Nike Organizational Communication Strategies Analysis

Nike Organizational Communication Strategies

Nike, which is a company based in New York, is a global leader in the sports market since the late 19th century. Founded by Phil Knight in 1972, Nike has been at the frontline in providing athletes with sportswear and gear across a variety of different sports. It is widely agreed that communication is an important tool necessary for the success of any organization. The sports industry is unique when compared to other industries in that the innovation of sports products is rather fast and products are easily affected by customer preference and emotions. Because of this reason, sports giants like Nike has ensured that their communication strategies remain at the very top level in order to ensure that the organization performs optimally (Cheney et.al, 2004). The main aim of this study is to examine and analyze the organizational communication methods that are employed by Nike and attempt to examine the effectiveness of both the written and verbal communication with regard to the manner in which it is executed. More specifically, this study will assess the written works of the organization, and try to view the effectiveness and impact of the communication with regard to its mode of transmission.

            The communications strategy that is employed by any organization should meet the requirements of the products and services that it produces. The communication strategy used by Nike directly communicates to both the customers and the employees. The communications strategy employed by any organization should also represent the mission of the company and the values in which it believes and stands for. Utilization of a marketing communication mix plan allows an organization to promote its products and business while at the same time minding the dynamics of the market.

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The marketing communications mix involves the use of tools media and messages. Tools are interchangeable and can be used for achieving a variety of objectives. For instance, a tool such as personal selling can be used to inform the decision to buy while a tool such as advertising can be used to create awareness about the product (Fill, 2002). Nike has different customers. The company makes shoes for men, women and children of all ages. Additionally, the company is not only focused on shoes but also designs other athletic products like jackets, shorts, socks, caps, tracks, balls and other sports gear (Zick, 2013). The mission of the company is to provide inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. In order to communicate effectively with its wide customer base,

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Nike has been making use of Visual communication mainly. The use of visual advertisement has proven to be an instrumental method for Nike to effectively promote its products and communicate with its customers. Nike mostly makes use of sponsored athletes from various sports to promote their products (Zick, 2013). These athletes are usually popular and famous individuals and this technique has greatly increased the company’s customer base. Nike has recruited several athletes in different countries as brand ambassadors including Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Lance Armstrong to spearhead advertising campaigns that will increase the salient nature of their brand by playing on consumer inclination to act, behave and dress as their favourite athlete. Moreover, the loyalty that most fans display for these fans turns to brand loyalty for Nike. However, this kind of advertising strategy has not been without its drawbacks, brand ambassadors have been involved in scandals over the past which has reflected badly on the company.

            Customer support is also another important element of organizational communication that is critical for the success of a company. It is important that consumers are able to provide feedback on their experiences with certain products or services or gain assistance in case of any issues with the product. Because of this reason, many companies in the modern world have been making use of customer support help-lines that operate around the clock to ensure that each and every customer is satisfied and assisted in case of any arising issues. Nike has provided its customers with efficient customer support that will respond to any queries via different platforms from social media platforms to emails and even calls. Another issue that is of great importance especially in the sports industry is product personalization. The modern world has become increasingly dynamic because of rapid developments in spheres such as fashion and technology. Because of this reason, there are more and more customers that prefer customized products to the conventional and originally designed products. Many customers prefer goods in certain colours or with some personalized writing these days. In order to satisfy this growing need, Nike has developed the NikeId. This is an online account that allows members to personalize certain products and have them created within a limited amount of time (Mumby, 2018). For example, if a certain shoe is being offered in only three different colours, then a customer that would want a customized version of the same product would simply have to go online, log in to their Nike account and personalize their product according to their specification. This modern mode of consumer interaction has proven instrumental for Nike in its customer relations.

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            Effective use of visual communication can also be seen in the manner in which the company brands itself. The Nike swoosh symbol along with the slogan of ‘just do it’ has especially positioned the brand of the company in the minds of the consumer through the use and identification of Nike products globally. The mixture of advertising, personal selling and direct marketing has allowed Nike to effectively promote its products to an international market and to ensure that its brand image is strengthened to maximize on profits (Mumby, 2018). It is important to also note that Nike has also been at the forefront of social media marketing. The modern world is filled by social media enthusiasts. Rapid developments in the telecommunications industry have seen the rise of the social media frenzy and today, most young adults and teenagers remain glued to their phones and prefer to use social media platforms as their preferred mode of communication with friends and loved ones. Because a large percentage of the organization’s customers are from this bracket, it is important that Nike is familiar with the current trends and changes in Social media and ensure that the company can communicate with customers on a variety of social media platforms (Mumby, 2018).

