Sie sind auf Seite 1von 32

EFFECTIVE

EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY

Effective Employee Communication within the Advertising Industry


Felicia C. Garcia
Texas Tech University

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY

Executive Summary
This report explores what employees at Agency X, a large west coast
advertising agency that services well-known national clients, finds to be effective
communication between employees in the workplace. Ten agency employees,
across different ages, genders, disciplines, work level, and years of experience
were interviewed to investigate general perceptions of effective communication,
as well as specific communication practices that do and do not work. The
interviews were held over a weeklong period and held at the agency where
every interviewee was currently employed. The interviewees ranged from
minimal experience at an entry-level position to having 20+ years experience
and holding a position in upper management.
Each interview followed a set of questions created by the researcher as a
loose guide, but each interview differed slightly. Cumulatively, the interviews
revealed that employees at Agency X perceive effective communication to be
communication that is human, direct, and delivered confidently. The results of
the interview were organized into three ideas communication as a function of
(1) personal disposition, a function of (2) message production, and a function of
(3) interpersonal skills. The three functions were loosely adapted from the three
trait models that Keyton and her colleagues (2013) found to be most prevalent

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


in interpersonal communication literature. In addition, it was a surprise to find
that while an affordance of technology may be intended to enhance
communication, it is actually perceived as a barrier in certain circumstances.
Technology, the participants felt, can sometimes make communication
impersonal and therefore less effective.
Based on the findings of this study, its suggested that the particular
agency and the industry as a whole consider explicitly encouraging
communication that is kind, concise, confident and when appropriate, face-toface in the workplace. Further research will need to explore what tools could be
used to foster human connectedness in the workplace and how creative
industries like advertising differ from stricter corporate organizations. What
about creative industries enables human connection that is missing in other
areas? Is it necessary for all workplaces or just creative ones? There is much to
be explored on the topic of effective workplace communication, especially
within creative industries.
Background
Communication practices in the workplace what works and what doesnt
have been studied widely from caretaker to patient in the health care industry
(Adamo, 2009; Bramhall, 2014; Samuels-Kalow, 2012); from teacher to student
in education (Jung, 2011); from business to client in the corporate world (Berens,

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


2007; Uttley, 1998) all the way to agency to client in the communications
industry (Beltramini, 1991; ELEB, 2009) among others. Communication
practices have also been looked at internally, where communication is examined
by how it is affected by hierarchy (Milliken et al., 2003; Yates, 2006). Kathryn
Yates 2006 research for the consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide has found
nine communication practices to be effective in the workplace. The nine
practices are organized into what Watson Wyatt Worldwide calls the Hierarchy
of Effective Communication, which includes three tiers: The Foundation Tier,
The Strategic Tier, and The Behavioral Tier. The Foundation Tier recommends a
formal communication process with employee input; links between desired
behavior and employee compensation; and effective use of technology. The
Strategic Tier involves tools that can facilitate organizational change, focus on
continuous improvement, and connect employees to the business study. The
Behavioral Tier aims to increase employee commitment by focusing on the
relationship between employees and their leaders. While research exists on
communication practices internally and externally among various industries, little
research exists on employee-to-employee communication practices specific to
the advertising industry (de Gregorio et al., 2012).
Advertising agencies differ from other business organizations in that there
are more departments than the traditional accounting, finance, and human

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


resources. Usually fully integrated agencies house three additional departments
including: media, creative, and account services. All departments differ greatly
from one another in both purpose and operation (de Gregorio et al., 2012).
In advertising agencies, especially those that are fully integrated,
employees are often grouped into teams that are not based on department, but
instead according to the different clients that an agency services and then
furthermore by the kind of work that is being produced (e.g. print, digital,
television, etc.). Teams vary but usually are a combination of some or all of the
following departments: account, strategy, digital, production, media and
creative.
Those in account services deal with client-to-agency (and vice versa)
communication; employees in strategy work with research; the digital
department takes care of online work; production people manage projects at all
different levels internally; work in media involves the planning and purchasing of
media vehicles; and the creative department focuses on creating the physical
work that is delivered to clients/consumers. Because the type of work differs so
greatly between departments, there exists an interesting dynamic people with
completely different roles and expertise work together to successfully complete
tasks.

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


Its also important to note how advertising agencies differ from corporate
organizations in terms of culture. The advertising industry is a creative industry
and as such, often fosters an informal work environment. For example, at many
agencies there isnt a formal dress code, explicit language is used freely, and
alcohol is often made available during work hours. Spaces like advertising
agencies not only aim to promote productivity but also to promote creativity. Its
the culture to promote productivity in a fun and free space, unlike the traditional
work office that is often perceived as prim and structured.
Communication
Before approaching communication effectiveness, we must define
communication in the context of this study. For this research, communication will
refer to what Fisher (1980) terms as communication behavior. Communication
behaviors include: acts, interacts, double interacts, or sets of them. Keyton et al.
have classified communication behaviors as inherently social, used to engage in
relationships with other members of the organization, and as linking actions of
individuals to macro communication patterns and collective structures. For this
study, communication will specifically be observed internally between
employees.
Communication Importance

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


Certain hard skills (e.g., ability to fix a car, build a computer, type) are
required for success in the workplace but more and more employers desire soft
skills desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not require
acquired knowledge(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/softskills) over
hard skills from their employees (Wilhelm, 2004). What exactly are the soft skills
that employers seek? Marcel Robles considers soft skills to be a combination of
interpersonal skills and personal attributes. In his 2012 study he found that
business executives consider the top ten most important soft skills to be
integrity, communication, courtesy, responsibility, social skills, positive attitude,
professionalism, flexibility, teamwork, and work ethic.
Employers are not the only ones who appreciate soft skills over hard skills.
It appears that research also indicates that employees dont attribute their work
satisfaction to hard skills. For employees, the meaning of work derives from the
connections with coworkers, not from the work itself (Sandelands & Boudens,
2000, p.46). When it comes to work relationships, especially, positive socialemotional communication is important when dealing with communication
problems (Barkse, 2009; Pullin, 2010). Keyton and her colleagues identified 10
of the most routinely used verbal communication behaviors and found four
factors that provide a basis for how employees communicate at work. The four
factors are information sharing, relational maintenance, expressing negative

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


emotion, and organizing. According to Keyton et al., a competent
communicator will not only know how to use communication skills to relay
information, make grievances, and organize work processes but will also know
how to use communication skills to maintain relationships in the workplace.
Furthermore, Keyton et al. (2012) equates communication competence
with communication effectiveness. Keyton and colleagues deduce that there are
three models within interpersonal communication literature that study
competence. The trait model is the first model and looks at competence in
terms of personality dispositions. Behaviors, they say, are expressions of
communication traits such as empathy and attentiveness (Weimann, 1977).
The second model looks at competence as functional communication (Burleson,
2007) where communication competence includes message production,
message processing, interaction coordination, and social perception. This
second model focuses on how information is disseminated and not so much on
what the content of the message is. The third model is an interpersonal skill
model where a communication behavior can be performed more than once and
that decision relies on looking at social norms and distinguishing good
communication behavior from others (Eisler & Frederickson, 1980). This can also
be explained by the social cognitive theory. The social cognitive theory offers
that people learn behaviors by observing others (Bandura, 1986). It can be

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


inferred, therefore, that communication practices can be learned through the
observation of others. I expect that this study will reveal that effective
communication is perceived as fitting at least one, if not all, of the models.
Specifically, if we consider that communication competence can be attributed to
recognizing social norms and distinguishing the good from the bad, as
suggested by the third model (Eisler & Frederickson, 1980), then its important
to note Aschs research that first found individuals to base decisions on majority
pressure instead of complying with what they know to be correct (1951). More
importantly to note about Aschs research is that normative influence can have a
negative effect on group-decision making, inferring that normative influence
may not necessarily be an effective communication practice. However, Bandura
argues that the social cognitive theory implies people learn behaviors by
observing other people and then self-correct their behavior based on the
outcome and social feedback (Bandura, 2008). If normative influence is to be
considered effective, then the research insinuates one must be able to decide
individually to agree or disagree with the normative influence and then either
comply with or correct the communication behavior when required (Bandura,
2008).
Statement of the Problem

