University of St.Gallen
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Clarity in Corporate Communication

Kurzfassung Clarity in Corporate Communication
Measuring and Managing Knowledge-intensive Complex Communication

With this project, whose kick-off will be in December 2010 in St Gallen, we aim to develop a consistent, concise, and pragmatic method to measure, evaluate, and enable clarity in managerial communication messages. This will be conducted with partners from the media, insurance, and telecommunication industries.

We will develop and test a series of measures leading to a clarity index that can be used to assess, rank, and improve corporate communication messages and stakeholder-bound reports. The final result will be a set of tools, metrics, and steps to conduct communication audits and diagnostics for managerial communication contexts where clarity is imperative, but difficult to attain (such as communicating the business strategy to stakeholders, informing the employees about a complex risk, clarifying a difficult policy issue with an interest group, explaining a restructuring to investors, informing the media about the root causes of a crisis). The toolbox should be applicable across industries. An additional deliverable of the project is ready-to use didactic training material to make the method actionable in organizations.

While management metrics, processes and templates have been used in many areas (such as accounting, finance, sales and marketing), corporate communication still often suffers from arbitrary ad-hoc standards, uneven quality, and unsystematic evaluation. In today’s knowledge-based and thus complex business, however, clarity has become a strategic asset that needs to be actively managed, evaluated, and assured to avoid misunderstandings and operational risks. Recent studies show that the lack of clarity in many internal and external (text and image-based) communications leads to information overload, resulting in high hidden costs and risks. The method developed in this project will establish clear principles, standards and means to identify strong and weak points in an organization’s qualitative, non-regulated, corporate communication messages, such as strategy presentations, stakeholder briefings, or CSR reporting. Ultimately, this will lead to reduced costs, better compliance, greater client satisfaction, and an improved overall efficiency of an organization.

The project will proceed in four phases: First, we will review existing metrics and procedures to measure and manage clarity in corporate communication (such as clarity guidelines, readability indices, design heuristics, reporting criteria, communication best practices). This phase will also include a set of 20 expert interviews. Second, we will adapt and aggregate these measures in a pragmatic, easily replicable assessment procedure leading to an overall clarity index per communication format. Third, we will pilot-test our clarity audit in several focus areas (leading to case studies and training material). Finally, we will revise and scale the procedure and fully document it. In this phase we will also extensively user-test the developed methods and tools. To this end, we will use a self-diagnostic version of the method in the form of a large-scale survey among business professionals. This will give us additional insights into the current state-of-the-art of managing clarity in organizations. The benefit of this survey is not only to give managers the opportunity to try out the method themselves and self-assess their own communication clarity, but it will provide a general overview of the main improvement and training as well as consulting needs and approaches in the field.

This study will be conducted with partners, which have a long-standing commitment to clarity in communication and provide a compatible knowledge. The benefits of this study are manifold as this study i) elaborates a new communication methodology in area of increasing relevance; ii) identifies consulting and educational needs in this area through survey; iii) fosters collaboration and know-how transfer and makes it visible; and iv) establishes the involved partners as an association that acknowledges the increased importance of communication quality for the business world.
Schlagwörter (Tags) clarity, corporate communication, knowledge-intensive, complex, knowledge communication
Typ angewandtes Forschungsprojekt
Status abgeschlossen
Projektstart 2010
Projektende 2011
Weitere Informationen
Themen Clarity in Corporate Communication
Measuring and Managing Knowledge-intensive Complex Communication
Methoden qualitative and quantitative empirical methods, surveys, case studies
Kontakt Nicole Bischof