Corporate PR 101: What is corporate communications?

In 2020, the role of brands in society, the responsibility of businesses to take a stand on important issues and the relationship between a company’s brand and its reputation was a central discussion for many commentators.

Ben & Jerry’s was admired for publishing a manifesto in response to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Brands including McDonald's, Costa Coffee and Sainsbury’s demonstrated social responsibility by introducing initiatives to support frontline workers and vulnerable society members during the pandemic.

Yet other companies received criticism as the responsibility of a company to do the ‘right thing beyond profits’ became increasingly important during the Covid pandemic. Brands faced increasing scrutiny: Boohoo was criticised following allegations of modern slavery and Wetherspoons was attacked for abandoning staff and leaving them financially vulnerable during the first lockdown.

The pressure to meet different stakeholder expectations in an increasingly polarised and interconnected world means that businesses are always under a microscope.

Individuals have the power to impact a company’s reputation in today’s Networked Age where opinions and information travel rapidly and expansively, creating not only moments but movements. How brands act is more visible than ever, and public voices are louder and more powerful than ever before.

That’s why the role of reputation experts and corporate communications advisors has never been so important.

What is corporate communications?
Corporate PR is a dynamic and exciting industry that encompasses many different disciplines – crisis management, strategic media relations, executive engagement, digital strategy and C-suite advisory services. Simply put, corporate communications helps companies define what they want to be known for and advises on the most effective ways to communicate their central purpose. Going beyond commercial and operational milestones, we advise on how to create an understanding of what a business stands for – beyond the bottom line.

Corporate communications consultants help companies tell its stories, celebrate its purpose, showcase its products and earn fame in a world of infinitely available content. Not only do we develop and deliver narratives and messaging to customers and the wider public, but to internal stakeholders and investors too.

No day is the same, but as a corporate communications consultant your role might include any of the following areas:

Media, stakeholder and influencer engagement
Storytelling, developing content calendars, writing press releases and pitching stories to journalists will be responsibilities for any entry level consultant. As well as building relationships with the media, we engage with thought leaders and commentators that shape a company’s reputation including influencers and industry experts, recognising the power of influence in a networked world. Thought leaders have large networks that can increase the spread of information and facilitate social brand engagement. Trusted by the public, they have the power to influence behaviour and attitudes.

Building a corporate profile
We engage in industry and trending topics to ensure our clients have prominent voices and lead important conversations. This has recently involved communications on COVID, the economy, technological innovation, and climate change. E.ON’s ‘Change The Weather’ campaign involved lobbying national and regional media to update weather panels to include air quality, positioning the firm as a leading voice in the air quality debate. The campaign successfully increased consumer education about air quality by 22.5%, brand appeal by 14.7%, and corporate reputation by 53.8%. Corporate PR makes you a player in relevant movements, which is rewarding both professionally and personally.

Issues and crisis management
Brand reputation is an asset. Whilst it is hard to build, it is easy to lose. Corporate communicators monitor and manage client reputation to promote positive information, predict risks, and mitigate issues before they become crises. Product failures, poor leadership, legal issues, and societal conflicts are examples that threaten the integrity of companies, attract negative media and public attention, and can cause reputational damage. We react to crises with clear and strategic communications, internally and externally to limit the damage and protect brand reputation and value.

Integrated communications
Corporate communications overlaps with different disciplines, including financial services, vertical sector industries, public affairs, creative and digital strategy, and consumer communications meaning you have the opportunity to work across varied disciplines, engage with different stakeholders, develop diverse campaigns and encounter a range of challenges.

No day is the same when working in corporate communications, making it a fast-paced, dynamic, and rewarding role. It requires creativity and professionalism and utilises a diverse set of skills. With evolving trends and growing industry needs, there is always something new to learn and plenty of room for career growth.

Thanks so much to Rachel Bower, head of brand + reputation, ENGINE MHP for writing this introduction to corporate PR for us, we really appreciate it.

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This is part of our Beginner's Guide to public relations