Integrated Communication: From
Theory to Performance
Winner of “Top Paper” award from the
Research Foundation of the International Association of Business Communicators
Diane M. Gayeski, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair, Dept of Corporate Communication Ithaca
Partner, OmniCom Associates
407 Coddington Road Ithaca, NY 14850
Barbara E. Woodward
Manager of Training and Development
96 Willow Parkway
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089
THE RENAISSANCE COMMUNICATOR
A MODEL FOR DEVELOPING INTERVENTIONS
IMPLEMENTATION OF INTEGRATED COMMUNICATION
OPPORTUNITIES & STRATEGIES
As business processes and management styles are changing, there is a need
to change the traditional models of practice in organizational communication.
A new model for integrated communication management is proposed, based
on concepts of market-based strategic communication, human performance
technology, business process reengineering, and a systematic method for
analysis and development of communication interventions. This article presents
the theoretical basis for the model, several examples of how organizations
are applying this concept, and recommendations for the development of new
skills and orientations for organizational communication and training professionals.
THE RENAISSANCE COMMUNICATOR
As organizations of all types are rapidly transforming their business processes
and management styles, the traditional roles of internal communication
professionals may well become obsolete. Landes (1992) described the conventional
roles of organizational communicators as “reporters, promoters, and corporate
apologists”, and numerous researchers and practitioners have critiqued
typical practice models as being reactive, not strategically aligned with
management, and oriented towards narrow, technical, production-centered
solutions such as producing newsletters and videos (c.f. D’Aprix, 1977).
As communication has developed in terms of both theory and practice, separate
specialties and departments within organizations were created: employee
communication, public relations and public affairs, advertising and marketing,
audiovisual media, training and development, event and meeting planning,
and information systems. These separate “islands of communication” (Gayeski,
1993b) have grown and moved further apart, often resulting in fragmented,
redundant, or even contradictory communication programs and messages. This
can lead to information overload, a loss of credibility, and wasted resources.
However, a new model for organizational communication is emerging: Gayeski
(1993b) calls this more integrated and strategic archetype the “Renaissance
Communicator” and defines corporate communication quite broadly as the
professional practice of developing and implementing communication "rules
and tools" to enhance the dissemination, comprehension, acceptance, and
application of information in ways which help to achieve an organization's
goals. Grates (1995) states that the lines between communication disciplines
as well as those between communication and other related types of consulting
are blurring. “In this new era, communication professionals in public relations
and advertising will be asked less frequently for specific advice as it
relates to their individual disciplines and more frequently for solutions”
(p. 17). Similarly, Freeland (1994) maintains that the successful communicator
will become identified with cost control and performance improvement and
that perhaps titles like “communication director” will be dropped in favor
of “director of change management”. Finally, Kreps (1989) expands on the
traditional theoretical perspective of PR as being external communication-oriented
to include the role of internal communication as change agents who promote
increased organizational reflexivity and who are involved in organizational
Although few practitioners would reject a more strategic and integrated
role , there are not yet many real-life examples of “Renaissance Communicators”.
Many forward-looking professionals in public relations, training and development,
marketing, employee communications, and information systems are attempting
to break out of their narrow specialties, but find it to be a long and
difficult process to work outside of institutional “silos”, to learn new
cross-functional skills, and to gain credibility with management. For example,
Smalley, et. al. (1995) report that it took three years for Amway’s training
department to become involved in their first real project employing the
more holistic approach of “performance technology” . However, given the
current business climate, it may not be feasible for communicators to wait
for three years to redirect their efforts; case studies and models for
practice need to be shared and adopted rapidly so that professional communicators
retain positions of value in their organizations.
A new model for organizational communication management is needed to encompass
emerging theories of management, learning, and communication — as well
as new realities of an increasingly competitive marketplace and rapidly
merging and emerging technologies. One such model is “integrated communications”.
Although this term has been used to describe combined advertising / marketing
/ public relations campaigns (Schultz, 1993b), we define integrated communications
more broadly as the application of analysis, communication, and evaluation
techniques to create and manage integrated, multi-faceted interventions
combining information, instruction, collaboration, business process design,
feedback, and incentive systems to improve human performance in the workplace
in order to achieve organizations’ desired missions and visions.
