12 thoughts on “The end of internal communications (reprise)

  1. Kevin,

    Fascinating blog post, and I couldn’t agree more with every one of your observations. There is a seismic shift not only in corporate communications but in the general media that covers the industry—like us, the writers and editors and conference folks at Chicago based Ragan Communications. We no longer feel that we control the information flow. In fact, we don’t. Our customers do. And instead of fighing it, we revel in it. We actually want to be the architects of the community that digital technology and Social Media have now made so possible. Thanks for an interesting essay.
    Mark Ragan
    Ragan Communications

  2. Hi Kevin

    Very interesting indeed. I wonder then, with the scope and responsibility of the internal communication function expanding so much, if one of the implications might be too shocking for internal communicators to grapple with. As your essay suggests, internal communicators now need to really understand what’s involved in creating a corporate strategy, implementing complex product/market development initiatives, and balancing various stakeholder wants and needs. But can this be taught? Can the internal communicators from journalism and PR backgrounds who currently populate internal communication departments really learn these things – can they achieve the level of business literacy necessary for the modern communication arena? If, as I suspect to be the case, they can’t, isn’t it time for them to step aside and make way for those with ‘hard’ operational management experience and strategic consulting experience? Surely these experienced front-line business personnel can learn internal communication skills relatively easily while internal communicators can’t suddenly acquire the business experience.

    Changing the personnel (at the senior level too) would be the true death of internal communication as we know it.


    Managing Editor, Research & Reports

  3. I absolutely agree that all communicators, internal and external, need to be business people, understanding financial matters, being strategic, all of it. I think the argument that business people can easily learn the “relatively easy” skills it takes to be an internal communicator has been proved absolutely wrong more times than I can count when management in its wisdom moved some business person to be in charge of organizational communication as a job-broadening step on the way to a higher-level position. They always remain sender-centric and don’t “get” the much better outcomes available from becoming audience-centric.

    I have found that when PR and/or internal communication is subsumed into Marketing, the total focus shifts to the customer. And customers are not the only stakeholder group affecting our companies’ success. Other stakeholder groups’ needs stop being met and the business starts feeling financial pains on many fronts–not the least of which is the high cost of increased employee turnover. Plus, using the typical approach of Marketing with many stakeholder groups other than customers and prospects is a total disaster. These other groups, including employees, the media and financial analysts, start feeling that they’re getting a “hard sell job” and stop trusting the company. Long-nurtured relationships start feeling like transactions.

    The separate communication functions excel when they really understand their stakeholder groups, and how best to communicate with them in a way that meets the stakeholders’ needs and the business’s needs. The communication function as a whole works well when the communicators work together to share their expertise and coordinate their multi-stakeholder communications that, combined, support all the needs of a successful organization–not only customers, as important as they are.

    Angela Sinickas

  4. Thanks Angela for an as usual well-considered comment. I’m running a similar conversation on MyRagan and pushed the point a bit further — are we getting too specialised as IC professionals to have the requisite knowledge to effectively do our jobs? Given the massive crossover of required skills, are we really ICers anymore?

    I also want to pull you up on a point that is critical to the discussion — you say “… when management, in its wisdom …” — to me, the point is that internal communicators ARE management, and should think like managers — not an ‘us-and-them’ siege mentality where the practitioner is the advocate of the hardworking employee, defender of their rights against the oppressive moneymongerers on high. (Just being a bit dramatic as usual).

  5. Right on Kevin!! Love the Venn! I couldn’t agree more with you…

    Where do I apply for such a job? Lol….seriously though, as it happens I am self employed and try to create my own work-life where I get to use a vast array of those many skills/knowledge areas you metnioned…..I think to be truly effective one can’t fit into just one box (i.e. communications or marketing or coaching; etc.).

    As it happens, my own career tapestry has transversed over a few professional realms…have a ton of insight, knowledge (and still learning every day of course) that lends itself to the art and science of employee engagement….but haven’t yet seen an ad that recognizes and/or calls for that blend of skills. Instead, most ads (that I’ve seen anyways) seem very one-dimensional. Blech. Suffocation. Gasp. Air please!

    And that is why I am trying to create my own work-life. But maybe the world will evolve…..and so I’ll still check those IABC job board ads now and again cuz you just never know:)

    To a tgim work life!
    Big Cheese Coaching and Chadnick Communications

  6. Kevin…

    Our discussion has a familiar ring. But I think the difference between your prophecy and our current reality is that we now have much more ability to move the “employee communications” market in the direction of our kind of thinking.

    Twitter–and its ability to allow upstarts to accumulate new readers quickly–is allowing us to tap into new networks and make this conversation more pervasive than we could have in 2007.

    You were right 3 years ago. Now, we’re in a great position to do something about it.

    All the best,

    Mike Klein–The Intersection

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