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


Agency X is a large west coast agency that employs over 600 people and
serves numerous national clients. Not unlike many other advertising agencies,
this agency is organized into several teams where representatives of different
departments come together to collaborate on and execute exceptional work.
With such a high number of employees, its difficult to know which
communication practices are or are not effective amongst employees at a micro
level. As Columnist David Conrad says, communications do not always function
like a fine Swiss watch - all communication is complex and multidimensional with
plenty of room for conflict and misunderstandings. The way to combat conflict
and misunderstanding, he implies, is to master the art of effective
communication (2014). Therefore, the purpose of this study is to understand
what Agency X employees perceive to be effective communication between
themselves and their peers.
Research Question
RQ1: What do employees at a large west coast advertising agency
perceive
as effective communication in the workplace?
Method
With Keytons and her colleagues research in mind, a qualitative
approach was designed. In-depth interviews were individually conducted with

10

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


10 full-time employees working at the same advertising agency to examine the
agencys perception of effective communication practices. The size and caliber
of the company required that permission be requested from Human Resources,
the President of the agency, and the SVP, Director of Communications prior to
conducting the academic research. Once permissions were granted, the SVP,
Director of Communications strategically recommended 10 interviewees, in
order to provide variety across gender, age, department, title/position, and
years of experience. Each of the employees was contacted directly by both the
Director of Communications and the interviewer. The participants volunteered
their time under the conditions that their identities remain anonymous and that
the research be used for academic purposes only.
Participants
The participants varied in years of experience, discipline, age, gender,
and work level. Four of the participants have over 20 years of agency
experience, two are brand new to the industry, and four fall in between with at
least 10 years of experience. Out of the 10 participants, 6 are female and 4 are
male, ranging in age from lower twenties to upper fifties or early sixties. The
participants consisted of a mix between employees at all levels in the agency.
There were an equal number of upper-, and mid-level employees, but only two
entry-level employees were interviewed. The level and discipline of each

11

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


employee varied, however all were similar in that each of the disciplines
explicitly require internal communication. The interviewees held positions in
senior level management, account services, production, public relations, and
human resources. To protect anonymity, those positions/titles that have only
one person holding the position/title have been omitted and renamed
accordingly.
Upper-level employees
Zach, a Senior Account Director at Agency X has been in the advertising
business for over 10 years, held his current title for two and a half years and has
been at Agency X for four years now. Zach has an office that he shares with
another employee but at Agency X, a glass-door office signifies a certain level of
prestige. Not only does Zach oversee various teams but also is a part of one
himself. Zachs work is equal parts internal and external.
Similar to Zach, Denise has a glass-door office; however, Denise has no
office mate. As an upper-level employee, she is the only person to hold her title.
She oversees over 250 people across different departments, however mostly on
the creative side. While she does not necessarily work on a team herself, she
manages many people that do and has vast experience with close to 20 years in
the industry and 6 years at Agency X.

12

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


Elena has been in the advertising agency for over 22 years, at Agency X
for 13 years, and has been an upper-level employee for all of her time at Agency
X. Elena works as a leader but is a part of a team herself and the nature of her
experience in Human Resources has exposed her to many different types of
people.
The last of the upper-level employees, Nate, is also the only person to
hold his title but works with many people on any given day. Nate describes
himself as a salesman with much of his 20+ years of business experience dealing
with external communication; however, as an employee at Agency X for 16
years, he is well versed in internal and team communication, as well. Nate
communicates with employees at his level as well as many people from lower
levels across different departments including: media, analytics, creative,
production, account services, digital, and strategy.
Mid-level employees
Kelly is a Print Production Manager who not only manages her own team
but works closely with others outside her team. Shes been in the business for
over 20 years and has worked on both the agency and client side. Shes been at
Agency X as a full-time employee for almost a year but was a free-lance worker
at the company a few years back, and just before accepting the full-time
position.

13

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


Alicia is an experiential producer who has been at Agency X for over
three years but has been in the communications industry for over thirteen.
Before working in advertising, Alicia worked primarily in Public Relations. She
communicates with several people on a daily basis including her team, other
producers, and clients. Unlike many others, she also communicates very
frequently with the finance department.
Sara was recently hired at Agency X seven months ago to work in the
Public Relations department. Shes been in the communications industry for six
years, previously working at a PR agency. Although the nature of Saras work
requires her to mostly communicate externally, she works closely with a small
team and communicates with several people within the agency on a daily basis.
Jacob has been in the advertising industry longer than any other
interviewee with over 25 years of experience. As an employee in production
services, he not only works on a team himself but also manages a few teams.
Externally, Jacob works with vendors, printers, etc. but he primarily works with
account services, studio managers, several people from the creative
department, project managers and clients, when necessary.
Entry-level employees
Tracy is an Assistant Account Executive (AAE) in her first job in
advertising. Shes been at Agency X for about a year and previously worked in

14

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


the entertainment industry. As an AAE, Tracy communicates with her clientbased team, other AAEs across the agency, and the client. New to the business,
Tracy has been in contact with several people internally both within and beyond
her immediate team.
Mike is also new to advertising and the working industry. He holds the
position of a Junior Account Planner. Previously, he held the title of Account
Coordinator. Through both positions, Mike was required to communicate with
his specific planning group and other employees in digital, strategy, and
account services.
Interviews
All interviews were held at the interviewees work place, Agency X, over
the course of one week. Each interview was conducted at the time and place
most convenient to the respective participant, including shared spaces and
private offices. To keep the data collection as focused and consistent as
possible, a questionnaire was drafted and used as a guide for each interview,
and the same researcher conducted all 10 interviews. The 10 face-to-face
interviews varied in time, lasting an average of 16 minutes. While the manner in
which every interview was held remained consistent, each individual interview
was specifically tailored to the individual participants responses and therefore
no two protocols were the same. Participants were asked for permission to

15

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


record the audio of the interviews. Upon the completion of each interview, the
audio recordings were reviewed and then later deleted. After all 10 interviews
were held, the same researcher that conducted the interviews analyzed and
interpreted the data.
Analysis and Interpretation
Effective communication as a function of personality disposition
The dictionary defines disposition as the predominant or prevailing
tendency of one's spirits; natural mental and emotional outlook or mood;
characteristic attitude (Disposition, 2015). Thus a personality disposition can be
illustrated by looking at ones personality traits empathetic, charismatic,
passionate, etc. Participants were not directly asked if personality dispositions
play a role in effective communication practices; however, the idea of
personality disposition did indirectly appear quite often.
Zach, an Account Director, finds that when people are tension or conflict
adverse, it can make it difficult to work out an issue with another employee.
Zach is young and accomplished and very eloquently and matter-of-factly
expressed that he feels this generation is afraid of confrontation. While Zach did
not explicitly state personality dispositions or traits that make for effective
communication, its likely that Zach would consider an effective communicator to
be bold or direct or any other like trait that is the opposite of tension/conflict

16

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


adverse. Speaking of his own personal experience, he describes his position as a
bottleneck on either side, the conduit for creativity so you have to provide
enough Intel for someone to understand what youre trying to sayand be able
to flourish in their discipline. On When referring to effective communication,
Zach explicitly says that communication that is honest, concise, and
transparent is important to get things done, in fact he repeated this same
concept several times. The disposition to be honest, nice, and, transparent
doesnt come from the content of the communication message but from the
communicator.
Kelly, a print production manager, mentioned that the first question shes
asked in job interviews is how she deals with difficult people. With twenty years
experience, Kelly is aware that employers expect her to inhabit certain
personality traits. This suggests that her employers were looking to hire
someone with specific traits such as patience, empathy, flexibility, or whatever
trait a potential employer perceives to make communicating with various types
of people possible. Kelly herself feels that its important to understand different
personalities in order to be able to communicate well. Again, a personal
disposition. She summed this up well when she quoted someone she worked
with as saying that one must learn the cast of characters and learn the rules to
the game.

