The potential resurgence of internal communication

Internal communication in the US is giving media relations a run for its money as the sexy, exciting area of communications work.

That’s what Amy Friedman believes as she articulates in a recent post in Positioning Online on the website of her company, Heyman Associates, a PR and communications executive search firm in New York.

Friedman’s report (which I discovered from a post by Shel Holtz) is very good indeed, with quotes from communications VPs in a number of Fortune 500 companies and many examples of internal communication best practice.

The central point of the report is all to do with employee engagement – a topic of keen interest at the moment to communicators in Europe. Indeed, that’s the theme of a high-level conference taking place in Amsterdam on 16 and 17 September at which I am speaking (specific commentary in the next few days), with participation by over 80 senior internal communication professionals from companies across Europe.

Are we actually seeing a resurgence in internal communication, as Friedman advocates? The potential’s there, without doubt. And many companies are getting it right, as Friedman’s report indicates – and which reflects some of the successes I heard about from delegates in yesterday’s Amsterdam conference sessions.

Nevertheless, internal communication as a strategic business driver still remains in the bottom drawer, so to speak, in far too many organizations when compared with marketing or PR. If it is now becoming sexy, as Friedman says, that’s great. Where’s the hard evidence, though?

Well, Friedman does makes some keen observations that get to the heart of the whole engagement issue:

  • CEOs understand that in order to communicate objectives, internal communication must be a priority. It’s not just a means to ensure the employee population is invested in the agenda at the top, but also the pipeline for information to flow back.
  • Ideally, effective internal communication helps CEOs implement their agenda, creates a culture where employees become engaged with corporate goals and values, and keeps management in tune with what’s going on around the company.
  • A corporation’s commitment to informed relationships with its employees is at the heart of good internal communication.
  • Typically, a corporation of significant size will have a dedicated internal communication area within its communications department. Within it will be at least three distinct sub-areas, with responsibilities such as running the intranet, creating leadership and communications tools, writing articles for and editing the employee newsletters or magazines, writing memos, scripting, filming and broadcasting videos, training managers to communicate effectively, and setting up ways for the CEO to reach employees directly.

The examples in Friedman’s report of companies’ successes strongly support the view that when elements such as these are in place or play a key role in executing an internal communication strategy, that could be sufficient evidence that things are changing for the better.

Do all of these things provide hard evidence of a resurgence in internal communication, though? Hardly. But they are very good signs indeed.

Heyman Associates | Positioning – Resurgence of Internal Communications

See also Jan 2004 report by professional services firm Towers Perrin on internal communication –

Towers Perrin | Is It Time to Take the “Spin” Out of Employee Communication? (PDF file).