A China Benchmark Study 2006
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A China Benchmark Study 2006

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16 Pages


Corporate Communication Institute at Fairleigh Dickinson University
A China Benchmark Study 2006
Dr. Jay Wang
Dr. Michael B. Goodman
with the assistance of
Vidhi Chaudhri and Ee Ling Tan Questions about the study should be referred to the attention of Drs. Wang and Goodman at the following addresses:
Dr. Jay Wang Dr. Michael B. Goodman
Department of Communication Corporate Communication Institute
Purdue University at Fairleigh Dickson University
100 North University 285 Madison Avenue, M-MS207
West Lafayette, IN 47907 Madison, NJ 07940
Tel: 765-494-3325 Tel: 973-443-8709
Email:jianwang@purdue.edu Email: cci@corporatecomm.org
NOTE: This report provides results of a benchmark survey of select Chinese companies on their corporate communication and
corporate social responsibility practices. The study was underwritten by Prudential Financial, Inc., and conducted in Beijing,
China, in December 2005 through a partnership of the Corporate Communication Institute, Beijing Horizon Market Research
Group, and Dr. Jay Wang of Purdue University.
This study was underwritten by
© November 2006. Please contact the authors for permission to reprint. A CHINA BENCHMARK STUDY 2006 3
A China Benchmark Study 2006
Key findings from this benchmark study of corporate communication practices and trends in Chinese companies
reveal a robust growth and development of this strategic ...



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Corporate Communication Instituteat Fairleigh Dickinson UniversityCORPORATE COMMUNICATION PRACTICES AND TRENDS:A China Benchmark Study 2006Dr. Jay WangDr. Michael B. Goodman with the assistance of Vidhi Chaudhri and Ee Ling Tan
Questions about the study should be referred to the attention of Drs. Wang and Goodman at the following addresses:Dr. Jay WangDepartment of CommunicationPurdue University100 North UniversityWest Lafayette, IN 47907Tel: 765-494-3325Email:jianwang@purdue.eduDr. Michael B. GoodmanCorporate Communication Instituteat Fairleigh Dickson University285 Madison Avenue, M-MS207Madison, NJ 07940Tel: 973-443-8709Email: cci@corporatecomm.orgNOTE: This report provides results of a benchmark survey of select Chinese companies on their corporate communication andcorporate social responsibility practices. The study was underwritten by Prudential Financial, Inc., and conducted in Beijing,China, in December 2005 through a partnership of the Corporate Communication Institute, Beijing Horizon Market ResearchGroup, and Dr. Jay Wang of Purdue University.This study was underwritten by © November 2006. Please contact the authors for permission to reprint.
A CHINA BENCHMARK STUDY 2006CORPORATE COMMUNICATION PRACTICES AND TRENDS:A China Benchmark Study 2006EXECUTIVESUMMARYKey findings from this benchmark study of corporate communication practices and trends in Chinese companiesreveal a robust growth and development of this strategic management function. 1) Chinese companies focus oncorporate image building, brand strategy, and marketing and sales support; 2) rising budgets and hiringprojections indicate a healthy commitment to the importance of corporate communication in the benchmarkcompanies; 3) the practice of corporate communication in the Chinese companies emphasize tactical functionscompared with the strategic emphasis of Fortune1000 companies; one area recognized, but underdeveloped, is acrisis communication capability; 4) companies use outside vendors or agencies for building corporate identity,brand strategy, and public relations; 5) Chinese corporate communicators recognize the need to develop strongCorporate Social Responsibility (CSR) action, now centered on disaster relief and higher education, aspiring todevelop environmental protection, energy conservation, and workplace safety; 6) there is general agreement onthe importance of corporate communication about CSR engagement, and the internet is the preferred means tocommunicate with internal and external audiences over the broadcast and print media.BACKGROUNDWith China’s remarkable economic development over the last two decades, the spirit and practice of Chinesecompanies have been radically transformed from merely serving as an administrative function in a centrally-planned economic system to reflecting features of market-oriented enterprises. Since the 1990s, there has been aclarion call for establishing a “modern enterprise system” and adopting “scientific management” principles amongChinese companies in order for them to compete more successfully with both local and global players in the evermore dynamic marketplace.As