CHAPTER 1 Introduction There is a widespread belief in the professional world that in todayâ€™s society the future of any one company depends critically on how it is viewed by key stakeholders such as shareholders and investors, customers and consumers, employees, and members of the community in which the company resides. Public activism, globalization and recent accounting scandals have further strengthened this belief; and have also brought the importance of strategic communications management into closer orbit. Not surprisingly, therefore, both the academic and professional worlds have been suggesting frameworks and models that prescribe steps towards the â€˜strategicâ€™ use of communications including such ideas as â€˜integrated marketing communicationsâ€™ (Kitchen and Schultz, 1999), â€˜corporate identity managementâ€™ (Van Riel and Balmer, 1997), â€˜reputation managementâ€™ (Fombrun, 1996), â€˜stakeholder communicationsâ€™ (Christensen and Cheney, 1994) and â€˜excellent public relationsâ€™ (Grunig and Grunig, 1998). Much of this work has been prescriptive in suggesting frameworks for managing communications and for managing firm-stakeholder interactions, as opposed to a more grounded and detailed understanding of the practices of branding and communications professionals and how these may make a difference in the management of firm-stakeholder relationships. Such an understanding is, we suggest, particularly important given the rift between the importance placed by CEOâ€™s and senior executives upon strategic corporate communications, that is, linking communications activities with the overall corporate strategy and objectives of the firm, and their views that there is a huge under-performance in the communications profession in the US, the UK and continental Europe because of a lack of qualified personnel and a limited understanding of what communication practices actually make a difference (Argenti et al. , 2005; Murray and White, 2004; Van der Jagt, 2005). Against this background, I conducted primary research into practices (responsibilities, roles and activities) of communications professionals in four corporations (Siemens, Nokia, Shell and Philips) that have had consistently strong and glowing reputations over the past years, despite market setbacks and negative coverage in the media. The overall aim here was to elicit and conceptualize in more detail the activities and issues that define CC as a public relation function in practice. This extended conceptualization is based upon a view of CC as a â€˜practiceâ€™, which focuses upon how practitioners engage in the doing the â€˜real workâ€™ (Cook and Brown, 1999, p. 387) â€“ a view that, I hope, will stimulate conceptual debate and empirical research and offer a more informed basis for practitioners to make sense of their professional realities and act upon it. CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE AND CRITIQUE According to writers Ewen (1996) and Cutlip (1995) the professional discipline of public relations (PR) â€“ communication activities undertaken by an organization to inform, persuade or otherwise relate to individuals and groups in its outside environment â€“ developed itself, expanding in its scope and activities, because of public skepticism, political reform, turmoil and activism throughout the 20th century. In PRâ€™s early days as a discipline, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, power was largely concentrated with big businesses, although the balance has since then shifted towards powerful groups in society including governments, trade unions, investors and stockholders (Broom et al. , 1991). In response to the increased saliency and power of such groups, new areas of expertise such as investor relations, public affairs, issues management and employee communications were added to the existing specialties of media relations and publicity, and PR gradually developed into a full-fledged â€˜managerial disciplineâ€™ in the early 1970s (Olasky, 1987). The â€˜managerial disciplineâ€™ of PR has since then, as writers Van Riel (1995) and Cornelissen (2004) have documented, evolved into the â€˜managerial functionâ€™ of CC. The fundamental contrast being that under CC communications activities and specialties (eg media relations, government relations, employee communications, community relations, advertising, investor relations, corporate design and issues management) have been increasingly taken together and consolidated into one or a few units or departments and, importantly, these activities are increasingly given shape and coordinated from the strategic interests of the organization as a whole. Van Riel (1995: 26) for example suggests in this regard that CC as a managerial function is â€˜an instrument of management by means of which all consciously used forms of internal and external communication are harmonized as effectively and efficiently as possibleâ€™, with the overall objective of creating â€˜a favorable basis for relationships with groups upon which the company is dependentâ€™. The evolution of PR into CC and its recognition as a managerial function is furthermore documented in the relatively high position of communications managers and departments (e.g. â€˜Corporate communicationsâ€™, â€˜Public Affairsâ€™ or â€˜Corporate