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            The use of public relations is also another critical element of the communications plan currently employed by the company. The use of public relations by Nike is a means of dealing with the numerous social issues that challenge its business operations. The use of public relations by Nike has been instrumental especially in issues such as the use of sweatshops and as well as handling the pressure of implementing green technology. The utilization of public relations is also important for the company to communicate and deliver information with stakeholders with regard to present and future activities of the firm. Nike also sponsors numerous sporting events as well as athletes. The company uses these activities to target different customers’ with regard to whatever the company does to deal with the social issues that are relevant. The use of public relations in Nike’s communication plan is to deal with social issues as well as promote the brand (Zick, 2013). Doing this ensures that both future and present customers create a better idea and perception about the brand and its products. Conclusively, Nike employs the use of effective communication plans to ensure optimal revenues are achieved from the sale of its goods and services.

Nike uses videos for internal branding and communication to its employees. This particular method enables the company to relay information to its employees in an engaging and exciting way. Nike runs several sports training camps each year for young athletes and prepares recaps in the form of videos to use in internal communication. When integrated into the company’s communication strategy, these videos make the workplace engaging and exciting, they boost the morale of the workplace and lead to greater levels of organizational commitment (Odell, 2015).

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Nike’s CEO Parker employs different leadership techniques in response to different circumstances within the company. One particular technique that elevates the level of internal communication within the company is the use of a participatory leadership style that has been found to improve employee performance considerably especially when leaders use low directive communication (Polston-Murdoch, 2013). This was clearly evident when Parker noticed that his R&D department had too many ideas and were unable to narrow them down to respond to the company’s needs at the time. He sat down with them and helped them determine what the needs of the company were and develop criteria to reject ideas that did not respond to these needs. Parker also believes in soliciting feedback from employees in every tier of the organization. This regard for feedback makes for effective internal communication and ensures the corporate structures within the company do not interfere with communication.

Communication Plan Executive Summary

This document describes a communication plan that is designed to improve the communication strategies employed by Nike Inc.

The goals of the communication plan are:

  • Improve the clarity and conciseness of messages delivered to external and internal audiences.
  • Improve the speed at which the company responds to the needs of its audiences.
  • Provide recommendations for the improvement of the effectiveness of written and verbal messages delivered to audiences.
  • Posit ways to improve the alignment of communication strategies with Nike’s vision, values and mission.
  • Recommend ways through which communication can be utilized to improve the internal and external perception of the organization.
  • Propose guidelines and procedures to be utilized in implementing the communication plan.

Target groups: Internal audiences; employees, the board of directors, managers and stakeholders, External audiences; consumers.

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Introduction

Nike Inc. utilizes marketing communication mix to promote its brand to external audiences as well as effective organization communication strategies to communicate with its employees. This is accomplished through the use of different communication mediators such as print and electronic media, social media, company websites, email, sponsorships, symbolic behaviour and affiliation with influential sports personalities. The communication strategies employed by Nike are indeed robust, and incredibly effective. However, there needs to be a more effective way to deliver information in times of crisis and controversy that will prevent deviation from the company’s values, mission and vision, ensure that all audiences are provided with trustworthy information that is free from justification and the ‘noise’ that results from passing information through the various layers present within the structure of the organization. Moreover, there is a need for more feedback from employees in distant locations to prevent the future occurrence of incidences such as the ‘sweatshop’ controversy. This can be accomplished by providing information that is clear and concise, aligning communication strategies to the core values of the company and adopting increasingly effective communication strategies that can meet the needs of its global workforce and clientele.

Communication strategies.

Strategies developed for communication seek to answer the questions of How? And Why? to the subject of implementation. To ensure conciseness and clarity of the message delivered to the various audiences, the message must maintain its clarity from the mind of the sender by ensuring that it is supported by facts and observations to remove the need for unnecessary details and meaningless explanations. The sender must also demonstrate empathy for the recipient by responding directly to the requirements of the audience he/she is sending the message to and use language that is appropriate to the level of understanding demonstrated by the audience. Moreover, multiple channels should be utilized to send the same message to ensure that there is no reduction in clarity through deformation. The message should contain simple language, easy construction of sentences which should be easy to grasp, highlight all the main issues, minimize its use of Jargon and provide no room for assumptions that would lead to misunderstanding. It is often the responsibility of the sender to ensure that his message is concise but information may lack clarity despite the sender’s intention to achieve this objective. This deficiency can be addressed by providing the action of the recipient to provide feedback that could be utilized to modify the message so that it is clearly understood. In the case of Nike, the objective of conciseness and clarity has been achieved through the simplified visual messages relayed to external audiences on social media platforms as well as electronic media. Nike values the feedback of its clients and actively responds to the needs of each individual client. However, there needs to be an improvement of the communication that exists between top-level executives and low tier labourers in the manufacturing process to prevent the exploitation and abuse of workers that has been the source of great controversy for the company over the years.

