- Authentic Enterprise
The Authentic Enterprise held center stage for two and a half days recently at a gathering of leading academics, corporate and agency practitioners. It definitely accomplished one of the key objectives by encouraging dialogue on the outcomes the white paper describes. This was the third Academic Symposium, hosted by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire and jointly sponsored by the Arthur W. Page Society and the Institute for Public Relations. The thirty attendees included thought leaders from the academic community, as well as others with corporate and agency leadership experience. The objective of the Symposium is to consider a wide range of issues of interest to those involved with developing and presenting curricula in corporate communications, public relations and related fields in both schools of business and communication.
At this year’s Symposium, the group considered various responses from the academic, corporate and agency worlds to The Authentic Enterprise report of the Arthur Page Society.
One of the desired outcomes of the paper is to encourage a global dialogue among CCOs, CEOs, and other members of the C-Suite to deliver the kind of outcomes that the paper speaks about. The paper has already served as a source of discussion at several Page Society and other industry gatherings and will continue to be used in this way in the future.
The Symposium was hosted by Paul Argenti, who has written extensively on the subject of corporate communications and whose textbooks are widely taught in the field. Argenti serves on the Page Society board and has taught at the Tuck School of Business for 26 years.
The symposium is unique in that it mixes those who teach communication in a business school environment with those who teach the discipline in more traditional schools of journalism and communication. Among the institutions represented at the symposium were the Harvard Business School, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Virginia, Syracuse University, Brigham Young University, Drexel, New York University, and Boston University.
It would be impossible in a single posting here to capture the richness of the discussion that ensued throughout the symposium. But a few impressions stand out in my mind.
Much of the discussion focused on the concept of authenticity. One attendee expressed that authenticity has its roots in moral philosophy. Authenticity means not being a product of extrinsic forces, but intrinsic ideals. These philosophical roots of authenticity raise the question: shouldn’t we be authentic first as individuals in order to make our function and our organizations authentic as well? What then do we stand for as individuals and how do we translate this into the roles we serve in our organizations?
A related discussion centered on the role played by the chief corporate communications officer in helping companies manage in a more authentic way. Are we the sole protectors of corporate values? Should we own this function or influence it? Many felt that the entire leadership of an organization–and ultimately the CEO–was responsible for defining its values and then behaving in a way consistent with those values. But most agreed that the CCO has a major stake in influencing this behavior and that we should take this responsibility very seriously. In this regard, many who teach questioned the degree to which we are teaching students about the importance of instilling a value system within a corporation and the role of corporate communications in implementing and managing these values.
The consensus was that the role of building a more enlightened corporate consciousness is shared by all in the C-suite, but the CCO plays an important part in serving as the voice of the many stakeholders who aren’t in the room when key decisions are made. This includes employees, shareholders and customers.
Parts of the discussion confronted an interesting juxtaposition. Those who teach corporate communication in business schools feel that there is a growing appreciation among their students and faculty colleagues that to succeed in business students need to better understand the fundamentals of communication. Yet those who teach in traditional schools of communication and journalism feel their students are underequipped in understanding fundamentals of business. One who teaches in a communication school maintained that on 75 percent of these campuses, the interaction between the business schools and communication schools is poor. Students continue to be educated in silos. Marketing is taught in business schools and students in communication schools and departments often have difficulty enrolling in basic business courses. Clearly educators also need to focus on the realities set forth in The Authentic Enterprise and begin to redefine how both communication and business principles are being taught to tomorrow’s leaders.
I came away from the symposium with a deeper respect for the ideas embodied in The Authentic Enterprise. Whether one agrees with every conclusion of the paper or not, it clearly provides a basis for deep dialogue. I plan to use it in a course I will be teaching in the fall at The College of Charleston on Strategic Communications Management. Through my students I am certain I will learn even more about how these concepts resonate and how they can be used to shape the future of our profession.
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