Building credibility in a time of change: how can the CEO and communication team ensure credible communication internally today?

Author:Moore, Tom
Position:Panel Discussion - Cover Story

Communication World and PR News hosted a panel discussion June 15 in Dallas, preceding IABC's annual international conference. We've hosted panels such as this on various topics for the past three years. By bringing together leading experts to discuss issues we believe are important to communicators, and the profession, we feel we get a pulse on areas that are of concern to communicators. This information will help PR News and Communication World plan editorial content throughout the year. It is a rare opportunity to gather this calibre of professionals into a room at one time, and record their candid discussions. We hope you will gain as much from this panel discussion as the editors. The report here distills some of the insights and debates that emerged in the two-hour session in Dallas.


Jerry Bryan, ABC, APR; vice president/director of corporate communication, Sverdrup Corp., St. Louis, Mo.

Roger D'Aprix, ABC; William M. Mercer Companies, Inc., Rochester, N.Y.

Tom Geddie, ABC; Tom Geddie Communication Planning & Evaluation, Dallas, Texas

Stephanie Griffiths, consultant, Material Assistance, Kenmare, South Africa

Mary Lewis, ABC, manager, corporate communication, EDS, Dallas

Paul Sanchez, APR, national practice director/communication, Watson Wyatt Worldwide, San Diego, Calif.

Sharon Voros, vice president/communication, Paul Ray Berndtson, Fort Worth, Texas

The old contract - real or assumed - between organizations and employees that rewarded commitment and loyalty with job security, if not career advancement, is fading away.

At the same time, organizations need hard-working, committed and resourceful employees to succeed in a fast-changing, competitive marketplace.

This apparent "disconnect" has strained top management's credibility, or at least suggests that they may be out of touch with the concerns of many employees.

The New Contract Between Companies and Employees

The written or unwritten contract between employers and employees today appears under stress, with corporations' expectations for employee commitment seemingly at odds with companies' willingness to ask more of employees at the same time that layoffs or reengineerings raise fears about job security.

"'Family-style'" loyalty no longer is a tenable concept today," said Jerry Bryan, vice president of corporate communication at Sverdrup Corp., St. Louis. "That one's outmoded in the sense that there's an implied sacrificial giving on both sides of the table that's just not there."

The concepts around which communication with employees about their roles and expectations of them should be built, said Bryan, can be centered around "shared values, mutual interests and continuous learning."

Most people today also accept that the days of lifetime employment at one company or organization are over. A dramatic bit of evidence that this is so came from Sharon Voros, vice president of communication with worldwide executive recruiting firm Paul Ray Berndtson, Fort Worth, Texas. She cited research done by her company showing that "78 percent of the executives [surveyed] are at any point in time looking for, or have their eyes open for a new job. Sixty-nine percent of top executives - and we're talking about people one or two levels below the CEO - have sent their resumes to prospective employers over the last 12 months. Sixty-four percent went on a job interview."

Voros' findings were echoed by a survey of the Dallas chapter of IABC. According to Tom Geddie, ABC, of Tom Geddie Communication Planning and Evaluation, Dallas, a 1995 survey showed that 45 percent of members had changed jobs within the past two years. "I believe, at least to a degree, that there's a much greater loyalty to a profession than there is to an employer," he said.

Leaders: Be...

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