affairsâ€™) within organizationsâ€™ hierarchical structures (Cornelissen, 2004), the rise of a new â€˜styleâ€™ more business savvy â€˜corporate communicationsâ€™ manager (Freeman, 1984; Harris and Bryant, 1986; Marion, 1998), and the widespread adoption of the CC vocabulary of â€˜stakeholdersâ€™, â€˜identityâ€™ and â€˜reputationâ€™ (Argenti, 1996; Van Riel, 1997). For example, a recent survey of Fortune 500 companies found that rather than using PR terminology around publics (ie people who mobilize themselves against an organization on the basis of some common issue or concern to them), managing â€˜reputationsâ€™ with stakeholders is nowadays considered the lead philosophy among communication departments (Hutton et al. , 2001). In reviewing these literatures that have dealt with the function and process of communications between firms and groups in their respective environments, we observed two key points about the current conceptualization of CC and its embodiment as a managerial function in firms around the globe. First, theories and theoretical frameworks in these literatures implicate the importance of communications in firm-stakeholder interactions â€“ and in that sense are coming together (cf Schultz et al. , 2000: 3) â€“ but only focus on the process of communicating between a firm and stakeholders in its environment. These theories have been particularly focused on stakeholder effects and outcomes (e.g. images, reputations, relationships) established, but have paid very little attention to the managerial activities, professional issues and organizational contexts that characterize CC as a managerial function (cf Vercic and Grunig, 2000). Some work to this effect has emerged in recent years (Cornelissen, 2004; Scholes and Clutterbuck, 1998, 1997), but is still a long way off from fully conceptualizing and describing CC as a management function and practice â€“ at least in comparison with other management functions and practices as for instance strategy (Whittington, 2003) and accounting (Hopwood and Miller, 1994). Second, there has been little actual empirical research into CC as a management function, despite the recognized importance of the function and a proliferating stream of literatures that directly or indirectly refer to it. Thus, there is a gap between theoretical deliberations on the relevance and importance of CC, and descriptive accounts of its actual use and embodiment in practice. We argue that a practice-based conceptualization of CC accounts for these limitations and provides not only a framework for extended theorizing and empirical research but also a means for practitioners to attain a fuller and richer understanding of this critical management function. The Organization of Communication Work The way in which communication practitioners and functional areas are organized is important as it not only determines to a large extent whether the communications function is enabled to provide strategic input into decision-making at the corporate level, but also whether the communication activities that are carried out at various places within the organization are streamlined and coordinated. In other words, the way in which communications is organized carries important strategic and political dimensions and is also crucial for the effective support and integration of communication activities. Ever since the 1970s, academic and practitioner writings have emphasized that firms should consolidate rather than fragment their communications by bringing practitioners and functional areas together into central organizational departments, with the purpose of pooling and enhancing communication expertise and increasing the organizational autonomy and visibility of communications within the organization (e.g. Cook, 1973; Dozier and Grunig, 1992; Grunig and Grunig, 1998; Schultz et al. , 1993; Van Riel, 1995). Siemens, for example, has consolidated all of its communications staff and their responsibilities into a â€˜corporate brand and designâ€™ department responsible for the strategic development and policing of the Siemens umbrella brand values, brand design and brand portfolio management, a â€˜corporate communicationsâ€™ department which includes advertising, internal communications and media relations, and a central â€˜corporate messagesâ€™ unit encompassing both senior communications professionals responsible for developing and guarding the overall corporate story of Siemens and copy writers for speeches of senior managers. Such consolidation is according to a number of research surveys (eg Cornelissen and Thorpe, 2001) now commonplace, with the exception of a few large corporations like General Motors which rather than bringing functional areas together into a few central communications departments have devolved them as stand-alone units (eg a governmental affairs unit) or subordinated to other functions such as human resources or finance. Generally, then, there app-ears to be a greater consolidation of communications into a few departments, yet still in separate â€˜corporate communicationsâ€™ and â€˜marketingâ€™ or â€˜corporate brandingâ€™ departments. Within large firms, such as multidivisional firms and multinational corporations like Siemens, Nokia, Philips and Shell, the relationship between the corporate center or group