Chinese enterprises restructure, the function of corporate communication is also undergoing dramaticchanges. The concept of corporate communication generally refers to “the corporation’s voice and the image itprojects” to its various constituencies.1Depending on the organization, corporate communication is a strategicmanagement function that includes a myriad programs and activities, such as media relations, investor relations,reputation management, community relations, corporate branding, etc.2Corporations use it to lead, motivate,persuade, and inform employees – and the public as well.The annual corporate and media ritual of ranking the most-admired companies by Fortuneand the ranking ofreputation by The Wall Street Journalattests to the relevance and salience of corporations’ image and reputational 3
4CORPORATE COMMUNICATION INSTITUTEcapital in the public’s consumption and investment choices. Likewise, corporate image and reputation isassuming growing importance in the Chinese marketplace.During the pre-reform era, all aspects of the Chinese economic system, from production, finance, and humanresources, to distribution, pricing, and communication, were dictated by the central government.Communication by Chinese enterprises was instituted as part of the larger propaganda apparatus to fulfill thegovernment’s goals of ideological and social control. Since China adopted economic reform policies in the late1970s, Chinese companies have started to apply contemporary management practices to develop themselves intomarket-driven enterprises. As a result, they now devote more and more attention to managing corporate imageand reputation as an integral part of their business and corporate strategy. The most prominent business rankingsbegan in 2001 under the auspices of Beijing University and The Economic Observer,a major Chinese businessnewspaper. In 2005, for instance, the top 25 most admired companies in China included nine multinationalcompanies, such as Hewlett-Packard, General Motors and Nokia, and 16 Chinese companies, such as theinternationally noted Lenovo, Haier, and Tsingdao.PROJECTOBJECTIVESThis benchmark study identifies the corporate communication structure, practices and trends among selectChinese companies, and discusses perceptions and practices of Corporate Social Responsibility as part of thecorporate communication function. Specifically, the study addresses the following questions:How do contemporary Chinese companies define the role of corporate communication?What functions do Chinese companies include as part of corporation communication?To what extent, do Chinese companies rely on external agencies and third-party vendors for their activitiesand programs in corporation communication?What are the attitudes toward CSR among Chinese companies; their motives to develop and participate inCSR programs; the areas they pursue in their CSR engagement; and how do they communicate their CSRengagement?As a benchmark investigation, this study forms the foundation for further examination of the development ofcorporate communication practices in one of the world’s largest emerging markets.1Paul A. Argenti and Janis Forman, The Power of Corporate Communication: Crafting the Voice and Image of Your Business(NY: McGraw-Hill, 2002), p. 4. 2Michael B. Goodman, “Corporate Communication Practice and Pedagogy at the Dawn of the New Millennium,” Corporate Communications: AnInternational Journal11, no. 3 (2006), p. 196.
A CHINA BENCHMARK STUDY 2006HOWTHESTUDYWASCONDUCTEDThis study was undertaken in December 2005, using aCompany Sizeconvenience sample of 23 Chinese companies. The participantsThe participating companies in the study represent businesses ofwere identified by Beijing Horizon Market Research Groupvarious sizes (Figure 2). Companies were first defined by their totalthrough its network of clients. As one of the leading marketsales (USD) for fiscal year 2004. Almost half of the 23 participatingresearch companies in China, Beijing Horizon has developed acompanies (47.8%) had annual sales ranging from $100 million tostrong client base of Chinese companies in a broad range of$999 million, 34.8% had sales that were below $100 million, andindustries and sectors. The inclusion of companies of varying17.4% had sales that reached and exceeded $1 billion.sizes in a variety of industries was to provide somerepresentation of the Chinese enterprise landscape. KeyCompanies were also defined by the total number of employeespersonnel in the corporate communication function for each firmin their organization. The companies were put into one of threewere contacted to take part in the survey. See Participantcategories: 1-999 employees, 1,000-4,999 employees, or 5,000Profile