Internal communication remains the poor relation of its marketing cousin. There’s no clear consensus about where it should sit within organisations. Its practitioners tend to agonise over how best to prove its value and under the heavy influence of (usually inappropriate) marketing communication ideas jump from one buzzword to the next.
Things are getting better, but internal communication remains an immature area of activity, which is unfortunate because there’s never been a time when intelligent internal communication has been so important. That’s because it sits at the centre of a turning point in corporate culture, the point where managers need to leave behind old industrial models of command and control.
Internal communication isn’t really about messages: it’s about how information flows through the organisation. It’s about understanding the true nature of the organisation, rather than trying to force a bland and usually meaningless brand model down people’s throats. It’s about listening to the stories that get told, and creating a productive context for those stories.
Formal internal communication once consisted mostly of company newspapers and magazines. Those producing them had a trade body which in the early 1990s became the British Association of Communicators in Business. I joined when I turned freelance, and served twice as its chairman, playing an instrumental part in steering it to become what is now the Institute of Internal Communication: the big idea is to start creating the kind of professionalism internal communication needs to move forward.
I’ve spent much of my professional career producing formal internal communication material, including newspapers and magazines which I set up, managed editorial, and commissioned design and print. I’ve done this for organisations as diverse as garden machinery manufacturers and trade unions. I’ve worked on digital publications including extended work for BT and Vodafone and provided consultancy support as well as implementation materials for the likes of O2 and the media buying giant Aegis. I’m not really interested in banging out a newsletter that ticks a box. If you want to explore more intelligent ways of connecting management priorities to staff behaviour, let’s talk.