Nike has not conclusively dealt with the sweatshop controversy as well as sexual harassment allegations against its top-level executives and has employed various distractions to shift the attention of the audience from the crisis and drive up sales. However, the key to solving these problems lies in improving the speed at which the company responds to the needs of its audiences. It can be assumed that no American wants to buy products that were made in poor conditions nor does any individual want to work for a company that condones sexual harassment. To improve on the speed at which these issues were tackled, Nike needs to undergo a delayering of corporate structure in order to facilitate speedy communication that can transmit information without being subject to corporate filtering, delay, manipulation and distortion. There needs to be standardized processes and practices to respond to the needs of audiences and spokespersons need to be trained on how to communicate under stress to external audiences. This can be done using test simulations of crisis situations that familiarize the employee with the high-stress scenario and provide a safe way for the employee to make mistakes and learn from them. Communication strategies need to improve their consideration for cultural and language barrier within the internal audience and reduce the distance between members by ensuring every member under the employ of the company has access to the communication channels utilized by the company.

Recommendations

The multi-step flow theory could be utilized to improve the effectiveness of communication within the company. The theory states that information undergoes several relays as it moves from the sender to the recipient (Weimann, 2017). This is especially true in the case of Nike due to the significant levels that exist within its vertical structure. To reduce the noise that occurs from the action of the relays present within the organization, the company can use multiple channels of communication to send messages to its audiences, especially its internal audience. The same message could be communicated verbally, via a corporate email and through the company newsletter to make sure that everyone stays informed and no one distorts the message for whatever reason. The best practice is for the senders to inform themselves fully about the subjects of the message, ensure that they have a common ground of experience with the recipient and establish mutual trust with the recipient. The cybernetics theory should also come in to play to inform the company on the importance of regular feedback as a means to ensure the measurement of effectiveness and the initiation of corrective strategies to account for deficiencies (Krippendorff, 1985).

The company should communicate its core values to its employees and how their job descriptions relate to the corporate communication strategies within the organization. If employees do not understand how their jobs relate with the communication strategies within the company and how these strategies align to the company’s vision, mission and values, they will not see the necessity to implement the strategies. For instance, employees who are not informed that it is their responsibility to solicit feedback on how to provide more innovation to the company’s products may not see the need to do so. The company should also simplify their communication strategies in order to minimize information filtering. This can be accomplished through the use of multiple channels of communication to send one message to ensure that it does not get distorted as it goes through the different levels of corporate structure within the company.

The company should also act proactively on the feedback provided by the external audience and allocate resources to research that will facilitate innovation of products. The feedback provided should not be general but specifically measure patterns of behaviour in the company that need to be improved upon, should avoid making assumptions or judgments, focus on a desire for change within the organization and contain accurate and well-timed information.  There should also be a balance between the company’s internal needs and the external needs of the company to prevent a deviation from its values in an attempt to please the customers.

To improve its perception among its audiences, Nike should ensure that it regains its trustworthiness in the eyes of its internal audience by providing equity in compensation especially in overseas locations in Asia. The company should be consistently honest and keep the promises it makes to its external audiences with regard to corporate responsibility and ethical practices. The company should ensure that it communicates in a timely manner to its internal audience during and before controversial events and maintain accurate and detailed information about corporate decisions and organizational issues. Moreover, the company should limit its association with controversial figures within the society and effectively address the external audiences’ issues following the occurrence of negative organizational events in press releases and verbal accounts.

Guidelines To effectively implement the strategies and recommendations above, the company spokespersons and managers should be actively involved in improving the perspectives of the external and internal audiences. Employees, leaders and stakeholders should be in charge of ensuring that the messages they send are clear and concise, Leaders and managers should ensure that effective communication is achieved through the use of strategies that take communication models and theories into account. Moreover, the public relations department should solicit feedback from employees and consumers in order to provide measurement to the effectiveness of the company’s communication strategies. The company would utilize the existing channels of communications such as; company website, social media, corporate email, informal communication channels among company employees, press releases in print and electronic media, verbal accounts and existing spokespersons.

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