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Creating business value through corporate communication: A theory-based framework and its practical application

Ansgar Zerfass (Institute of Communication and Media Studies, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany)
Christine Viertmann (Institute of Communication and Media Studies, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 6 February 2017

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report on a multi-step research project which explores concepts that explain communication value across different disciplines and builds a framework that identifies and systematizes communication goals linked to generic corporate goals.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a literature review of work on value creation through communication, drawn from 815 publications in 36 international journals across several disciplines (public relations, marketing, management, etc.) and published from the year 2000 onward, the authors have developed a framework, named “Communication Value Circle.” The application of the framework was discussed with chief communication officers from global companies and was used during a communication alignment process in a global healthcare company.

Findings

Empirical surveys across several continents show that communication professionals use a multitude of rationales to explain the value of their work to top executives. These range from building reputation, brands and identity, to gaining thought leadership, boosting sales, motivating employees, preventing crises and listening to stakeholders. The researchers have identified four major value dimensions of communication (enabling operations, building intangibles, adjusting strategy, and ensuring flexibility). The framework encompasses 12 specific goals for communication that can be derived from corporate strategy.

Research limitations/implications

The framework stimulates the debate on the diverse concepts of communication value, performance and measurement, and the need to integrate those approaches into theory and practice. Additional qualitative studies to verify the framework are proposed.

Practical implications

The communication value circle can be used as a management tool for planning, evaluating, and revising strategic directions for communication in any corporation.

Originality/value

Explaining the value of communication continues to be one of the most important challenges for professionals and scholars alike. This paper proposes a consistent explanation for the theory and practice of what constitutes corporate communication.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This paper is based on results from the research program Value-Creating Communication that has been funded by the Academic Society for Corporate Management and Communication in Germany. The framework described has been developed by a research team at Leipzig University and Humboldt University Berlin supported by a sounding board of chief communication officers from BASF, Bosch, Deutsche Bank, Osram, and Roche. Comments received by Karen Berger, Martin Binder, Maria Borner, Nicole Gorfer, Karolin Köhler, Daniel Ostrowski, Elisabeth Schick, Joachim Schwalbach, Jan-Peter Schwartz, Thorsten Strauß, and Christoph Zemelka helped to develop the framework. The authors express their gratitude for specific support when writing this paper to Sophia Charlotte Volk. Valuable feedback was received by several anonymous reviewers and the editor of this journal.

Citation

Zerfass, A. and Viertmann, C. (2017), "Creating business value through corporate communication: A theory-based framework and its practical application", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 68-81. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-07-2016-0059

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited