The changing face of internal communication

Three trends are reshaping the profession

Over the last couple of years we have been witnessing several changes to internal communication.

Commoditisation of the function is but one of them. What commoditisation means in practice is that organisations (both commercial and public sector) have increasingly come to rely on communication contractors, who mostly work on short-term assignments.

The financial case for such practices appears on the face of it to make sense – organisations can simply turn internal communication on and off, thus avoiding long-term outlays in the form of salary and bonuses to permanent staff.

However, there are several downsides too. One is the fact that external professional counsel does not come cheap.

Another is the short-termism inherent to contracted internal communication. Contractors come in, do their job and leave. Organisations that are concerned about their long-term business success should be investing in developing their in-house internal communication capabilities. A case in point is copy-writing. Quite often organisations view it as a relatively low-skill activity and happily outsource it to either internal communication agencies or contractors. External copy-writers, however, work for different clients at the same time and often are not very well versed in the specific terminology used in highly specialised organisations. Sloppily worded copy is the end result.

Specialisation is another trend. We are seeing the proliferation of internal communication managers working solely on ERP implementations, employee engagement, digital or change. What is often forgotten is that the principles of effective communications are applicable across business units and projects. Pigeonholing an internal communication practitioner in a limited field can be detrimental to their future career prospects. That’s why the business-partnering model (where internal communication personnel are embedded in a line of business) may not be best practice in internal communication. Instead, organisations may need to consider how their internal communication functions are structured and whether the internal communication managers may not benefit by developing into internal communication all-rounders.

The third trend shaping internal communication today is the proliferation of disruptive digital technologies. It has become fashionable to implement the latest social media platform within organisations just for the sake of not falling behind. Company magazines are out, enterprise social networks are in. This may not work quite well for all types of employees. Discontinuing an existing internal communication channel with a proven track record of delivering results should be carefully thought through.

Image courtesy of pexels

Velin Velkov is a multi-lingual business communicator specialising in internal communication and the serious disciplines that drive positive outcomes from employee engagement to customer experience. For over 15 years he has been helping large organisations - blue-chip corporates and public sector - in the UK and Continental Europe to effectively communicate to a wide range of internal and external stakeholders across geographies and cultures.

Posted in Editor's Picks, Internal Comms, Public Relations Tagged with:
2 comments on “The changing face of internal communication
  1. John Clifford says:

    Hi Velin and Simon.
    I too am in broad agreement. The problem is that there is so much change going on in organisations that no one communicator can hope to cover all the programmes and still do the day job of things like channels management.

    And there are so many social media applications out there now that its hard for comms people to know which ones to recommend or make the most of. Meanwhile, there are still plenty of employees who do not want to live their work lives on social media any more that their private lives. And it’s good for them to sit down with print and look away from all the screens that they’re obliged to use. It’s time for our field to start considering the warnings that are increasing in the public space.

    As a contractor, I have been fortunate to be quickly accepted by very busy permanent teams who are grateful for the support. And I am always asked to contribute to the big picture while completing the tasks I was brought in to work on. Having been a permanent employee for most of my career, the only way I know is to adopt an attitude of total integration into a permanent team, ensuring that they achieve what they need to as if I was one of them. I think that’s the best way to avoid the pitfalls that Velin rightly raises.

    Best wishes,

    John

  2. Simon Monger, CIIC says:

    Hi Velin,

    As an internal comms and engagement consultant, I must take issue with you view of contractors! While it’s true that, historically, contractors may have had a ‘get the job done and get out’ mentality, I find that a lot more companies are asking for consultants who take the broader view and consider the impact of their work beyond the project they’re hired for.

    I would never take a blinkered approach – whatever the project or reason I’m being hired to work with someone, it has to fit into the bigger picture. I want to ensure my work leaves that organisation better off than before I arrived.

    Just my tuppenceworth. Otherwise I’m in broad agreement!

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