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How does Topshop use the media to communicate to its stakeholders as part of its corporate communications?

Natasha Freeman Corporate Communications


In order to identify any weaknesses and possible improvements in media relations currently being operated by the Topshop division of Arcadia, an analysis of the current way in which stakeholders are addressed through the media will be carried out. Currently there are only a selected number of media channels which Topshop use, therefore the analysis will be used to determine if these are being used to the advantage of stakeholders who are important to Topshop, and if not what could be done in order to make sure that all stakeholders are communicated with appropriately. Correct corporate communication is an important issue as building a positive communicative relationship with stakeholders will benefit the reputation of the organisation. “Corporate communications is a management function that offers a framework for the effective coordination of all internal and external communication with the overall purpose of establishing and maintaining favourable reputations with stakeholder groups upon which the organisation is dependant” (Cornelissen, 2008, P5). All organisations use communication within the main framework of their operations and happens throughout formally and informally, as well as internally and externally. It is of high importance that an organisation understands the correct way in which to correspond with its stakeholders as the communication activities of an organisation can help protect the brand image and reputation (B.M. Van Riel and Fobrum, 2007, P25). The corporate image of an organisation should also be reflected within all of its communications with stakeholders including the conduct of its employees, dismissal of rumours, point of sale within store and its social media voice. The communications of an organisation can affect the company stakeholder’s opinions, which form the reputation of the organisation. The stakeholder’s perception of the corporate communications and how other stakeholders groups are going to react to media relations is important as the recognition that is received from others is what forms an organisations reputation. Better media relations will only benefit an organisation in building upon the company’s reputation through how the media perceives them and what stakeholders think of them as a result of how and what has been communicated. Throughout, the essay will demonstrate the recommended practices which should be followed when communicating with the media, critically analysing what Topshop are already doing and drawing conclusions in regards to how the media relations of Topshop could be improved.

Reputation is “how positively, or negatively, a company or similar institution is perceived by key stakeholders” (Gaines-Ross, 2008, P59). It is essential that the corporate communications, which are being used by a company, are successful as good corporate communication depends on the interactions


with its network of stakeholders. The “customer perceptions of a brand must align with the with the organisation’s identity, vision and values” (Argenti, 2003, P74). In terms of media relations it is vital that the media are communicated with appropriately, targeting the correct publications with the right messages to build a reputation platform in addition to responding responsibly to the media when in crisis. Topshop’s reputation plays a vital role in the sales and profits of the company, as being a retailer with high competition, a lot of sales are often based on brand reputation and the way the product is perceived by the potential customer. Topshop is a retailer, selling women’s clothing, and is part of the retail group Arcadia. Being part of the Arcadia group means that it is a Public company, meaning there will be shareholders who need to be communicated to. Starting back in 1964, Topshop now have 300 stores within the UK, opened stores aboard and feature in London Fashion Week. The target customer of Topshop is a 16-25 year old girl who is looking for key style pieces for her wardrobe. Being in the middle end of the high street, Topshop offers a range of reasonably priced clothes and have built a fun and fashionable brand around it (Topshop, N.D.). Identified stakeholders who Topshop aim to communicate with through the media will include customers, shareholders, communities and internal employees. Communicating with the media is a vital part within many areas of activities within an organisation, and different forms of media will be used to update and communicate with different stakeholder groups. Current outlets which Topshop correspond with the media through include press days, social media, the Arcadia website and Topshop website. Media relations is “the function and process of gaining positive media attention and coverage” (Cornerlissen, 2008, P261). When communicating to different stakeholders, the correct form of medium must be chosen in order for to transfer the communications to the correct stakeholders and for these communications to be effective. The media can be used as both a tool to communicate and persuade with and if media relations is used effectively as a PR tool, then it can help build reputation as well as build critical relationships with journalists (Bland et al. 2005, P1). The media can source information from any of the outlets through which a company is communicating to stakeholders through, whether a company aims the communications specifically at the media or not, and they can be used to generate an opinion on a brand. An organisation can use its website to effectively communicate corporate press information to its stakeholders. The information on an organisations websites should include up to date information including recent press releases and photographs. It is particularly important that all information can be adapted by a range of different stakeholders, who may be looking for updates within your website (Bland, et al. 2005 P76). The Topshop website includes information targeted a range of stakeholders including what Topshop personally does for a range of charities for community stakeholders as well as career information for current and


