to enance its understanding. Te effort !resentedin tis article traces areas of overla! and differences among te various business"relatedcommunication disci!lines in order to reac a better understanding of te meaning of communication in organizations.Te article revie$s !revious studies tat dealt $it te issue of multi!le disci!lines of communication. Ten it discusses a com!arative analysis bet$een four business"relatedcommunication disci!lines: marketing, organizational communication, !ublic relations andcor!orate communication. In conclusion te article re!orts some elements of convergence anddifference and igligts some issues tat call for a multidisci!linary a!!roac, !reserving amore com!reensive understanding. 8inally it !ro!oses suggestions for furter researc and tedevelo!ment of managerial im!lications. #$ Pre!ious studies 6revious studies treat te issue of similarities and differences among multi!le communicationdisci!lines in different $ays. 1ome scolars ave !ro!osed com!arisons bet$een some of tesedisci!lines. 8or eam!le several investigations ave e!lored relationsi!s bet$een !ublicrelations and marketing )5ornelissen, +9% 5ornelissen, &arris, +% ;itcen, +4% &utton,+2% Mc;ie, 'illis, +2+- and among !ublic relations, communication management andorganizational communication )'emeier, +9-. #lso an attem!t as been made to analyse te boundaries and te relationsi!s among organizational, business, management and cor!oratecommunication, focusing in !articular on differences )1elby, 2334-. # very recent study)8randsen, <oansen, +24, in !rinting- igligts some differences bet$een cor!oratecommunication and four related disci!lines )!ublic relations, organizational communication,marketing and business communication- altoug considers !romising te efforts to connecttem.=ters ave discussed an integrative a!!roac. 8or eam!le researcers ave eaminedinterrelationsi!s bet$een organizational communication and !ublic relations )Teis">erglmair,+9-, bet$een !ublic relations and communication management )1zyszka, +9- and bet$eenmarketing communication and general management )*arey, +-. =ne !ro!osal asigligted some intersections bet$een researc in cor!orate communication and organizationalcommunication )5ristensen and 5ornelissen, +22-. =ter scolars ave regarded some of tese disci!lines as s!ecializations of anoter field. 8or eam!le, integrated marketingcommunication as been treated as a s!ecialism of !ublic relations and cor!oratecommunication )Tenc and ?eomans, +3-. =ne study !ro!oses an interdisci!linary definition )erfass et al., +9-. 1trategiccommunication considers all communications in organizations from an integratedmultidisci!linary !ers!ective elaborating on various academic fields: cor!orate communication,marketing, advertising and !ublic relations, business communication skills and organizational beaviour )&allanan et al., +A-. 1ome of tese terms B cor!orate communication, !ublicrelations and organizational communication B ave been considered synonymous because teysare te same body of kno$ledge, skills and !rofessional areas )Invernizzi, +7-. #noter study underlines different a!!roaces in #merican and Euro!ean definitions of cor!orate communication )Coodman, &irsc, +2-. =ter analyses lead to a !reference for maintaining a distinction, in order to !reserve te autonomy of !ublic relations from marketing)Crunig and Crunig, 2339% &utton, +2-. %$ Research design and methodology Te !resent article e!lores a ne$ a!!roac in order to better understand te conce!t of cor!orate communication: it ado!ts te !ers!ectives of several disci!lines in order to enance  its understanding. It avoids systematizations $ic tend to subsume a number of fields $itin ama/or disci!line, and it does not attem!t to reac an all"inclusive definition. Instead, tis studycooses to analyse eac area as a disci!line tat as evolved inde!endently $ile benefitingfrom cross"fertilization. Its aim is to investigate $eter te different disci!lines !resent areasof overla! and s!ecificity, in order to understand $at kind of a!!roac $ould be mosta!!ro!riate for researc and !ractice. Tis study eamines definitions derived from four business"related communicationdisci!lines: marketing, organizational communication, !ublic relations and cor!oratecommunication )#utor, +D% #utor, +2-. Tey ave been cosen among many disci!linesdealing $it communication by and inside organizations and saring a common foundation andlinked to eac oter )Elving, +2+-. It does not offer a com!reensive literature revie$% tat isnot te aim of tis article and it $ould be im!ossible due to te enormous volume of studies. It !resents an analysis based on key articles and tetbooks for eac disci!line, selected amongtose considered to be a !oint of reference for eac disci!line. Te study ado!ts a com!arative a!!roac, in order to identify te eistence and teetent of similarities and differences among !enomena. Like variable"oriented metods,com!arative metods eamine !atterns of relationsi!s among variables )agin, ubison,+3-. Tis study com!ares definitions given by te four disci!lines on te basis of tefollo$ing conce!tual variables: te !ur!ose of communication, te criteria a!!lied for categorizing communication and te teoretical background. Tese variables ave beenidentified analysing te elements tat recur in eac disci!line $en tey !resent teir o$ndefinition. &$ Mar'eting( "ntegrated Mar'eting Communication and )otally "ntegratedCommunication  FIntegrated Marketing 5ommunication )IM5- is te !rocess of develo!ing andim!lementing various forms of !ersuasive communications !rograms $itcustomers and !ros!ects over timeG );itcen, >rignell, Li and <ones, +: ++-. Integrated Marketing 5ommunication )IM5- sees communication as te focal !oint of relationsi!s $it customers because it creates brand value in te form of sales, !rofits and brand e0uity );itcen, >rignell, Li and <ones, +-. IM5 ado!ts an outside"in logic: it starts$it te analysis of te relational needs of customers in order to develo! suitable !roducts andservices and to align communication activities. #ll moments of contact bet$een te com!anyand te clients are valuable since every communication tat emanates from te com!anycontributes to develo!ing customer loyalty and organizational re!utation );itcen and 1cultz,+4-.Marketing communication as been divided into four areas )Cuatri, *icari and 8iocca,2333-: marketing communication addressed to customers% institutional communication dealing$it all stakeolders including customers, o!inion leaders, !oliticians, citizens, activist grou!sand so on% management communication targeted to all roles tat contribute to te value cain of te com!any including em!loyees, su!!liers, industrial !artners and retailers% and financialcommunication addressed to investors including sareolders, stockolders and banks. Eacarea as s!ecific targets, content and aims. Heverteless, some targets, content and aimsoverla!, creating an area in common tat te autors suggest calling Fintegrated businesscommunicationG tat sould armonize targets, content and aims in order to seek synergy andavoid contradictions. Integration at a strategic level of all communications is crucial in order to build andreinforce brands and to establis loyalty and long"term relationsi!s )uncan and Moriarty,2339-. Messages sould be non"contradictory and com!lementary )Moriarty, 233-. Integratedmessages stem from te sender, namely te com!any, but te receiving !rocess involves makingsense of messages and is greatly influenced by customers and stakeolders. 5onse0uentlyeffective integrated communication re0uires a culture of !artnersi! )5ristensen et al  ., +3-.In order to avoid integrated communication becoming marketing controlled communication, teFfleible integration a!!roacG focuses on bot consistency and inclusion of variety  )5ristensen et al.,  +3-. Tis broad inter!retation of integrated communication encom!asseste sending and inter!reting !rocesses and also te internal integration of te organizationalculture )Tor!, +3-.  Ho$adays marketing is becoming more oriented to creating and maintaining !ositiverelationsi!s $it all stakeolders in order to balance te com!anyJs need to make a !rofit $itcustomer satisfaction and te !ublic interest );itcen and 1cultz, +4-. In addition, marketingstudies stress tat te cor!orate brand transfers its values from te cor!orate identity to tesingle !roduct brands, reinforcing tem. 8or tis reason, bot !roduct and cor!oratecommunication activities are im!ortant in acieving marketing ob/ectives. Terefore, teconce!ts of totally integrated communication );itcen and 1cultz, +4- and totalcommunications )#berg, 233- are emerging. Tey refer to te integration of communication at bot single brand and com!any level and encom!ass all communication initiatives carried out by te com!any directed to$ard its stakeolders, from a coordinated and synergeticmanagement !ers!ective. *$ Organizational Communication F=rganizational communication is te !rocess of creating and ecangingmessages $itin a net$ork of interde!endent relationsi!s to co!e $itenvironmental uncertaintyG )Coldaber, 2334:27-. Te very large number of teories and volume of researc in organizational communication)<ablin, 6utnam, +2- ave been syntesized into si meta!or clusters )6utnam et al. 233D, in5legg, &ardy and Hord, 233D-. Te conduit meta!or vie$s organizations as containers or cannels, and communication is a tool for information transmission. Te lens meta!or vie$ste organization as an eye tat scans te environment seeking information and relayinginformation. 5ommunication is a filtering, rece!tion and !erce!tion !rocess. Te linkage meta!or defines te organization as a relationsi! net$ork, andcommunication is e0uated $it connections. It vie$s te organization as coordinated actionstat enact teir o$n rules, structures and environment troug social interactions.5ommunication is social interaction and sense"making. Te symbol meta!or considers te organization as a literary tet and a symbolicmilieu. 5ommunication is inter!retation troug meaning creation and saring. Te voicemeta!or vie$s te organization as a corus. 5ommunication is te e!ression and distortion of te voices of organizational members. Te discourse meta!or considers te organization astets and !atterns of interaction. 5ommunication is e0uated $it conversation tat intert$inesaction and meaning. esearc studies in te field of organizational communication assume, im!licitly or e!licitly, a !eculiar vie$ of uman communication syntetized into four !ers!ectives );rone etal. 239A-. Te mecanistic !ers!ective sees communication as te transmission of messagesacross s!ace, via a cannel from one sender to a receiver. It is a causal and linear model of communication and !rimarily focuses on te cannels. Te !sycological !ers!ective !rimarilyconcentrates on o$ te caracteristics of individuals, suc as cognition, attitudes andconce!tual filters, affect te communication !rocess. Te inter!retive"symbolic !ers!ectiveado!ts te ideas of te !rocess of organizing )'eick, 23A3- and states tat organizationalcommunication consists of coordinated beaviours tat build te socially constructed reality.Te focus is on congruence bet$een te meanings given to events and on culture tat im!actste inter!retive !rocess. Te system interaction !ers!ective focuses on se0uences of !atterned beaviours. Te communication !rocess is greater tan te sum of its !arts. =rganizational communication studies so$, firstly, tat communication andorganization are t$o e0uivalent conce!ts )Tom!kins and 'anca"Tibault, +2-. 1econdly, ita!!ears tat communication is not contained in te organization, nor does it mirror or reflectreality. =n te contrary, communication is formative and creates te organization )Mc6ee and1cott 6oole, +2-: F5ommunication and organization are e0uivalent )K-% it is te !aint and tecanvas, te figure and te groundG )Tom!kins and 'anca"Tibault, +2: i-.  Tere is a gro$ing tendency to focus organizational communication researc on teFcommunication teory of organizationG )eetz, +2: 7-. =rganization is Fa tet !roduced by aset of autors, troug conversationG )Taylor, 2334: 3D-. In oter $ords, $at emerges is teidea tat te organization is communicative by nature. Tis conce!t is syntesized in te idea of te Fe!ressive organizationG )1cultz, &atc and Larsen, +-.More recently, te notion as emerged in te field of organizational communication of F5ommunication 5onstitutive of =rganizingG )#scraft, ;un and 5ooren, +3% 6utnam and Hicotera, +3-. Tis conce!t derives from 'eickJs notion of F!rocess of organizingG )'eick,23A3-, $ic contrasts $it te conce!t of a static organization. It !oints out te relevance of language and collective sense"making communication !rocesses to create te organization. Tecommunicative constitution of organization relies on four kinds of interaction !rocesses:membersi! negotiation, selfstructuring, activity coordination, and institutional !ositioning)Mc6ee and uag, +-. +$ Public Relations 1colars in te field of !ublic relations ado!t several !aradigms )Ed$ards, +2+- generatingmany terms associated $it it )5ro!! and 6incus, +2-. Te conce!t of !ublic relations canassume tree meanings. Te first is to communicate $it te !ublics of an organization in order to !ersuade tem. 8or eam!le: FTe goal of 6 is to influence te beaviours of grou!s of !eo!le in relation toeac oterG )'ite, Mazur, 233D:22 in Tenc, ?eomans, +3-. Tis meaning includes te F!ress agency"!ublicityG, te F!ublic informationG and teFt$o"$ay asymmetricG models of !ublic relations )Crunig and &unt, 239-. Troug ascientific a!!roac based on !ersuasion tecni0ues and audience analysis, !ublic relationss!ecialists ave oned teir abilities to construct and disseminate !ersuasive messages. Te second meaning refers to !ublic relations as relationsi! management. It $asintroduced by 8erguson )239- and ten su!!orted by many scolars, including 5utli!, 5enter and >room )+D-, >room and ozier )233-, Crunig et al. )233+-, and &utton )2333-. Tis ty!e of definition refers e!licitly to systems teory by defining !ublic relations asa subsystem tat connects te organizational system to te environmental system )Crunig and&unt, 239-. Ledingam and >runing )+- develo!ed tis model and a!!lied it to s!ecializedareas of !ublic relations. ;ent and Taylor )++- e!anded te conce!t to te one of dialogic !ublic relations. Te most recent and !romising trend in !ublic relations is te transition fromfunctionalism to te co"creation !ers!ective )>otan and Taylor, +-. Te tird meaning refers to !ublic relations as a mean for !ositioning te organization)5ro!! and 6incus, +2- and its re!utation )&utton, 2333-. 5rucial to tis ste! is te maturingof te role of !ublic relations !rofessional from tecnical to managerial )Crunig and &unt,239% Crunig, Crunig and ozier, ++% >room and 1mit, 23A3% ozier, 239-. Tecommunication tecnicianJs $ork focuses on message creation, its s!reading at a tactical leveland im!lementing decisions taken by oter !eo!le in te com!any. Te communicationmanager develo!s communication strategies and !olicies $it a long"term orizon )ozier,239-. Te managerial role im!lies etending te skills of !ublic relations !ractitioners tofinancial and economic analysis, decision"making and !ro/ect management. Masteringmanagerial skills can legitimize !ublic relations !rofessionals $itin te eecutive management board of te com!any. Te various conce!ts of !ublic relations are !art of a continuum and tey overla!. Teydo not disregard eac oter but rater integrate eac oter )5ro!! and 6incus, +2-.8urtermore, scolars in te field ado!t assum!tions tat are connected, so$ing tat !ublicrelations cannot be com!artmentalized )Ed$ards, +2+-. 6ublic relations as been divided into s!ecialist areas suc as media relations, internalcommunications, community relations, issue management, crisis management, !ublic affairs,financial relations and s!onsorsi! )Crunig and &unt, 239% ;itcen, +4% 5utli!, 5enter and>room, +D% Tenc and ?eomans, +3-. Tis kind of categorization im!licitly refers to te
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