The company that will be focused on in this study will be the Coca-Cola Company which is the world’s major retailer, manufacturer and marketer of soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages. The aspect of Coca-Cola’s business that will be assessed will be communication and the success of effective communication strategies used within the company. The business communication techniques used by the company will be discussed to determine whether they have contributed to the overall success or failure of the company.
Effective business communication refers to the type of language and communication approach that is used by an organisation to promote a product or service as well as relay on important information that is needed to manage the supply chain of a company. The various aspects that fall under business communication include product branding, marketing strategies, consumer behaviour, public relations, corporate affairs and customer relations (Guffey & Almonte, 2010).
Business communication is an important activity for organisations as it allows the managers and employees of the organisation to maintain communication channels which will be beneficial in achieving the organisational goals and objectives. The techniques and methods that are used in business communication include video conferencing, emails, reports, presentations, teleconferences, web-based communication, forum boards and meetings which can be face-to-face, audio, video or telephone meetings (McLean, 2010).
Business communication differs from other forms of communication in that the main purpose of communication is to ensure that the business gains or maintains profitability. All forms of communication within the organisation are directed towards profit-generating activities that will sustain the functions of the business. Business communication is, therefore, an important activity for organisational managers and chief executives who are focused on expanding their businesses and achieving high-profit margins (Guffey & Almonte, 2010).
Today’s organisational decision-makers bring a variety of personal differences when it comes to making suitable decisions within the organisation. Various management researchers such as Rick Spence have been able to observe that improving the vital processes of an organisation such as decision making and communication will lead to the success of the business in the knowledge economy of the future.
The current work context within many organisations has placed a lot of emphasis on good communication which has been viewed to be an integral part of career advancement within an organisation. Business communication skills have become important for many organisational managers given the various challenges and changes that are taking place in the technological, political and economic environments of an organisation (Guffey & Almonte, 2010).
Emails, instant messaging, video conferences and other technology based communication channels have allowed business communicators to take part in communication activities within their respective organisations. According to Guffey and Almonte (2010), business communication skills are learned to enable business managers to sustain effective channels of communication in a dynamic and demanding world environment. The writers have highlighted various business trends that denote the importance of communication skills in business operations. One of these trends is innovative communication technologies such as instant messaging, email, audio and video conferencing which have enhanced business communication across local, regional, national and international countries (Guffey & Almonte, 2010).
Flattened or reduced management hierarchies are also important business trends directed towards business communication activities where organisations that want to compete in their respective markets reduce expenses incurred by their top managers. This will have an impact on business communication, where the frontline employees of the organisation will have fewer managers to make decisions. These employees will make decisions and also communicate them to customers and their colleagues without involving their supervisors or line managers. By allowing employees to engage in decision-making activities, managers can engage in a more participatory approach of running the company (Guffey &Loewy, 2010).
Managers have also become more participative when it comes to organisational matters, and this is an important business trend because it pulls away from the days of command and control within management. Managers are expected to participate in human resource activities with their employees where they are required to understand and contribute to the overall success of the organisation.
The performance of duties and the improvement of productivity is not a task that has been left to managers but to every individual member of the organisation (Ellis, 2009). The increased emphasis on self-directed work is another important trend that is related to business communication where teams are increasingly being used to gather important business information and also implement decisions that will be beneficial to the performance of the organisation. Communication skills play an important role in these self-directed teams, especially when it comes to sharing solutions and managing conflict (Guffey & Loewy, 2010).
Heightened global competition has forced companies to adopt business communication practices that will ensure that they sustain a competitive edge over their global competitors. Global competition requires business managers to interact with people from different cultures and religious backgrounds, and they, therefore, have to invest in business communication skills to foster such interactions (Boulden, 2009).
New work environments are also new business trends that require business communicators to be effective and efficient in their work duties. The emergence of mobile technologies and the growing balance between work and family has forced many employees to adopt flexible working arrangements that are meant to cater to their needs. These new work environments require employees to engage in more forms of communication so that they can be able to stay connected to their work environments. Business communication, therefore, plays an important role in the changing organisational environment (Guffey & Almonte, 2010).
Business Communication and Success
Communication in today’s business environment portrays the difference that exists between the success and failure of a company in the global market. Business communication is beneficial to an organisation because it connects the various branches of an organisation to specific departments and business units in the internal and external environment of the organisation. Good communication channels are important for an organisation as they help to ensure that there are efficient business operations at all levels of the organisation.