Traditional models of communication practice (including public relations,
instructional design, and employee communications) are based on a number
of assumptions that are no longer valid: · Although they generally
include audience and message analysis, traditional models of communication
practice assume that one type of well-designed intervention will solve
the problem — be it training, promotion, or information-retrieval. They
do not help practitioners determine what types of problems are potentially
not solvable by these interventions, nor do they incorporate the other
types of support that are generally necessary for any long-term change
to occur. For example, employee communication and training systems may
promote safe work practices, but if the work design and performance appraisal
systems do not reinforce these messages, they are likely to be ineffective.
The traditional linear models of communication analysis and message design
reflect early linear models of communication: assume the “sender” crafts
a well-designed message, the “receiver” will “get it”. They do not reflect
the complex interplay of interpretation and negotiation among all parties
in a communicative situation, nor the impact of environmental and social
influences. · Conventional models assume that the client or requester
has correctly identified the problem and the appropriate intervention —
for example, that a performance gap is due to poor morale or that a two-day
training course is needed. Traditional practice is reactive rather than
proactive. Moreover, there is evidence that clients and sponsors often
“do not ask us to deliver what they need; they ask us to deliver what they
believe we can provide ... We do not do what we are not asked to do — improve
human performance in the workplace” (Regalbuto, 1991, p.31). · Finally,
traditional communication practice measures the outcomes of communication
projects by satisfaction indicators — how much the audience “liked” a meeting,
newsletter, or course, or by readership or attendance. These statements
of satisfaction are assumed to relate to the effectiveness of an intervention
in terms of organizational goals. Few models for evaluation actually link
interventions to the “bottom line” (Kirkpatrick, 1994).
The model we propose for integrated communication is based upon several
new approaches: · Market-based strategic communication — This term,
coined by D’Aprix (1996) in his recent book Communicating for Change, represents
the approach of designing proactive communication programs that candidly
inform employees about the requirements of their customers and the realities
of the marketplace, and focus on organizational strategy. · Performance
technology or performance engineering — These terms describe systematic
processes for solving organizational problems by analyzing and improving
selection, communication, instruction, work design, feedback, and incentive
systems. The theoretical foundation for this approach is found in behavioral
theories of psychology, including motivation and learning. This approach
centers around identifying and solving “performance gaps” which are defined
as “discrepancies between an organization’s expectations and its actual
performance” (Rogers and Agarwala-Rogers, 1976, p. 70). Performance technology
and the practice of “performance consulting” is documented in Stolovitch
and Keeps (1992) and Robinson and Robinson (1995). · Business process
reengineering — This phrase, popularized by Hammer and Champy (1993), represents
the approach of radical reinvention of business processes rather than merely
“tweaking” current, obsolete systems. Although this has been used as a
euphemism for downsizing, the original intent of this model is to carefully
scrutinize and re-design basic business systems around work processes rather
than bureaucratic “silos” and departments. · ComADD model — The
communication analysis, design, and development model (Gayeski, 1993b)
is a system for identifying and operationalizing performance gaps and for
selecting and assessing communication-based solutions. It consists of 5
phases: initiating, descriptive, conceptual, prototypic, actual, and continuous
improvement. This model is iterative rather than linear, and emphasizes
the development of a number of alternative solutions that are selected
by a process of rapid prototyping and determining optimum potential return-on-investment
of time and money.
A MODEL FOR DEVELOPING INTEGRATED COMMUNICATION
The integrated communication model proposed here reflects the theories
and perspectives described above: an examination of customer and market
needs, an identification of performance goals and gaps, an examination
and possible re-design of basic business processes to meet those goals,
and the systematic identification, implementation, and evaluation of a
coordinated set of communication solutions.
Communication resources and perspectives required
In order to offer integrated communication interventions, a team or a multidisciplinary
communication professional with competencies in message design, training,
persuasion, incentive systems, business process reengineering, media /
information technology, marketing, employee selection and performance assessment
is needed. This team or person works with the client and a representative
constituency of the target audience to analyze the situation and to prototype
and evaluate interventions. The team may exist within one department, or
may be an interdepartmental work group. The analysis and development steps
for an integrated approach are listed below:
Determine cause(s) of the gap and identify potential solutions
Identify market and customer needs / perceptions
Describe and operationalize the performance goal for the
Are there examples of exemplary performers? If not, are you
sure that the goal is attainable?