17

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


Elena used several terms that suggest disposition. As a senior level
employee working in Human Resources, she is well versed in what Agency X
looks for in its employees. She describes the people that are hired as
collaborative, calm and cool, descriptive, and yet recognizes that in any
given group some people are good at that and some people are less good at
that.
Many of the participants made similar comments, indirectly
acknowledging that much of effective communication is attributed to personal
dispositions; however, Denise, an executive employee, offered an interesting
perspective in her comments. While others responses to the question, What
does communication mean to you? imply that certain personality traits or
abilities can make for an effective communicator, Denise notes that not every
successful person in the industry inherently possesses those traits. For example,
Denise points out that creatives are different thinkers coming from different
backgrounds. She illustrated her point well when she spoke about how fortunate
she feels to learn so much from having a 12-year-old son with Autism. She
expressed how learning about her son has taught her a lot about people and
how to step out of her world and take a look from others perspectives. Not only
did she recognize that she needs to step outside of herself, but she also realized
not a lot of people know how to do that, especially people who are different

18

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


thinkers. Her solution, she says, is to model behavior that others can imitate to
make learning that behavior easier. Denises comments align with Banduras
Social Cognitive Theory and further support the idea that communication
behaviors are learned by observing others.
Effective communication as a function of message production
Surprisingly, message delivery was a recurring topic for many participants
when it came to defining effective communication. Every single participant
emphasized the importance of being clear and direct with information, whether
it is in person or technology-mediated communication. Most of the participants
referenced the fast paced nature of the industry and the importance of time to
emphasize this. Words like timeline, deadline, and timeframe were used
frequently. Nate, an executive employee, said it best when he talked about
advertising as a business that produces no tangible goods like others. As a
service based business he says, we only have time and talent. Denise
offered an illustration as well comparing effective communicators to a famous
writer You need to be like Ernest Hemingway and as effective as you can with
each sentence and each word you choose.
While all generally agreed that information communicated between
employees should be as direct and concise as possible, most participants also
acknowledged that there are instances where a lot of information may be

19

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


necessary. All largely agree that circumstance should determine the amount of
information necessary to convey and how it is delivered. The interviews revealed
that technology-mediated communication (email) is best for quick conversations
or information that needs to be documented to later be referenced. Face-toface conversation, which all participants reported to prefer over email, is most
suitable for longer conversations that require more detail. Kelly, Jacob, and
Nate specifically mentioned how impersonal email can be. Jacob has an
eccentric personality and a welcoming foreign accent. One might say that
talking is half his charm. Not only does he, along with others, recognize that feel
that communication can be hindered by email because it can be impersonal but
feels that when you communicate via email, you become somewhat braver.
People tend to be a little kinder face-to-face. Kelly agrees that email allows for
people to say negative things they would normally not have the courage to say
in person and expresses that as good as technology is, it is definitely hindering
social skills.
Along with keeping communication direct and concise, some of the
participants offered that confidence is a significant factor in the success of the
delivery of information. Confidence is especially key when discussing issues with
other employees. Sara believes that issues can be dealt with successfully, if a
person has enough confidence to address the issue. Moreover, Sara feels that

