Last week I was invited by Christian Burgers, professor of strategic communication, to give a guest lecture for a diverse group of international students of the University of Amsterdam. He asked me to share the insights I have gained in practice when it comes to strategic communication. The set-up of this class resembled the Dutch TV-program College Tour, in order to encourage students to bring in their own questions about working in the communication profession.
It was really fun to look back on my career and summarize the most important insights in a number of statements. In my opinion Corporate Communication is a powerful discipline in changing organizations. Strategic communication professionals develop innovative strategies contributing to the vision, mission and ambitions of the organization. When the vision, mission or ambitions are not clear, strategic communication can be the driving force behind sharpening the vision and mission. We feel the need to have a clear mission and have the tools to formulate it in collaboration with the organization.
I illustrated my statements with cases from my communication practice. It is not enough to do the usual thing like communication campaigns. Sometimes it is also necessary to be literally at the heart of the organization and to move the communication department to a central place in your organizational ‘s office buildings, I remember from my time at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
In 2007 market forces were introduced in the Dutch health care system to reduce costs. Until that time there was no such thing as health care marketing, so in the Jeroen Bosch Ziekenhuis we had to design innovative strategies to invent health care marketing. We translated the brand image in experiences for all stakeholders. Our approach was visual but words also mattered, for example in the wording of a press release after a crisis in the operating center.
Corporate Communications deals with anything that affects your corporate identity or brand image. To have impact Corporate Communication must cover every aspect of how an organisation engages and connects with its audiences. As a communication manager you delve into the strategic problem of your organisation and think of ways to solve it with communication.
In a pharmaceutical company I introduced the concept of dialogues in which different stakeholder groups could meet and exchange their views on a given topic. By initiating dialogues Corporate Communication helped creating a community of insiders around the organization that protects in times of crises and stimulates collaboration.
The last question asked for an advice to the students when they start their first job. Don’t hesitate to try out your ideas, I would say. You are hired for your fresh perspective. Dare to do new things and learn from it. This will bring you further.