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Latest 'excellence' study results.

CEOs and their top communicators agree that their public relations departments provide a high return on investment, but they don't agree in some other important areas, according to die most recent findings from the IABC Research Foundation's study, "Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management."

CEOs said their communication departments provided a 184 percent return on investment (ROI), and their top communicators said the ROI was 188 percent. But the communicators believed their CEOs would rate the ROI 127 percent almost one-third lower.

"Communication managers evidently underestimate their CEOs' perceptions of the value of their departments," said Professor J ames E. Grunig, Ph.D., head of the research team. "Moreover, the preliminary data suggests that CEOs and the heads of their communication departments have not reached agreement on the top communicator's role."

The CEO apparently wants the top communicator to serve primarily as his or her senior adviser on communication issues and as a media relations expert. The boss is less likely to perceive the top communicator as a department manager or organizational representative to key publics.

In contrast, top communicators tend to see themselves as bridges to key publics, and managers of the communication function. They are less likely to see themselves as advisers to the CEO.

This is the first, but not last, indication in the research that communicators and CEOs are not in sync in some very important areas.

The researchers went a step further in examining CEOs' evaluation of communication ROI. They separated the responses of CEOs of excellent organizations from those of all CEOs. Their hypothesis was that excellent organizations provide the supportive environment that makes excellent communication possible. Excellent organizations are defined in the study as having organic rather than hierarchical structures, participative cultures, two-way internal communication, and high job satisfaction among employees.

CEOs of excellent organizations gave their communication function an ROI of 262, significantly higher than the average CEO rating.

CEOs of excellent organizations highly value communication and believe it should be practiced essentially as spelled out by the research team's theory of excellence. That is, they want communication that is strategic, based on research and that involves two-way communication with key publics. Yet they report that they do not always get this excellent communication from their departments.

Apparently, the root of the problem is the top communicator's lack of knowledge, particularly knowledge of evaluation research, segmentation of publics and environmental scanning. There is a shortage of communicators with mastery of the attitude, negotiation and conflict resolution theories vital to the win-win outcomes that CEOs of excellent organizations seek. This is another indication that communicators and CEOs are out of sync in important areas.

Ironically, part of the researchers' hypothesis also appears to have been disproved. Preliminary results show that excellent communication is not limited to excellent organizations. Communicators surveyed in these organizations were no more likely to practice excellent communication than those in other organizations. On the contrary, excellent communication can and does occur in organizations defined as mediocre by the study.

What makes the difference? The knowledge of the top communicator, translated into power in the organization. That is, a top communicator who provides value to members of the dominant coalition in the organization through his or her practice of excellent communication, can achieve power in the organization. This personal power, in turn, enables the communicator to continue to practice excellent communication, even in a mediocre organization.

According to researchers, many communication departments fail to achieve their potential for excellence, and this prevents them from enjoying the enhanced support they would otherwise receive from their CEOs. A primary problem is that the top communicator is not a strategic manager but rather is involved in more routine functions, such as managing people and developing budgets. Furthermore, communicators in general do not understand how to use research and two-way symmetrical models of communication to create win-win outcomes with key publics. Consequently, communicators are not qualified to make top level contributions to strategic planning for the organization, or to provide appropriate counsel to CEOs.

The answer, Grunig suggests, is a reassessment of the role of communication in organizations, and increased professional development through master's degree programs in public relations and communication, professional development programs through IABC and other groups, and reading of professional literature.

The "Excellence" study surveyed 225 organizations in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Participating in the study were 204 CEOs, 280 top communicators and 3,249 employees. It is the largest single study of the communication profession ever undertaken. Data analysis is continuing.

The IABC Research Foundation will provide speakers on the research results, and has self-assessment tools available for personal, in-house or workshop use. The "Initial Data Report" on the study's preliminary results is available for U.S. $40. An expanded version of the report including a "Practical Guide" for the professional, is available for $60. Contact the Foundation for more information at (415) 433-3400, ext. 102.
COPYRIGHT 1992 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Section 2: Dealing with Today; Looking Back from the Future; study conducted by the International Association of Business Communicators
Publication:Communication World
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:821
Previous Article:Getting managers off their butts and into the communication game.
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