Describe and operationalize the current performance of the
What is the “gap” between ideal and current performance?
Select, Prototype, Implement, and Evaluate Interventions
Did the target group ever meet the performance goal in the
past? If so, why has the performance slipped?
If the target group really had to, could they exhibit the
desired level of performance? If they could not, is it a lack of skill,
or are there other barriers? If they could exhibit the desired performance,
they do not need training — look for other barriers.
Are the best performers recruited and selected for the job?
— If not, investigate public relations, recruiting, and testing interventions.
Do they understand the business and its goals and values?
— If not, investigate employee communication systems, better methods of
orientation, training in basic business concepts, articulation of mission
What are the barriers or disincentives to performing well?
— Look for opportunities to change the culture to one that values high
performance and doesn’t inadvertently reward poor performance.
What are the incentives for performing well? Do they “work”
for your target group? — Investigate what kinds of rewards and feedback
are actually meaningful to your target group (i.e. publicity, monetary
incentives, job “perks”, etc.).
Could the job, work process, or environment be re-designed?
— Could the job be made less complex? Could jobs be divided up differently?
Are all the steps really valuable?
Is the environment conducive to the type of work performed
and to the personal styles of the workers?
Does a new skill need to be learned or concepts / facts memorized?
— Investigate various methods of training and development if memorization
is necessary. Otherwise, consider job aids, performance support systems,
data banks, etc..
What are the important sources of feedback, social support,
and coaching? — Can you redesign the performance appraisal system, make
families and communities more supportive of employees, teach managers to
be better coaches?
Although we do not represent this as a lock-step “formula” for approaching
communication projects, the protocol and mindset of performance-based analysis
and consideration of an integrated set of communication interventions can,
and has been, successfully applied.
What types of interventions fit the organizational culture?
Which have the best chance of showing a positive return on
How do these interact with other existing communication and
Develop a rough rapid prototype, or pilot the interventions
on a small group
Measure and document results, tweak, maintain, and revise
What was the bottom-line result in performance?
OF INTEGRATED COMMUNICATION
Although most organizations’ communication systems and interventions are
not yet “integrated” as we define them, there are a number of examples
that demonstrate that this model of organizational communication can be
applied creatively in a number of diverse settings. In some cases, integrated
communication models are used on an ad hoc basis by a communication professional
or team when faced with a particularly significant or difficult problem.
A particular project may provide the opportunity to employ broader, more
strategic methods. For example, Smalley et. al. (1995) report the results
of an integrated performance-based approach to improving the performance
of a telephone order-taking department: the intervention gained approximately
$1 million in “saved sales” each year, and the time it took new clerks
to become comfortable with their jobs was reduced from 90 days to 30 days.
The intervention was designed by the training department as one step in
their strategic plan to becoming a “performance improvement” department.
The training, advertising, public relations, and documentation groups
at Apple Computer are now coordinating their efforts to provide information
to the company’s 20,000 salespeople. One specific outcome has been the
creation of an on-line database on new products called Apple’s Reference
Performance and Learning Expert (ARPLE). “The PR, advertising, documentation,
and training departments pool their information to eliminate redundancies
before sending the information out to salespeople. It wastes less time
and money on the corporate end, and saves the salespeople from wading through
useless information” (Geber, 1994).
ISVOR Fiat, the subsidiary that provides training to the international
conglomerate Fiat, has recently found a decline in interest for traditional
classroom training among its internal clients. Not only has it embraced
new forms of media production, such as multimedia and video, but it has
also worked with one of the authors to expand upon its services to include
knowledge capture and engineering and design and documentation of corporate
meetings. The training department at a utility also transformed its mission,
changing its name to “professional development resources”, and adding to
its repertoire the creation of sales aids, a database of company expertise,
and the facilitation of “brown bag” information lunch seminars given by
company employees (Gayeski, 1993a).