headquarters and the various business-units is usually a major strategic issue. One key structural consideration here, is as Argenti (1998: 5) suggests, to have â€˜all communications focused by centralizing the activity under one senior officer at a corporationâ€™s headquarters or to decentralize activities and allow individual business units to decide how best to handle communicationsâ€™. Most large multinationals like Siemens, Shell, Nokia and Philips have a combination of centralized â€˜globalâ€™ departments at the corporate center and decentralized â€˜localâ€™ departments, teams and professionals in business-units around the world. Within both Philips and Siemens, the â€˜corporate brandingâ€™ and â€˜corporate communicationsâ€™ departments have defined a brand charter and a number of work processes to assist professionals within the business with their specific communication programs. The obvious reasoning behind these examples is that although bringing communications specialists together vertically into one or a few departments may lead to enhanced efficiency, to the ability to develop specialized, distinctive capabilities, and to ease of management through the centralization and consolidation of communication activities, it may not lead to coordination between communication-related departments and with other functional areas (eg human resources) outside those departments, and it risks â€˜turf warsâ€™, functional myopia, and over specialization. A horizontal structure overlaying the vertical structure, therefore, is often seen as necessary for coordinating disparate communications tasks and activities, which also recognizes that communications with key stakeholders might emerge from various places within the organization and that the process of developing and executing communication programs is therefore essentially cross-functional or cross-disciplinary (Heath, 1994). Horizontal structure can take various forms including multidisciplinary task or project teams, formal lines of communication, standardized work processes (Philips), council meetings (Shell, Siemens), communication guidelines (Siemens, Philips) a corporative vision and communications strategy (Nokia) or the use of â€˜czarsâ€™ (senior practitioners working as integrators between departments). Large organizations in both the private and public sectors generally need at least some of these horizontal structures. Particularly in multidivisional firms operating across geographical borders, horizontal structures do not appear to be a luxury but an absolute necessity. In recent years there has been a lot of discussion around the departmental arrangement of communications and the reporting relationship of the central corporate affairs department (see Cornelissen, 2004). Ultimately, the stakes of this discussion are about the professional status of corporate communications (vis-Ã -vis other established functions as human resources and finance) and its strategic involvement in decision-making at the highest corporate level. Claims that have been made to this effect include the arguments that different communications disciplines should be consolidated in a single department, and that the head of this department should report directly to the CEO or the senior management team (or be a member of this team) to bolster and secure the functional expertise as well as the strategic involvement of corporate communications in decision-making. Broom and Dozier (1986) and Grunig and Grunig (1998) characterized this involvement in organizational decision-making as perhaps most important to the communications practitioner than any other measure of professional growth. The guiding idea in this regard is that a direct reporting relationship to the CEO may be seen as an indication that there is indeed a broad, growing recognition among corporate executives and corporate boards that the ability to succeed will depend upon the firmâ€™s ability to effectively communicate with its stakeholders; and that therefore the communications function is recognized as an absolute, integral part of the top management function. White and Mazur (1995) have added that such a direct reporting relationship is also important as it leads to excellent communications management as senior management is counseled on issues, and stakeholder and identity considerations may more easily get factored into the process of organizational decision-making. The results from a number of studies indicate that in the large majority of cases, there is indeed such a direct reporting relationship from the staff communications department to the CEO and/or executive team (e.g. Argenti and Forman, 2000; Cornelissen and Thorpe, 2001; Grunig and Grunig, 1998; Grunig et al. , 2002; Van Ruler and De Lange, 2003). In most large firms, such a direct reporting relationships consist of counseling and advising the CEO and senior executive team on stakeholder and reputation issues, rather than having a direct involvement (through a seat on the executive team) in corporate decision-making. In a recent study in the UK, Moss et al. (2000) found that within the sample of companies studied communications directors report directly to the CEO or chairperson of the senior management team, but were not formal members of the senior management team responsible