Efficiency leads to increased business productivity and performance, which in turn leads to increased profit margins. The opposite is true where poor communication strategies within the business environment lead to cases of inefficiency in business operations which in turn lead to poor productivity and loss of profits (Hartley & Bruckmann, 2002).
Increased organisational efficiency is not the only benefit of good communication within a business. Business communication is also important for the coordination of business activities within an organisation. Communication tools and techniques allow managers to communicate their ideas and opinions of the direction they want the company to take. Executive officers can use approaches such as emails, video conferencing and meetings to coordinate the efforts of their employees in achieving the organisation’s goals and objectives.
Without such tools, managers would be unable to relay important information to their employees which they could use to increase productivity within the organisation. Proper communication vocabulary and languages act as an important basis for decision-making activities as managers can involve the use of business communication approaches to make important strategic decisions (Namita, 2009).
Business communication increases the managerial efficiency of a company’s chief executive officers because of the flow of information meant to sustain the organisation’s activities. Since most communication vocabularies and techniques enhance the coordination of business activities, managers who utilise these approaches can increase their efficiency to the desired levels. Business communication also promotes cooperation and industrial peace within an organisation because the organisation’s managers have sustained an important connection with their employees (Lehman & Dufrene, 2011).
Effective business communication is beneficial to an organisation because it helps in boosting the moral and motivation levels of employees. When employees are involved in the decision-making activities of the organisation, they become more motivated to perform their work duties, thereby increasing the productivity of the company. Communication, therefore, becomes key to the success of an organisation within its environment of operation as managers and employees can relay vital information that will be needed to conduct business operations successfully. Good communication forms the foundation of sound management, which proves to be a beneficial component of a successful company (Lehman & Dufrene, 2011).
Business Communication in Coca-Cola
Since the Coca-Cola Company was established 1886 by Dr John Stith-Pemberton, it has enjoyed considerable success over the years, and this has mostly been attributed to the product innovations done by the company in the form of non-alcoholic beverages, refreshments and soft drinks as well as brand marketing strategies. The type of communication structure adopted by Coca-Cola has also played a significant part in the success that has been enjoyed by the company over recent decades.
The company has however been prone to the various global challenges that have affected most countries in the world such as the rising costs of living, the down turn of the global financial market and the erratic economic environment in which Coca-Cola operates. During the financial meltdown that took place in 2007, the new chief executive officer of the company, John Brock, needed to communicate the strategic direction that the company would take to deal with the volatile business environment (Cisco, 2007).
Brock was able to develop a comprehensive communication strategy that was meant to relay important information on the type of leadership agenda he would adopt as well as the type of communication structure that the management of the company would use to communicate with their employees. The need for a new business communication strategy was mostly born out of a desire by the new CEO to ensure that Coca-Cola remained relevant in the rapidly changing business environment. The changing consumer preferences, retailer consolidation and the rising costs of production played an important role in coming up with a new strategic direction for the company. All that was needed was to come up with an effective business communication strategy that would communicate this idea to the company’s employees (Cisco, 2007).
The communication approach adopted by the Coca-Cola Company utilised language ideas that had been tailored to the company’s global market while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the company’s operations (Neuez, 2003). The main objectives of the executive communication strategy were to create a new vision and strategic priorities that were meant to help the company realise this vision. The strategic priorities that would be addressed in the business communication activities included growing the value of existing brands and expanding the product portfolio, transforming the go-to-market model adopted by the company to improve Coca-Cola’s effectiveness and efficiency, attracting, retaining and developing a highly talented and diverse workforce (Cisco, 2007).
The business challenges that faced Brock and his top managers within Coca-Cola included how to efficiently communicate these changes of strategic direction to the company’s employees and also how they were going to develop a common vocabulary that would ensure consistency of messaging and other communication approaches within the organisation. Brock also faced the business challenge of maintaining a personal connection with the over 70,000 employees working for Coca-Cola.
To deal with these challenges, the business communication strategy adopted by Brock was meant to be tailored towards the communication needs of executives of the company where they would be able to relay the strategic direction of the company to their employees through the use of live video feeds, audio and video conferencing, broadcast voicemails and emails (Cisco, 2007).