for details.and more employees. The participating companies for this surveywere fairly evenly distributed through the three categories withThe survey questionnaire consisted of two main parts. The first30.4% of the companies in the 1-999 category, 39.2% in thepart focused on the structure and practice of corporate communi-1,000-4,999 category, and 30.4% in the 5,000 and plus category.cation. It was largely based on the corporate communicationsurvey conducted by the Corporate Communication Instituteamong U.S. companies, and modified for the Chinese study. TheFigure2section on CSR was developed specifically for the study, and wasParticipant Profile –Company Sizebased on existing industry and academic studies on this topic.Companies in the study represent businesses of various sizes.The questionnaire was developed in English and translated intoChinese by professional researchers at Beijing Horizon. TheChinese translation was then checked and reviewed separately bybi-lingual researchers in the U.S., and discussions were held toreach an agreement on the final translation. The questionnairewas emailed to the participants for completion. As part of thedata collection and analysis procedure, the names and affiliationsof the respondents are held in strict confidence, and are not to beassociated with individual responses.Participant ProfileIndustry Sectors RepresentedCompanies that took part in the study were from a cross-sectionof industry sectors. A majority of participants came from thetelecommunications (21.7%), power/infrastructure (17.4%) andreal estate (17.4%) industries.The remaining participants camefrom a wide range of industries such as consumer products(13%), automotive (8.7%), financial services (8.7%), high tech(4.3%), industrial machinery (4.3%) and logistics (4.3%) (Figure 1).Companiesdefinedby2004totalCompaniesdefinedbytotalnumbersales(USD,millions)(N=23)ofemployees(N=23)Lessthan$100m1-999$100m-$999m1000-4999$1billionandplus5000andplus%4.7130.4%30.4%%8.43%8.74%2.93Respondent ProfileAll of the respondents were between the ages of 20 and 39, andmost of them were male (65.2%). More than half of them(56.5%) reported having a bachelor’s degree (B.A. or B.S.) as theirterminal degrees, while about one-fifth (~22%) had MBAs (Figure 3). Their undergraduate majors range across engineering,computer science, international business, management, languagestudies and communication.Figure 3Participant Profile –Educational BackgroundAbout 40% hold BA degrees and one-fifth have MBAs. Their undergraduatemajors represent a wide range of areas of study.Percent(N=23)UndergraduateareasofstudyInternationalbusinessB.A.39.1%MBA21.7ManagementB.S.17.4MarketingM.A.8.7Communication/advertisingM.S.8.7Some4.3ComputerSciencecollegeEngineeringLanguagestudies(e.g.,English,Chinese)Note:Duetoroundingerrors,thepercentagetotalmaynotaddupto100.5
6CORPORATE COMMUNICATION INSTITUTECorporate Communication Structure and PracticesThe study reveals the structure and practices of the corporate communication function within Chinese companies:•the importance of corporate communication, •the role of corporate communication,•the functions of corporate communication, •the status of certain special corporation communication functions (i.e., corporate identity, crisis communication),•the use of third-party vendors for corporate communication activities.IMPORTANCEOFCORPORATECOMMUNICATIONCorporate communication: An indispensable function?With Chinese businesses increasingly operating in a market-oriented environment, one of the first issues regarding corporatecommunication in Chinese companies is how important such a function is viewed by communication executives. To gaugeits importance within Chinese companies, respondents were asked whether their department would be the first to bear thebrunt of corporate downsizing.A majority of them (73.9%) reported that their department would be impacted “neither sooner nor later” than otherdepartments within the company. About 22% did believe that their department and its budgets would be the first to be cutin the event of financial misfortune, while 4.3% said that they would be the last to go (Figure 4). The majority response tothis question seems to indicate confidence regarding the importance of corporate communication and its indispensable placein relation to other management functions in a modern Chinese corporate enterprise.Figure4Corporate Communication as an Indispensable FunctionFor most of the companies in the study, corporate communication would notbear the brunt of corporate cutback.N=2373.9%.12%7%3.4AmongNeither soonerAmong thethe first toor later thanlast to be cutbe cutother dept cutsNote:Duetoroundingerrors,thepercentagetotalmaynotaddupto100.
A CHINA BENCHMARK STUDY 2006Top management involvement in corporate communicationA further illustration of the importance that Chinesecompanies are assigning to corporate communication is that,according to the respondents, the chief executive officer(CEO) is the top person responsible for corporatecommunication functions in most companies in this study(69.6%). Even among the remaining companies, there is aclear involvement of top management – 4.3% reported theCOO as the “top person,” as the rest reported “other” (e.g.,Board Chairman) (Figure 5). The findings suggest thatcorporate communication is not relegated to the lowerechelon of the Chinese corporate hierarchy. They alsoindicate the declining role and influence of the Communist Party in corporate communication.Increasing spending on corporate communication activitiesAnother indicator of the increasing importance of corporate communication among Chinese companies is the promisingforecast with regard to resources to be devoted to the function in the next fiscal year. Of the 23 respondents, 73.9% (or 17companies) were optimistic of a possible budget increase in 2006, of which about half anticipated an increase of more than15% over 2005. Among the remaining companies that expected budget increases, 5.9% and 23.5% anticipated budgetarygrowths of up to 15% and 10%, respectively (Figure 6).To support the growing role of corporate communication, respondents also anticipated a possible increase in their staff sizein fiscal year 2006, with no company foreseeing staff cuts. Seventy percent of the respondents reported a likely increase; ofthese, 37.5% anticipated the rate of increase to be greater than 15%. Almost half (43.8%) of the respondents, however,reported a more cautious figure of 5% when asked about the expected rate of increase (Figure 7). In sum, this positive trendin resource investment certainly attests to the perceived importance of corporate communication in the executive suite.7
8CORPORATE COMMUNICATION INSTITUTEROLEOFCORPORATECOMMUNICATIONCorporate communication often means different things to different companies. To better understand the role of corporatecommunication in contemporary China, respondents were asked to rate a series of statements on a scale of 1-5 (1 beingstrongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree). The primary responses in this category pertain to managing the company’simage, reputation and publicity, and to providing support for marketing and branding strategy (Figure 8). Respondents alsogave high marks to corporate communication’s advocacy function, such as engineering public opinion in favor of theorganization, and for its role to serve as a source of public information about the company.On the other hand, despite top management involvement in the process, the advisory role of corporate communication tothe CEO and the company didn’t receive high a rating. The role of corporate communication in forging relationships –whether with employees and/or with external constituents – was among the lowest in ranking.Figure8Role of Corporate CommunicationCorporate Communication is primarily to manage corporate image and reputation,and to support marketing and branding strategy.RoleofCorporateCommunicationMean(Std.Deviation)*Managerofthecompanysimage4.61(.499)Driverofcompanypublicity4.61(.583)Supportmarketingandsales4.52(.593)Brandingandbrandperceptionsteward4.48(.790)Managerofcompanysreputation4.43(.788)Sourceofpublicinformationaboutthecompany4.30(.974)Advocatororengineeringofpublicopinioninsupportof4.13(.968)companypoliciesCounseltotheCEOandthecorporation3.65(.775)Corporatephilanthropychampion3.61(.988)Managerofemployeerelations/internalcommunication3.48(1.123)Managerofrelationshipsbetweenthecompanyandallof3.48(1.039)itskeyconstituentsManagerofrelationshipsbetweenthecompanyanditskey3.30(1.146)non-customerconstituents*Meanscoresona1-5scale,with1beingstronglydisagreeand5stronglyagree
A CHINA BENCHMARK STUDY 2006FUNCTIONSOFCORPORATECOMMUNICATIONThe concept and practice of corporate communication being so broad, we were also interested in finding out what specificfunctions constituted corporate communication in these companies. Respondents were asked to identify from a list offunctions the ones viewed as part of corporate communication in their companies. The findings reveal that brand strategyand media relations (both mentioned by 87% of the respondents), followed by internet communication (82.6%), were seenas the key functions of corporate communication among the respondents (Figure 9A).This certainly reflects the current movement towards the pursuit of branding among Chinese companies in developingcompetitive advantages. Furthermore, with the Chinese media undergoing remarkable transformation since the reform begantwo decades ago, the notion that they still play the sole role of a “propaganda” mouthpiece no longer holds true. Most ofthem are now “for-profit” organizations, and mustrespond to audience information needs to attractadvertising. Such a change has significantimplications for corporate communicationpractices. With the explosion of media outlets(including the internet media) in China, it is nowonder that managing media relations isconsidered a critical part of the corporatecommunication function.On the other hand, functions typically associatedwith public relations, such as executive, internal,and crisis communication were lower down on thelist. Similarly, issue management, corporate socialresponsibility communication, labor and even investor relations received less than 50% of theresponses (Figure 9B). This seems to suggest thatcurrent corporate communication practices amongChinese companies are more driven towardsconsumers and the general public, as opposed tointernal stakeholders and investors.9