20

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


confidence is built when one is empowered by others to feel that way. Sara
previously worked in an environment where she was able to see firsthand that
confidence was lacking when people were not provided with the resources to
gain that confidence. She feels that just as confidence can be instilled by a
manager who empowers an employee, it too can be destroyed by an
environment that doesnt foster encouragement. Again, the social cognitive
theory that communication is learned by observing others applies here. Taken
from another perspective, Tracy, an AAE, feels that people are sometimes
afraid to speak up because they feel like its not their placeand arent
confident in their answer or their questions but if you do speak up thats how
youll learn more. As someone new to the business herself, Tracy views
confidence not only as a way to effectively communicate but as a way to
improve job performance. It seems that Sara and Tracy are not alone. The more
seasoned employees also agree that confidence is important. Denise believes
that with enough experience and confidence, you can say anything. Nate,
interestingly, directly attributes confidence to success in the workplace. He
notes that the smartest person may not always be the most senior person but
that charisma and confidence, which he equates to being ok with being
wrong, are important for effective communication in business.
Effective communication as a function of interpersonal skills

21

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


Overwhelmingly, the most prevalent theme that appeared when
analyzing the data was the importance of interpersonal communication skills.
Every single participant noted that they believe work relationships to be
extremely important. Interestingly, most of the participants attribute success in
the workplace to work relationships. While a minority believed that getting work
done is possible without the foundation of work relationships, most participants
strongly expressed that genuinely bonding with co-workers is necessary for work
success, especially in a team setting. This doesnt come as a surprise considering
that the secondary research indicated that both employers and employees value
interpersonal skills. Alicia, an Experiential Producer feels that work relationships
are extraordinarily important; however, she does not necessarily think that
work relationships and friendships are one and the same. Denise agrees stating
that co-workers should share information with one another that is personal but
not private. Mike, a Jr. Account Planner, acknowledges that both work
relationships and strictly task-related relationships exist in the workplace. He
feels that task-related relationships are the easier of the two to develop but also
the least effective. He thinks that the people who solve the problems the most
effectively and efficiently are those people that build [emotional] relationships.
To Mike, these emotional relationships are helpful because they create extra
accountability and establish trust for the unexpected, like an impromptu favor.

22

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


This is important to him as a person just beginning his career. He speaks this
way of communication because he has seen the effect in his own new work
experiences. Kate, Jacob, Zach, and Elena feel that the establishment of
relationships, ultimately produces better work. According to Zach, in our
business, very particularly, the relationships drive speed of turnaround,
understanding of specific topics, willingness to change, willingness to take
direction. For the others, relationships are more personal and just about
creating an environment that is healthy enough to facilitate good work.
Everyone agrees that relationships are important but how exactly
do the interviewees believe these relationships are formed? Nates answer
talking like a regular human is pretty useful. While not in so many words, the
other participants responses imply that they feel just as Nate does. Many simple
communication behaviors were referenced such as listening, speaking like a
human being, saying hello in the elevator, walking over to someones desk to
ask a question, etc. Furthermore, a few participants found it necessary to take it
a step further and tie identity to communication practices. Dana compared
communicating with employees to parenting, and both Jacob and Nate noted
that people have lives outside of advertising and as such, should treat people
like people. Zach, who recognizes that so much of communication is connection,
used an analogy to illustrate the power of interpersonal skills. In his reference,

23

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


Zach compares persuading a bar bouncer with $20 to persuading him with
conversation and empathy instead. He argues that the latter will be more
successful because people value connection. He believes this so much so that
he ends our conversation with a simple but profound statement Be a fucking
human being. So much of communication is connection . This statement is so
important because not only is it reflective of an effective communication
behavior but is reflective of the advertising culture as well.
While human relationships are desired, they are not necessarily the reality
all the time. Companies leverage technology, as they should, to make
communication more effective and efficient. Although technology, like email,
affords many different functions, it appears that it can also hinder interpersonal
communication skills. Speaking generally about humanity, Kate explicitly states
that email is not always appropriate and can be overused. Kate, as well as
Jacob, has noticed that people become more brave behind a computer and
therefore feel empowered sometimes to say things that arent necessarily kind
and would not be said to a person in a face-to-face conversation. Besides
appearing impersonal as Kate, Jacob, Nate, and Dana recognized, email can be
problematic for other reasons as well. Emotion cannot be evoked over email and
so many things may get lost in translation. Also, its easy for an email to become
confusing and convoluted. The participants generally appreciate email for what

