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
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
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.