Modern Management Challenges


Excellent, moi?

What constitutes excellence in strategic communication? This is a question we are often asked by business partners.

Managers are frequently interested to know what their peers are doing in terms of organisational communication and more importantly what are high-performing companies and departments doing that makes their organisation or brand stand out. This is of course not only interesting to organisational stakeholders, but also a challenge faced by academics and practitioners of strategic communication for decades around the world. In response, together with colleagues from Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain, I have been researching the views of senior practitioners for over 12 years and have analysed empirical data and the views of over 21,000 practitioners in communication across 46 countries in Europe.

The outcome of this thinking is a new thesis formulated around the key rules for how to leverage the full potential of strategic communication for organisations. This thinking is summarised in a new Comparative Excellence Framework and includes the nine commandments that define communication excellence for the best performing organisations, departments and people.

We discuss the excellence thesis in our new book – (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). The book breaks down high-performance communication into three levels, the organisation, the department and then the individual (figure 1). Each of these levels in the framework has a dedicated chapter – or commandment – with three commandments for each level of the framework (figure 2).

Figure 1 - Communication excellence framework

P_Tench_Figure 1

Figure 2 - The nine commandments of communication excellence

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Within the organisational level there are discussions of how the organisation must be connected, evidenced through being (1) globalised, (2) mediatised and (3) reflective. The department must be (4) embedded within the organisation, (5) datafied and (6) strategised. At the personal or professional level practitioners must be knowledgable and (7) sagacious, well connected or (8) linked and working within a high moral and ethical framework to be (9) solid.

Written by myself and four other renowned European communication researchers, Dejan Verčič, Ansgar Zerfass, Angeles Moreno and Piet Verhoeven, the book discusses the excellence framework with clear reference back to the experience of practice and practitioners in high performing organisations and departments. Case studies are used to exemplify each of the commandments from well-known international brands such as Santander, Electrolux, Porsche, KMPG, DHL and more.

The book is aimed at practitioners as well as researchers in the discipline who are keen to explore and understand more about contemporary strategic communication and what factors contribute to high performance in this competitive environment.

Several leaders in communication management and scholarship have reviewed our model and framework with the following comments:

“An insightful guide full of important information for those of us in or wanting to enter the communication and reputation world. A must read.”

- Nicola Green, an alumnus of our highly regarded communications programmes at Leeds Beckett University and current Director of Communications & Reputation, Telefónica O2 UK

“This book provides a compelling case that effective communication for an organization is as much about the outside-in as the inside-out perspective."

- Maximilian Schoeberl, Executive Vice President & Director Corporate Affairs, BMW Group, Munich, Germany

“Straight forward! An insightful read for every communicator who wants to better understand what ‘professional’ actually means.”
- Nicole Gorfer, Head of Internal & External Communications, Roche Group, Basel, Switzerland

“Powerful, practical and solid advice on communication management.”
- Irina Arkhipova, Director Public Affairs & Communication, Coca-Cola HBC, Moscow, Russia

“Strategic communication has and continues to see its place strengthening in the eyes of CEOs, boards and top management. That is why this book on communication excellence is so valuable: it helps to understand and interpret how communications can help to contribute to organisational success, and how communication departments and professionals can leverage this potential to a full extent.”
- Dr Herbert Heitmann, President, European Association of Communication Directors (EACD), Brussels

The new excellence framework is based on data from the European Communication Monitor (ECM), the largest global study of public relations and strategic communication practice. We have conducted this study annually since 2007 and it’s complemented by bi-annual surveys in other regions (Latin America, Asia-Pacific and soon to be North America) since 2014. Our communication monitor series covers more than 80 countries altogether. It is the only continuous global research in the field which adheres to full standards of empirical research and provides transparency about its sampling procedures and respondents.

As a joint study by academia and practice, we organise the ECM with the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD), and have been supported by different private sector funding partners over the years. While emerging from an international context this new framework of excellence in strategic communication has on the ground, direct impact. We have already been discussing these findings and ideas with international companies to help structure and organise their organisational communication to improve the strategic synergy and influence of their communication both inside and outside the organisation.

Ralph Tench is Professor of Communication at the Faculty of Business and Law, Leeds Beckett University, UK. He is President of the European Public Relations Research and Education Association, Brussels (2018-19).

P_Tench_Communication Excellence