Opinion: Editorial - Net strategies need top priority

Even the briefest glance at the speakers list at this year’s Communication Directors Forum confirms that the ante has been well and truly upped in the arena of corporate communications. The fact that the conference featured speakers from PricewaterhouseCoopers, advertising agency HHCL, and solicitors Sidley and Austin shows how crucial an issue communications has become as a central corporate function of concern to a broad range of disciplines.

Even the briefest glance at the speakers list at this year’s

Communication Directors Forum confirms that the ante has been well and

truly upped in the arena of corporate communications. The fact that the

conference featured speakers from PricewaterhouseCoopers, advertising

agency HHCL, and solicitors Sidley and Austin shows how crucial an issue

communications has become as a central corporate function of concern to

a broad range of disciplines.



However it also highlights all too clearly the threat they represented

to traditional corporate communications specialists.



A specially commissioned survey showed that while 85 per cent of

directors regard communications as important, only a third have a

specific function dedicated to the area. In fact, the whole management

of internal and external corporate communications underlines board level

confusion about the practice.



As a result, responsibility tends to be devolved to functions such as HR

or internal communications, with no central control. And no where is

this more true than in the arena of internet communications. While the

consultancy world is benefiting from a plethora of dot.com launches, the

message has yet to get through to some of the ’old world’ blue chips,

that the internet is a communications and reputation management

issue.



In fact, the most recent annual Rainier Web-Index study found that, far

from being a part of the communications strategy, the internet is often

farmed out to the IT department, without control from the centre.



A tendency that probably explains some of the more remarkable statistics

unearthed by the study. According to the Rainier survey, 23 of the FTSE

100 companies surveyed had no contact methodology built into their web

sites, thus their on-line investment amount to little more than

corporate wallpaper. This, plus the fact that one company - which is a

major player in the telecoms sector - took 27 days, 17 minutes to

respond to an on-line enquiry, makes the situation even more

ludicrous.



While the received wisdom is that everyone now needs an on-line

presence, surely any corporate communications director worth their salt

would counsel caution when the proposed offering pays so little

attention to the interactive nature of the medium? If ever there was a

case for corporate communicators to advise on policy it must be in this

arena. Any organisation, no matter what their brand pedigree, must

realise that the internet is a two-way vehicle, requiring substantial

investment in infrastructure, communications channels and the support of

senior management if it is not to do more damage than good.



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