potential employees. The primary audience of the Topshop website is the customer, as the website’s principal function is generate sales from around the world through the e-commerce service. Whereas the Arcadia website is a corporate website, which includes a range of data and statistics as well as an array of press releases for all the retailers within the Arcadia group. The Arcadia website aims to target the media and investors of the Arcadia group, providing them with solid facts and statistics, although the information needed is not given in huge detail, which could result in stakeholders resourcing their information from elsewhere, leading to misconceptions in the media. On neither of the websites is there a direct section for investors/shareholders, which could give the annual reports or strategic information. A corporate social responsibility report will follow the format of a description of a number of environmental and social problems and then a report on what the organisation is aiming to do on helping to address the problem .Developing a CSR report is seen as a means of giving reputational advantages off of the back of strategic business efforts and is a marketing tactic by many large organisations (Cornelissen, 2008, P44). In regards to the Topshop communications, no CSR report is produced at present. There are links on the Topshop and Arcadia website to documents which give details on the efforts Topshop, as part of Arcadia, are making within the communities of the underdeveloped countries in which some of the clothing is sourced from. If Topshop are to use this as a marketing technique to build on reputation, then the communications need to be stronger and communicated more effectively. Highlighting these efforts through an actual report would strategically impress shareholders, communicate to communities that efforts were being made to help solve social and environmental problems as well as building on reputation through being ethical to customers and the media. Press releases are announced with the intention of transferring newsworthy stories to journalists, which will have appeal to the stakeholders of that company. Any press release written should include expectations, facts and figures including dates and interesting information relating to the topic (Cornelissen, 2008, P185). Media coverage is usually a good form of publicity for an organisation and when communicating with customers, a range of media should always be used and the right mix of media should be chosen in order to target the particular audience (Cornelissen, 2008, P113). To communicate most news stories to the media, Topshop release official press releases on the Arcadia website. Topshop will have a number of well established relationships with journalists within the media and this may therefore be the reason why there are minimal press releases on the websites. Although this may mean that not all possible media outlets are being communicated too, resulting in some stakeholders not being informed. Press days are those in which selected journalists are invited to an event in which new products for the forthcoming season are presented, so that the press can generate a buzz before products are launched into store. Press


days generate a wide amount of coverage over magazines and online media such as blogs, however due to only certain journalists being invited to these press events will only target and give information to certain stakeholders of the organisation. Any organisation needs strong policies on how their social media is going to be run, from the social media channels which are to be used, to the staff social media policy as well as the tone of voice which is going to be used. Topshop holds a strong presence on social media sites, personalising the voice of its social media as entertaining and stylish. Topshop social media targets a wide number of stakeholders, however primarily aims to interact with customers and potential customers. The Topshop Facebook page currently has 3,591,181 likes (Facebook, 2013). The page mainly aims to target and engage strongly with customers, showing a wide variety of products which are sold within the stores and linking back to the website. Topshop uses a strong integrated digital campaign, linking all of the social media which are currently being operated together including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. A number of the Topshop stores hold their own individual Instagram accounts, aiming to target the local community within the area the store is located in. Topshop social media does not aim to target the investors as this is somewhere this certain type of stakeholder would be looking for information on the company. It is fundamental when analysing the media relations of any organisation that they are compared to those of a similar company (Baikaltseva and Leinemann, 2004, P11). When making comparisons to other major high street competitors, such as River Island and New Look, Topshop is leading the way in the amount of like and followers on social networking sites, the partnerships and ventures that are being made and Topshop gets regular coverage in related media such as Vogue. Although within this market, there are not too many differences in the ways in which the media are communicated with other high street retailers. although Topshop like to be leaders and within retailing aim to create newsworthy stories, which will always receive attention, such as partnering with the biggest stars such as the Kate Moss, receiving media attention from the world news as well as specialist media such as online fashion monitors and print publications such as ELLE and Vogue. To conclude the media relations operated by Topshop currently holds some weaknesses, and shows room for improvement in order to communicate effectively to all stakeholders and build upon Topshop’s reputation and relationship with all stakeholders. Currently Topshop are communicating effectively with the media to target customers, using both own media and earned media such as social media and generating content for publications through press days. Topshop PR team currently do extremely well in communicating with the media through social media However there are faults in the media relations when targeting shareholders, government and communities even though it can be difficult


to target these stakeholders though the media.

The corporate media communications of any company needs to be addressed suitably as the reputation of the company can be affected if the stakeholders are not communicated with effectively. Overall from analysing the media efforts from Topshop, it is evident that certain stakeholders are valued through the media more than others, for instance all communications aim to target the customer suggesting that all marketing efforts aim to make sales rather than build upon a reputation. After looking at the corporate communications of Topshop, it is evident that the communications team are failing to use the media to communicate in the best way possible to certain stakeholders. From a PR perspective, media relations is practiced with the aim of transferring messages to stakeholders effectively. For example Arcadia communicates the minimum in regards to annual reports, profit and stock figures. Although only providing the minimum will conceal information that Arcadia may not want to be shared, it can leave stakeholders such as investors looking for more information elsewhere, which can leave room for manipulation. In order to build and adapt upon a resistant communication strategy, it is suggested that Topshop build upon their communications with their shareholder and community stakeholder groups, through the use of the media and relationship building with journalists, hopefully generating coverage in a range of different online and print publications, which are targeted more towards those stakeholders. It is important that Topshop use all possible media resources to connect with all stakeholders, in order to gain trust and understanding with them, resulting in the reputation platform To address these issues, Topshop could adapt their PR/Communication department so that there is a deeper knowledge of shareholder needs, meaning hiring staff with a greater understanding of figures and annual reports, communicating with a wider range of press, developing the media coverage which Topshop receives.