Other organizations are re-structuring key roles and departmental teams
related to communications and learning. Among the clients of one of the
authors, one national restaurant chain charged a cross-functional team
called FutureCom with investigating and designing a plan for the future
of internal communication. The results of the initial study not only recommended
new technologies, but made clear that more coordination of communication
was necessary to attempt to control “information overload”. A prototype
daily e-mail update integrating information across various departments,
is now being developed. A new job description for their manager of corporate
communication was developed and a new individual hired into that position
who has a background in both mass media and new training technologies.
The authors have also worked with a large regional healthcare organization
whose leadership team was interested in the concept of the “learning organization”.
The CEO established a strategic planning committee to investigate organizational
development and performance technology, to identify gaps and barriers to
learning, and to recommend a new organizational structure and policy. The
work of this committee is still in progress, but the proposal currently
being drafted integrates the human resources, staff development, and media
production departments into one team which will be self-managed with a
group of advisors including representatives from information systems, finance,
and corporate communications.
Entirely new job titles and descriptions are being crafted. For example,
Millbrook Distribution Services has recently created a position of Chief
Learning Officer with a small staff of communication, graphic arts, media
production, and instructional design specialists. The responsibilities
and structure of this position were designed, in part, based on Gayeski’s
(1993b) concept of the “Renaissance Communicator”. The Chief Learning Officer
at Millbrook has stated, “Management of the formal communication processes
of the organization as part of the Chief Learning Officer’s responsibilities
is believed to be a leading edge innovation... In times of non-stop change,
it is essential to bridge the traditional ‘islands of corporate communication’
such as training and development, employee communications, public affairs,
corporate media, documentation, library systems, policies and procedures,
and advertising and marketing to create integrated, consistent, and coherent
messages to stakeholders”. Coca-Cola has also created a similar position
of “CLO” (Willis and May, 1996).
BARRIERS TO ADOPTING INTEGRATED COMMUNICATION
Despite the documented interest in and success of an integrated communication
model, this approach is still not yet widely accepted. In our research
and practice, we have found that there are significant barriers that organizational
communication professionals face when they attempt to employ models of
integrated communication and performance technology: · Current jobs
and departments related to organizational communication often pigeonhole
professionals into narrow roles. Professionals in training often assume
that their job is to “produce courses”, just as employee communication
professionals believe that their job is to organize newsletters and meetings,
and perhaps to somehow increase morale. In order to provide what they feel
is “good service”, they produce what they are asked for: videotapes, meetings,
courses, electronic bulletin boards, and so forth. Because these separate
“islands of communication” (Gayeski, 1993b) actually are often engaged
in internal competition for resources and credibility, there are few incentives
to work together and more incentives to protect “turf”. External suppliers,
such as ad agencies, also tend to specialize in advertising or PR or direct
marketing or media production — generally not truly an integrated approach
(Schultz, 1993c). · Organizational communicators often suffer from
a lack of credibility, especially when they attempt to recommend some intervention
that is outside their usual specialty. They often have little access to
management, and are not a part of the executive decision-making team. Integrated
communication models require new approaches that often require significant
change and resources — often more than the typical employee communication
specialist, PR agent, or trainer can martial. As Schultz (1993c, p. 5)
points out, “Some of the difficulty in integration is a result of many
organizations never viewing communication as important to their overall
success.” · Because integrated communication interventions are often
“high risk, high gain”, there is a necessity for rigorous evaluation in
terms of bottom-line return on investment. Dozier (1990) argues that program
research, the use of quantitative and qualitative research techniques to
plan and evaluate communication programs, is still considered something
new to most practitioners. Although such “hard” measures may still be considered
innovative and are not well-established in traditional practice, he insists
that they are essential to the progress of the field. However, communicators
often lack the skills to develop business plans and conduct formal program
evaluation, and such rigorous evaluation carries the risk of pointing out
failure. An even more important consideration is how communicators themselves
are evaluated and compensated. Now, professional communicators are often
evaluated and rewarded on the quantity rather than quality of their output
— how many brochures and newsletters they produced, how many hours of training
they designed, or how many ads they placed. Clients and managers need to
alter the current system. “Agencies must move to media neutrality. That
simply means they must move away from being driven by media commissions
and find a new method of compensation” (Schultz, 1993a, p. 12).