The aspects that were focused on in the business communication structure of Coca-Cola included Coca-Cola’s brand positioning which involved the physical uplift of Coca-Cola products to suit the global markets needs and expectations, the creative and brand idea of Coca-Cola which involved designing products that would reflect the current market’s expectations and the brand voice of the organisation which was meant to communicate to all employees and clients of Coca-Cola about the company’s brands to ensure there was brand uniqueness.
Other aspects that were included in Coca-Cola’s communication structure include media relations, advertising and marketing activities, public relations activities and promotional programs that were meant to market the company’s products to various markets around the world (Neuez, 2003).
The main goals and objectives of the communication structure adopted by the company included increasing awareness of the company’s products amongst Coca-Cola’s target markets by a margin of 5 per cent. This small percentage was suitable for the company, given that Coca-Cola’s brand name is well known around the world. Another objective of Coca-Cola’s business communication structure was to increase emphasis on the differences that existed between the company’s products and those of competitors. The company had been able to achieve product differentiation for a long time with its Coke beverages and soft drinks because it was able to keep the formula for creating the Coke brand a top-secret (Neuez, 2003).
The business communication activities of Coca-Cola also focused on maintaining the brand preference of non-alcoholic drinks amongst the company’s consumers where the company focused on repositioning its soft drinks to maintain the brand preference amongst consumers. Coca-Cola’s success with its products has mostly been attributed to its aggressive marketing activities which have seen the Coke brand being the most recognisable in the world with regards to soft drinks. The company has capitalised the use of the media in its marketing and promotional activities where many of its adverts have been displayed on print media, television, online adverts and outdoor adverts such as banners which are displayed in billboards (Neuez, 2003).
The Success of Coca-Cola’s Business Communication Strategy
The success of the business communication strategy that would be adopted by the company mostly relied on Brock’s ability to get Coca-Cola’s entire employee base on board with the new strategic direction. Brock had to convince the various managers of Coca-Cola’s affiliate companies around the world and the 40,000 field employees who delivered products to the company’s consumer markets to adopt the new strategic direction for the company.
The CEO was faced with the uphill task of ensuring that all the 74,000 employees of Coca-Cola understood the company’s new vision and goals and that they could direct their own individual efforts towards achieving the company’s overall strategy. The existing internal communications process that was being used by the company’s managers was inconsistent and unstructured which made it difficult for the company’s managers to communicate the direction that the company was going to take to achieve success within the global market (Cisco, 2007).
The business communication process that was developed by Brock and his executives was directed towards facilitating a collaborative framework between the company’s management and employees. Brock created a Communications Council that would represent the senior management of Coca-Cola when it came to developing a suitable communication framework to be used by the company’s managers. The council involved the services of Cisco Business Systems in the United States to develop a business communication strategy for Coca-Cola that would involve a common vocabulary which was critical in communicating the new strategic direction to the 74,000 employees of Coca-Cola (Cisco, 2007).
The results of the business communication process saw Brock together with the executive leaders of the company addressing the company’s employees through a live video feed in February 2007. Brock was able to relay the strategic direction that Coca-Cola would take so as to achieve growth and expansion of the company’s product portfolio and also improve the efficiency of business performance and operations.
The immediate feedback received from the live video showed an overwhelming response from the company’s employees who were satisfied with the new communications approach adopted by the company. The ability to see and listen to their CEO through a live video feed established an important personal and actionable connection with the company’s employees. The new strategy emphasised the importance of communication which was the major strategic enabler of Coca-Cola’s operations (Cisco, 2007).
Brock was able to communicate the strategic direction of the company to Coca-Cola’s employees, demonstrating a consistent and structured business communication strategy. There was improved employee confidence with the management of Coca-Cola as employees became more satisfied with the type of communication channel introduced by CEO. A survey conducted in the Chicago, Atlanta, Holland and Belgium affiliate companies of Coca-Cola revealed that 89 per cent of the company’s employees were confident in Brock’s ability to implement the new strategic direction for the company that would see product sales and profitability increasing (Cisco, 2007).
Coca-Cola’s business communication strategy was able to achieve a common global vocabulary and language that would be used in the various companies around the world regardless of the cultural backgrounds and history of the host countries. The business communication strategy also ensured that Coca-Cola’s business operations were closely aligned with the various business units and departments that formed the organisation. The business communication strategy of Coca-Cola was, therefore, successful in increasing the overall productivity of the company.
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