for determining corporate strategy and strategic decision-making. In other words, all of the directors in the study indicated that â€˜they were often consulted on important issues likely to affect their organizations, [but] their involvement in key operational decision-making was often limited to advising on how best to present policies to the outside world or to internal stakeholdersâ€™ (Moss et al. , 2000: 299). Similarly, within companies such as Shell, Siemens and Nokia, the senior vice-president in the area of CC sits on the second-tier management team (one level below the senior executive team), and in that capacity advises and counsels the CEO and senior executive team regarding corporate decision-making. Political and Cultural Issues This is not to say, of course, that the communications director should not have a seat on the executive board and should remain in this advisory capacity, but the UK study did show the current impediments to such a move. On the one hand, there is still a considerable lack of understanding and a lack of commitment to communications among senior managers. On the other hand, many senior communication practitioners often do not meet the needs of senior managers to provide communications advice and an input into corporate strategy in ways that contribute to the accomplishment of organizational objectives and that affect the bottom line. In other words, strategic corporate communications stands or falls with highly qualified input from the communication practitioner at the decision-making table; and only then will there be such a receptive environment for that contribution. The practitioner therefore needs to produce strategically focused recommendations for strategic corporate action; bringing to the attention of top managers a broad understanding of the strategic management process and of those issues that may affect and impact upon a companyâ€™s reputation (Cornelissen, 2004; Cropp and Pincus, 2001). Otherwise, communications will be seen as a largely tactical or â€˜functionaryâ€™ activity; in which practitioners are considered â€˜communications techniciansâ€™. Grunig et al. (2002) have argued that for many firms, the strategic potential of CC in its boundary-spanning role appears to go largely unrealized. This is the case, Grunig et al. (2002) argue, as senior management equally tends to treat communications largely as a tactical function, concerned primarily with the technical gathering of information and with carrying out publicity and promotion campaigns to external audiences. Contribution of Work and Activities The contribution and consumption of work and activities carried out by communication practitioners takes place at three levels within large firms: the corporate, market (or business-unit), and operational levels. Strategies and activities at the corporate level are concerned with the overall purpose (mission and vision) and scope of the firm to meet its various stakeholder expectations and needs. Strategies and activities at the market level are concerned with determining how the firm will compete successfully in particular markets. Strategies and activities at the operational level concern the way in which CC manages its own resources, processes and people to help deliver corporate and market-level strategic goals. Central to the question of what type of contribution CC makes and whether this is located at the corporate, business-unit or strictly operational level, is the definition and enactment of the function as either strategic or tactical. As a strategic function, there is likely to be strategic involvement of communications practitioners in managerial decision-making at the corporate and business-unit levels. Such a strategic view of communications, which in part has already been realized within the business world but in part is also still aspirational (Cornelissen, 2004), means that communications strategy is not just seen as a set of goals and tactics at the operational level â€“ at the level of the CC function â€“ but that its scope and involvement in fact stretches to corporate and business-unit-wide decisions and activities. At the corporate level, where strategy and activities are concerned with the corporate mission and vision as well as corporate positioning, communication practitioners can aid managers in developing strategies for interaction with the environment. In this sense, communication practitioners are directly involved or support strategic decision-making through their â€˜environmental scanningâ€™ activities which may assist corporate strategy-makers in analyzing the organizationâ€™s position and identifying emerging issues which may have significant implications for the firm and for future strategy development. Communication practitioners can at this corporate level also bring identity questions and a stakeholder perspective into the strategic management process, representing the likely reaction of stakeholders to alternative strategy options, and thereby giving senior management a more balanced consideration to the attractiveness and feasibility of the strategic options open to them. This happened in each of the four firms (Shell, Nokia, Philips, Siemens) in our case studies. In addition, communications practitioners in these four companies also implemented the corporate strategy by helping to communicate the firmâ€™s strategic intentions to both internal and external stakeholders, which may help avoid misunderstandings that might otherwise get in the way of the smooth implementation of the firmâ€™s strategy. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â METHODOLOGY This research uses a case study approach to assess to asses the improved internal corporate communications in four firms.Â Gerald R. Adams and Jay D. Schvaneveldt (1997) define the case study approach as â€œan in-depth study of one or a limited number of cases in which each case is treated as a wholeâ€. The authors further added, â€œThe case study approach is particularly helpful when deeper understanding is needed and when there is little concern about generalizing to a large populationâ€ (Adams & Schvaneveldt, 1997). These case studies were conducted with four European corporations with strong reputations with their stakeholders and the marketplace: Nokia, Shell, Phillips and Siemens. These four corporations were selected chiefly for two reasons. Firstly, each of these four corporations is a multi-divisional firm operating under the same corporate umbrella. As such, they are typical of other large firms with a corporate communications (CC) presence â€“ as opposed to small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), where communications responsibilities and activities may not have evolved into one or more full-fl edged functional areas, let alone into a managerial function (cf Kotler and Mindak, 1978 ). Secondly, each of the four corporations has an excellent reputation in the eyes of their stakeholders and the general public according to ToMAC (Top of Mind Awareness of Corporate Brands) scores and reputation rankings published in recent years. The inclusion of these corporations therefore allows us to examine not only the range and kind of activities carried out within CC, but also to what extent these make a difference (given the strong reputations enjoyed by these four corporations). An analytical case-study approach was chosen as most appropriate for our theory-building purposes (Yin, 2003). It allowed us to examine CC holistically and address each of the â€˜practiceâ€™ dimensions mentioned above. Interviews were conducted with up to four senior managers of each organization, for example, president of corporate communication and marketing communication, communication managers within divisions, and if possible, a board member who is responsible for (corporate) brand communication. Here, a topic guide was used with topics that are relevant in the context of the practice of CC. However, the guide left enough room for the respondent to communicate his or her particular views on in what way activities and dimensions (structure, political and cultural issues, professionals) are linked and it prevented us from pre-structuring the concept of â€˜ practice â€™ in any way. The topic guide consisted of the following themes: communication organization (How are communications activities and the staff responsible for them departmentalized and structured within the corporation? What organizational processes and facilities exist to support communications? What is the professional ethos and culture of communications staff and of people in other departments of the corporation?), communications work (What is the general view of people within the corporation (ie the CEO and senior managers, marketing staff, communications staff, and others) of communications and its role and contribution to the corporation? How is decision-making concerning communications strategy organized? What does the process of communications strategy formation look like, in both corporate and market-led communications? What general activities does your job involve?) and communications professionals (What is the general profile of communications practitioners working in the corporation? How are communications staff recruited and selected? What training and development initiatives and trajectories exist for communications staff?). We analyzed the data by looking for common themes across the interviewees and four corporations and by identifying links between the dimensions of CC practice. MAIN ARGUMENT The practice of CC was conceptualized Â by circumscribing in very broad terms four dimensions: (1) the roles, skills and activities of practitioners, (2) the organization of these practitioners and their work, (3) political and cultural issues that contextualize and mediate these activities, and (4) the communication and consumption of the process and products of activities performed. Throughout discussion, and in the course of the primary research with Shell, Phillips, Siemens and Nokia, I identified two central processes in the practice of CC that cut across these four dimensions, and appear to be central to the field. The first process labeled as strategic positioning describes the ongoing efforts of communication practitioners to position themselves as credible communications managers to senior executives within the executive team and in other functions by developing staff, by finding appropriate mechanisms for coordinating work, by developing value-added activities and by communicating the contribution of CC. Underlying this process is perhaps the