OPPORTUNITIES AND STRATEGIES
As organizations are attempting to “re-engineer” and strive to become “learning
organizations”, communication professionals should look for opportunities
to employ new integrated communication approaches. Some specific approaches
we recommend are:
We are hopeful that the model and cases presented here will encourage more
collaboration and learning among communication professionals within organizations,
and strengthen the ties between organizational communication theory and
Focus communication strategies on teaching the audience how to better learn
about and respond to the needs of their customers. Meeting marketplace
expectations can be a differentiating factor and a competitive edge. An
analysis of customer needs can be done through business processing mapping.
Then, all communication to the audience can be integrated and aligned (training,
incentive plans, marketing materials, etc.), so that people don’t have
to put fragments of uncoordinated messages together for themselves.
When confronted with a potential communication-related project, explore
all the factors that can impact the performance of the target audience.
For example, in our work and research in sales training, we have often
found that performance gaps that initially look like training problems
are actually a result of incentive programs that are not aligned with the
business objectives, or or caused by suboptimal business process design.
In one situation, a time analysis of sales representatives’ work was performed
and it was found that reps were spending almost half of their time doing
technical service instead of selling. Their frustration was high because
they could not meet their customers’ expectations and because they were
not trained to be technicians. In this case, technical reps were added
to the sales team, freeing up sales reps’ time to sell. Neither typical
motivational nor sales training programs would have truly addressed this
Communicators should network and collaborate with other communication-related
professionals within their organizations. Look for opportunities to share
resources and information and to develop integrated approaches to major
performance gaps. For example, in a sales organization, marketing, training,
and field service personnel could form an integrated team to understand
how to best meet customer needs and how to support sales representatives
in the selling process. This team should be seamless: although reporting
lines still may remain functional, the team supports a common goal and
is self-directed in its mission.
Managers should work towards identifying and quantifying performance gaps
and presenting those gaps — rather than “work orders” — to teams of professionals
in employee communications, public relations, human resources, training,
and marketing / advertising. Specific deficiencies should be defined and
operationalized and goals should be set so that communicators can target
a specific objective. In our experience, communicators can often easily
respond to specific problems with appropriate interventions, but too often,
there are no data about performance gaps, and no direction regarding what
the most crucial and expensive organizations problems may be. If no gaps
are defined, it is impossible to produce return-on-investment analyses.
Executives should form teams or committees to investigate new approaches
to communication. Leadership and support from the top of the organization
is crucial to the kinds of systemic changes that integrated communication
demands. “Integration cannot be accomplished by middle managers or from
those in the lower levels of the organization. It must come from the top,
and it can’t be just a memo or a directive... There must be a commitment
from top management to integrate and to remove the barriers which prevent
integration (Schultz, 1993c, p. 5). Moreover, while integrated teams of
communication professionals to explore new models and to execute interventions
are essential, organizations should also consider appointing a high-level
executive to provide leadership and guidance in integrated communication
and to make sure that communication and learning resources are a part of
the critical path for all new projects.
Communication educators need to prepare young professionals who are skillful
not only in message design and media production, but who also are analysts,
managers, evaluators, and strategic partners. They need to understand a
broad range of communication tools and interventions, and to be able to
apply theory and research methods (Gayeski, 1994). The research of Dozier
(1990) concludes that public relations professionals’ roles in management
decision-making increase when they play the “manager role” and conduct
program research. Further, he finds that the diffusion of this innovation
of “program research” is slowed down by a perception of complexity of these
methods, and is accelerated when practitioners have formal training in
the social sciences, statistics, and computer use. Neff (1989) found that
academic programs in public relations are shifting away from a concentration
on journalism to a more complex integration of communication theory and
social science. These are not just requirements of the “ivory tower”, but
increasingly they are demanded by organizations of all types.
Academics and practitioners must collaborate in generating and testing
theory, and in sharing case studies both of success and failure with their
professional community. When clients ask who else is applying new approaches
and upon what conceptual foundation we are basing our proposals, we need
better answers. Ideally, practitioners should be teaching partners with
professors, and academics should be represented on the teams that are redesigning
organizations’ information and learning systems and shaping the communication
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copyright 1996 Diane Gayeski
& Barbara Woodward