24

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


it can do, but much prefer face-to-face communication and find it to almost
always be more successful.
Recommendations
The research revealed a few things: people seek human connection,
employees prefer information to be direct and concise, communication is
learned best by observing others, and confidence plays a large role in effective
communication.
Agency X currently does a lot to foster an environment of connectedness
between employees with the establishment of agency clubs, all-agency emails
featuring personal aspects of new hires, and weekly updates keeping all
employees informed about the happenings of the company, among other
things. The agency also clearly delivers good work, as made obvious by the
esteem and success of its clients. Some companies stand to benefit from formal
training programs that are aimed to increase effective communication in the
workplace; however, since the research revealed that communication is a
learned social behavior, a more organic route may be a better option. Perhaps
Agency X can benefit from explicitly encouraging employees to improve
communication practices but in such a way that is consistent with how the
agency already speaks to its employees. For example, when it comes to creating
and delivering information, the agency has a very clear and concise aphorism

25

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


that encompasses what the agency expects employees to produce. If this same
concept is applied to internal communication, its possible that it will be well
received, and implemented because it will be a short and memorable decree to
follow as opposed to a training program foreign to the agency.

Because

human relationship (connectedness, empathy, understanding, etc.) was so


prevalent in the primary research, its possible that industry and all work
organizations can benefit from exposing employees to different life
perspectives. A way to do this may be to invite specific communities that are
known to be different, such as a community of physically disabled persons, to
come into the workplace and interact with employees. The exposure to people
with different limitations than themselves can inspire use of interpersonal skills
such as courtesy that are known to be healthy for the workplace (Robles, 2012).
Other agencies, and creative industries, for that matter can also benefit
from adopting such a practice. Human connection is the overwhelming theme of
this research and as such, its clear that one of the most important takeaways for
any organization to understand is that employees are people with different
backgrounds, dispositions, and behaviors. The best way to communicate as this
research found, is clearly, confidently, and kindly.
Limitations and Future Implications

26

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


Limitations also exist with this research. Agency X employs over 600
people, but this study only interviewed 10 of those employees. While there was
variety across discipline, no one from the creative department was interviewed
due to lack of access. Perhaps in the future, a creative employees perspective
could be useful to understand how creatives particularly perceive effective
communication. This specific research was designed for only one agency, but in
order to understand effective communication practices in the advertising
industry as a whole, multiple agencies should be considered in future research.
It might also be worth exploring difference in advertising culture and
communication effectiveness between west coast and east coast agencies.
Future research may also further explore the role that human connectedness
plays in the workplace, by comparing employee communication and satisfaction
in creative industries to the stricter corporate organizations. Its evident that
effective workplace communication is correlated to workplace satisfaction and
company success but there is much left to explore when it comes to specific
factors that effect workplace communication effectiveness in the advertising
industry and all creative industries.

27

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY

References
Adamo, G. (2009). Appropriate linguistic expressions as effective tool for