realization that communication practitioners need to enact managerial roles through management activities like environmental scanning, counseling and strategic planning that demonstrably add value to the corporation, and that they need to vie for an organizational arrangement that gives them a central, recognizable place in the firm from where to counsel and support senior management as well as managers in other functional areas. To illustrate, within Siemens the emphasis on corporate branding and the development of a corporate brand architecture was presented as central to the corporate strategy of the firm: We have to influence decisions about what businesses do we invest in and brand as Siemens and what businesses we do not want to be in â€¦ We have a clear business strategy â€˜ go for profit and growth â€™ , which sounds really general but behind this is an intensive and very detailed program, the Siemens management system, which our branding architecture and systems tie into. The overall corporate target is to attain worldwide leadership in each of the businesses that we are active in. Business success is the most important thing and that is driving the brand values and the brand strategyâ€™ (Director of Brand Architecture). There is a constant concern with the strategic positioning of corporate branding and corporate communications, not just to increase and communicate the current performance but also to secure a receptive environment at the senior management table. The head of corporate communication worldwide is a close advisor of our CEO. In fact, the incoming CEO, Kleinfeld, has a doctorate on the topic of corporate identity, and has a deep understanding of branding and communicationsâ€™ (Vice President Corporate Brand and Design). A second process that we identified involves what we term cultural accommodation which describes how CC, its practitioners, its organization and the general way in which it is practiced is embedded in the cultural context of the firm. Effectively, the choices made by Philips, Nokia, Shell and Siemens regarding staffing, training and development, structuring and the model of communication strategy development are all highly varied, yet linked to the core of their business, history and culture. Such variety and cultural adaptation may point to what Gratton and Ghoshal (2005) call signature practices; practices and processes that embody a company â€™ s character and are therefore somewhat unique and idiosyncratic, rather than general and universal for the entire industry. Signature practices are linked with the core values of the organization and evolve from a company-specific history and are embedded in its culture and core values. Within Philips, as mentioned, corporate communications is seen as a part of an Organization-wide technocratic engineering culture where every function and the work processes involved are documented and standardized, so that these can be constantly monitored, updated and optimized. Work processes (e.g. media inquiries) within corporate communications have equally been documented and standardized in flow-charts and worksheets (following ISO quality specifications). This kind of signature process may not work in other companies in the consumer electronics industry (or indeed other industries) as it is tied to Philips â€™ core cultural values and company history. Within Nokia, in contrast, the corporate vision of â€˜connecting peopleâ€™ together with the fact that members of the company have a strong bond between them ( â€˜ having embarked on the technological journey together â€™ ) has led to an â€˜ informal â€™ , â€˜ innovative â€™ and â€˜ can-do â€™ culture of knowledge sharing and of coordinating work processes. There are little formalized work patterns or lines of communication between communication professionals within Nokia; they rather liaise frequently and informally with one another. CONCLUSIONS The preceding section is the conclusion on the â€˜practiceâ€™ perspective on CC and conceptualized the important dimensions of this perspective.Â These are (1) the roles, skills and activities of practitioners, (2) the organization of these practitioners and their work, (3) political and cultural issues that contextualize and mediate these activities, and (4) the communication and consumption of the process and products of activities performed. Together, these dimensions (see Table 1) provide a framework for considering the practice of CC in its entirety and in a much more comprehensive manner than previous work has done. Table 1 : Summary of the practice conceptualization of corporate communications Dimension Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Themes Roles and activities of Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€” Manager vs technician practitioners Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€” Generalist vs specialist â€” Professional development, status and Â Â Â Â contribution Organization of Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€” Departmental arrangement communication work Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€” Reporting relationship and/or seat on executive Â Â Â Â team â€” Centralization vs decentralization Political and cultural issues Status of communication practitioners and their Â Â Â Â Â work