References Argenti, Paul., 2003. Corporate Communications 3rd Ed. New York: McGraw Hill Baikaltseva, Elena and Ralf Leinemann., 2004. Media Relations Measurement: Determining the Value of PR to your Company’s Success. Cornwall: Gower Bland, Michael. et al., 2005. Effective Media Relations: How to Get Results, 3rd Ed. Cornelissen, Joep., 2008. Corporate Communications: A Guide to Theory and Practice, 2nd Ed. Los Angeles: Sage Facebook, 2013. Topshop Like Page [Viewed 29 November 2013] Available from: https://www.facebook.com/Topshop?fref=ts Gaines-Ross, Leslie., 2008. Corporate Reputation: 12 steps to Safeguarding and Recovering Reputation. Hoboken: Wiley Riel, Cees BM Van, and Charles Fombrun. 2007. Essentials of Corporate Communication. Abingdon: Routledge.


Appendices

Board of Directors

Teenage Cancer Trust Local Communities

Charity

Appendix 1 – Stakeholder Map

Senior Management

Regional Management

Potential Employees

Store Managers Media Relations Officer

Management

Clothing

Make-up

Sales Advisors Customer Service

Non-Clothing Bloggers

Women’s Gossip Lifestyle

Board of Directors

Print Publications High Fashion LGP Fashion Reviews TPG

Sir Phillip Green

Treasury & Budget Holders Trading Standards Trade Unions

TV Online Media Women’s Lifestyle


Appendix 2 – Debate Topic Answers “All publicity is good publicity” Topshop are against the motion that all publicity is good publicity. In terms of being a retailer, which sells a range of different products on a weekly basis, Topshop can lose the loyalty of customers as quickly as it is gained. Selling women’s clothing means there is no cash cow product within the business that will help repeat sales, customer sales are purely based on reputation and fashion. If there is a story within the media that perceives the Topshop brand or the products which Topshop sells on a negative way, then consequently, the sales figures generated could be affected. An example of this is story being in the media is when PETA made a stand against angora fur being used in the production of knitwear and outwear products for many high street stores. Topshop was named as one of the stores which used angora fur in the process of making some of its products. As a result of being named in this story, Topshop encountered a range of media outlets ask for statements as well as the sales of these products dropped as customers went to other high street retailers, who had not been named in the scandal. “What the public thinks doesn’t always matter” Topshop are against the motion that what the public thinks doesn’t always matter. When in the retail industry, there are high levels of competition, with other stores very similar targeting the same target market with a similar product at a competitive price, which ultimately means that the customer and the public always matter. Topshop carry out a lot of engagement with their customers through social media, as at Topshop the customer is a very important stakeholder. Holding a presence on a number of social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has helped Topshop build a strong integrated digital engagement strategy. Developing a strategy like this will build upon the reputation platform that the particular stakeholder holds with the organisation. Alternatively if the opinion of the public never mattered, then Topshop would never generate any profits from sales, consumers need to like the products they are buying and see them better than a competitor’s product. “Shareholders are more important than customers” Topshop is a women’s clothing retailer, who agree with the motion that shareholders can be more important than customers. Within any large public organisation, the shareholders could be considered the primary stakeholders of a company as they have the power to vote out the directors of the company, if they believe the company is not being run properly. Topshop is part of the Arcadia group and in 2009, Topshop, as part of the Arcadia group, were submerged with Philip Green’s other retail giant BHS. This submersion has resulted in a number of benefits for both sides of the company, including better resources for stores and more money in the business. The shareholders also take a key role in the direction in which the company is running at


As much as customers and other stakeholder groups are important, shareholders offer an organisation financial stability. A case in point where this can be displayed is in 2012, when Topshop sold 25% of its own shares to a private equity company in order to gain finances to move and expand into the American market. This is a personal risk on Topshop’s part but not only has it paid off for the shareholders of Topshop but it is now providing the Topshop brand overseas. In comparison to another retailer who is primarily in charge of it as it is a Limited company, shareholders have only ever opened opportunities up for Topshop. River Island is a limited company, and one of Topshop’s major competitors. As a retailer, River Island have been increasingly falling behind in developments, losing out to trade as a result of other retailers developing in services such as click ‘n’ collect. Services like these have been able to be running so efficiently for so long within Topshop, due to the investor funding


Assignment Corporate Communications