28

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


interpersonal communication in clinical practice. International Journal Of
Communication, (2), 73.
Asch, S.E. (1951). Effects of group pressure on the modification and distortion of
judgments. In H. Guetzhow (Ed.), Groups, Leadership , and Men (pp.177190).
Pittsburgh, PA.: Carnegie Press.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social
Cognitive
Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Bandura, A. (2008). Social cognitive theory. In W. Donsbach (Ed.), The
international
Encyclopedia of communication [electronic version]. London, England:
Blackwell.
Beltramini, R. F., & Pitta, D. A. (1991). Underlying Dimensions and
Communications
Strategies of the Advertising Agency-Client Relationship. International
Journal Of Advertising, 10(2), 151-159.
Berens, G. (2007). Essentials of corporate communication: implementing
practices
for effective reputation management. Corporate Reputation Review, (1),
73.
Bramhall, E. (2014). Effective communication skills in nursing practice. Nursing
Standard, (14), 53.
Burleson, B. R. (2007). Constructivism: A general theory of communication skill.
In
B. B. Whaley & W. Samter (Eds.), Explaining communication:
Contemporary
theories and exemplars (pp. 105-128). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Conrad, D. (2014). Workplace Communication Problems: Inquiries by Employees
and Applicable Solutions.Journal Of Business Studies Quarterly, 5(4), 105116.
ELEB, S. (2009). AGENCY AND CLIENT PRACTITIONERS' PERCEPTIONS
AND
PRACTICES OF IMC.Journal Of Yasar University, 4(14), 2205-2236.
de Gregorio, F., Cheong, Y., & Kim, K. (2012). Intraorganizational Conflict within
Advertising Agencies. Journal Of Advertising, 41(3), 19-34.
Disposition. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved July 29, 2015, from
Dictionary.com
website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disposition

29

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


Eisler, R. M., & Fredericksen, L. W. (1980). Perfecting social skills. New York, NY:
Plenum
Jung, H. Y., & Reifel, S. (2011). Promoting Children's Communication: A
Kindergarten
Teacher's Conception and Practice of Effective Mathematics
Instruction. Journal Of Research In Childhood Education, 25(2), 194-210.
Keyton, J., Caputo, J. M., Ford, E. A., Fu, R., Leibowitz, S. A., Liu, T., & ... Wu, C.
(2013).
Investigating Verbal Workplace Communication Behaviors. Journal Of
Business Communication, 50(2), 152-169.
Milliken, F. J., Morrison, E. W., & Hewlin, P. F. (2003). An Exploratory Study of
Employee Silence: Issues that Employees Don't Communicate Upward
and
Why. Journal Of Management Studies, 40(6), 1453-1476.
Robles, M. M. (2012). Executive Perceptions of the Top 10 Soft Skills Needed in
Todays Workplace. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(4), 453-465.
Samuels-Kalow, M. E., Stack, A. M., & Porter, S. C. (2012). The practice of
emergency
medicine/review article: Effective Discharge Communication in the
Emergency Department. Annals Of Emergency Medicine,60152-159.
Sandelands, L. E., & Boudens, C. J. (2000). Feeling at work. In S. Fineman. (Ed.),
Emotion in organizations (p. 46). London, England: Sage.
Soft skills. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th
Edition.
Retrieved July 20, 2015, from Dictionary.com
website:http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/soft skills
Uttley, S. (1998). Effective Business Communication - Principles and Practice for
the
information age. (Undetermined). Teaching Business & Economics, 2(3),
33.
Wiemann, J. M. (1977). Explication and test of a model of communicative
competence. Human Communication Research, 3, 195-213.
Wilhelm, W. J. (2004). Determinants of moral reasoning: Academic factors,
gender,
richness of life experiences, and religious preferences. Delta Pi Epsilon
Journal, 46, 105-121.
Yates, K. (2006). Internal communication effectiveness enhances bottom-line
results. Journal Of Organizational Excellence, 25(3), 71-79

30

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY

Appendix

Interview Guideline
How long have you been at Agency X?
What is your position/title?
How long have you held this position?

31

EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY

How long have you been working in the advertising industry?


Have you ever worked in any other industry? If so, which one?
What is your gender?
What is your age?
Generally, who do you communicate with on a day-to-day basis?
What does effective communication within a team mean to you?
Do you feel people generally like talking with people they work with?
Do you feel its important to get to know the people you are working with on a
more personal level to understand how they best communicate?
In your experiences in the workplace (or others) what types of communication
practices have been successful? What has not been so successful?
Do you think people generally find it difficult to bring up an issue to another
employee? Why?
What do you think employees find to be the best way to communicate an issue
to another employee?
What do you think can contribute to someone having issues communicating with
peers?





32