â€” Added value of communication activities â€” Cultural accommodation Contribution of work and activities Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€” Strategic or tactical contribution Input into corporate strategy and decision- Â Â Â Â Â Â making Interface between communication and other Functional areas (e.g. Finance, Human Resources, etc) Â I also articulated two processes (strategic positioning and cultural accommodation) that appear to be central to the practice of CC. In all, the practice-based conceptualization of CC makes the following contributions. First, it has started to open up the â€˜black boxâ€™ of the organization in which CC activities take place. CC is conceptualized as an organizational phenomenon rather than a macro strategy problem detached from the internal dynamics of the organization. Internal politics, structure and cultural issues are introduced into the field of managing CC, not as inevitable failings or difficulties within firms, but as significant for communications strategy outcomes, perhaps even as attributes to be exploited positively for the status and contribution of CC. Second, the â€˜practiceâ€™ conceptualization of CC has started to â€˜humanizeâ€™ the field (cf Pettigrew et al., 2002: 12). Unlike much prior work that has focused on the strategic outcomes of CC activities (e.g. strong reputations and relationships with stakeholders), a â€˜practiceâ€™ perspective populates the field of CC with human beings. In effect, all forces and activities are seen to emerge from human action â€“ from the actions and contributions of communications practitioners, as well as the reactions by senior managers and managers in other functional areas (human resources, finance, etc.) of the firm. Third, and related to the previous points, the view of CC as â€˜practiceâ€™ has started to explore the agency of communications practitioners to bring about changes in corporate strategy and in the interaction between the firm and its environment, amidst general professional as well as situational constraints (Whittington, 1988 ). Practitioners can be captured in wider professional belief systems about their roles and work â€“ that is, the aforementioned distinction between â€˜managerâ€™ and â€˜technicianâ€™ roles (Pieczka and Lâ€™ Etang, 2000) â€“ that effect and constrain their possibilities for action. Similarly, the political and structural aspects of the work situation in their firms â€“ that is, whether there is a receptive environment among senior managers for an input from CC, and whether communications practitioners are located in departments with access (through a reporting relationship or seat on the management team) to senior management at the corporate level of the firm â€“ effects the micro activities and agency of communication practitioners. Fourth, a practice perspective and our case studies suggest that there are clear interrelations between the roles and backgrounds of practitioners, their activities, the political and cultural situation surrounding their work, the way in which they are organized, and their input and contribution to the firm at the corporate and market levels of the firm. As such, it connects macro phenomena with micro explanations. It does not deny the importance of research that has raised the awareness of key macro issues and challenges; the challenge of achieving and sustaining strong corporate reputations with stakeholders, of identifying and building on unique organizational assets or the â€˜ corporate identity â€™ of the firm, of managing international communications for multinational firms. Instead, it extends such macro level accounts with descriptions and explanations of the practices and activities that underpin and constitute such phenomena. In addition, as our case studies demonstrated, the practice of CC consists of interrelated dimensions, and as such we extend prior perspectives that have narrowly focused on either dimension or only on the strategic outcomes of CC activities. Any change in strategic outcomes (i.e. stronger corporate reputations with stakeholders) is not simply a case of a creative campaign or of improving one dimension (e.g. reputation measurement to demonstrate accountability) but ultimately depends on a whole range of factors, including the professional roles and competencies of practitioners and the way in which they are organized. Table 2 summarizes the main differences between a â€˜practiceâ€™ perspective on CC and the more traditional perspectives on CC that have primarily focused on macro strategic outcomes. Table 2: A practice perspective versus traditional perspectives on corporate communications Traditional perspectives on CC Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â A practice perspective on CC Primary focus Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Macro: strategic outcomes Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Micro: practitioners, processes and Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â (reputations and reputation Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â structures within the organization measurement) Explanations ofÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Deductive: infer best practices fromÂ Â Â Â Inductive: grounded in the actual PerformanceÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â reputation scores across firmsÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â activities of professionals and how Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â these add value and make a Â Â Â Â contribution to a firm Key strategicÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€˜Alignmentâ€™ between the reputationÂ Â Â Â Â Strategic positioning and cultural processesÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â and the identity or positioningÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â accommodation within the firm Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â communicated A fifth contribution concerns its practical implications. A practice perspective on CC extends macro level explanations of CC as outcomes of what goes on in organizations to the activities that constitute them. This perspective is concerned with the same strategic issues of importance to senior managers and communication practitioners (i.e. how to build and maintain strong corporate reputations with stakeholders of the firm?), but in terms of the organizational activities and practices, which are their fabric. As such, it provides a more comprehensive and detailed picture of how communications is and indeed can be managed. The relationships between the practice dimensions (i.e. the backgrounds of practitioners, their activities, the political and cultural situation surrounding their work, the way in which they are organized, and their input and contribution to the firm at the corporate and market levels of the firm) in particular provide managers and communication practitioners with concrete factors or attributes that can be understood and, if needed, challenged or manipulated. To communications practitioners, the profound implication is not only a greater understanding of their work but also suggestions and prescriptions for how their work can be changed or improved. More specifically, if practitioners aspire a developmental shift from a â€˜tacticalâ€™ or â€˜craft â€™orientation to communications, characterized by technician role enactment and communications service departments or units carrying out low-level communication mechanics, to a strategic management function, they know that they need to enact managerial roles through management activities like environmental scanning, counseling and strategic planning that demonstrably add value to the corporation, and that they need to vie for an organizational arrangement that gives them a central, recognizable place in the firm from where to counsel and support senior management as well as managers in other functional areas. The two processes of â€˜ strategic positioning â€™ and â€˜ cultural accommodation â€™ that we observed in our four case studies may also be taken to hand by practitioners to bring about changes in their firms in such a way that these changes are in line with their firms â€™ culture and improve the performance and standing of CC. Recommendations for Research In sum, the practice conceptualization of CC suggests a need to put the micro into macro in order to both uncover plausible linkages to performance (with stakeholder groups) and to offer tangible guides to managerial action. Some important insights, albeit preliminary and illustrative, on micro issues in CC are offered through our four case studies. However, beyond these preliminary case studies, we make two main recommendations in line with this research agenda. First, we recommend further small sample in-depth studies of CC within firms, to develop the contextual and holistic understanding of the practice dimensions of CC that is essential to unpacking the complex driving forces of the management of CC and its strategic outcomes with stakeholders of the firm. In-depth studies, particularly at this early stage of theoretical development on CC, are a necessary feature of furthering the conceptualization and understanding of CC as an area of practice. Second, we recommend process research as a methodology for capturing and explaining how the practice of CC evolves within fi rms. Process research is concerned with understanding how things evolve over time and why they evolve in this way (see Langley, 1999; Van de Ven and Huber, 1990), and process data therefore consist largely of stories about what happened and who did what when â€“ that is, events, activities, and choices ordered over time. In his classic work on organization theory, Mohr (1982) makes a distinction between what he calls â€˜variance theoryâ€™ and Â â€˜process theoryâ€™. Whereas variance theories provide explanations for phenomena in terms of relationships among dependent and independent variables (eg more of X and more of Y produce more of Z ), process theories provide explanations in terms of the sequence of events leading to an outcome (eg do A and then B to get C). Temporal ordering and probabilistic interaction between entities are important here (Mohr, 1982). Within the context of CC, the emphasis is with process research on understanding patterns in events (eg the link between activities and tools of communication practitioners and changes in stakeholder reputations), either as a narrative pattern or analytical sequence of events. 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