Internal Communication has Come of age, and not Before Time
IC Kollectif has published a new ebook, Disrupting the Function of IC - A Global Perspective, featuring insights from 30 senior communication experts across six continents. It was launched in New York City, on June 12, by the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, representing 160,000 communication practitioners and academics worldwide. The 222-page book is free to download, representing our commitment to advance the communication profession and build strategic insights among communication professionals. We are reproducing the Foreword contributed by Professor Anne Gregory, PhD, FCIPR, CIPR.
Professor Anne Gregory
For too long internal communications was the Cinderella of the communication profession. It was the backwater where communication professionals toiled, often under-resourced and under-praised. No longer. Any number of surveys from corporate organisations and management consultancies state that employee engagement is right at the top of the priority list for senior executives.
So why the turn around? The obvious answer is that tactically, new channels like social media have made their impact here as in other areas of communication. It is easier and less expensive for management to communicate than ever before. Another is that these same new media channels allow employees to communicate more easily too, both to their peers and to management, who are finding it less easy to hide behind traditional gatekeepers and doors. Of equal importance, employees can and do communicate outside their organisations regularly and to many other people and organisations.This has caused alarm in corporate circles . . . what if those employees spread rumours that are untrue, or cause damage by presenting a picture of the organisation that we would rather not have shown? Organisations behaving badly on the inside can be readily exposed to large numbers of people and influencers on the outside.
If social media has brought these things into sharp focus, there are other realisations that have also brought internal communication to greater prominence. First, if the organisational ‘narrative’ is different on the inside from that to the world outside there is an alignment gap which spells risk. An organisation with two stories that don’t match lays itself open to all kinds of challenges. Second, employees are potentially the most knowledgeable and vocal advocacy group an organisation can have. Harness their goodwill by acting and communicating well and the organisation has an invaluable resource – brand ambassadors who live and breathe the brand every day and in every communication interaction.
Third, there is a new moral imperative at work: employers now demand more than a transactional relationship with employees and the reverse is also true. A fair days’ work for a fair days’ pay is too simplistic a descriptor. Employers would like employees to have an emotional engagement with the brand, who ‘go the extra mile’ and who deliver discretionary effort on a regular basis. Given that many jobs now require employees to generate intellectual and social capital and not just give their labour, the relationship is much more complex that when manufacturing jobs dominated western economies.There is emotional engagement at a deep level when employees give of their highest intellectual capabilities. In return, employees who commit their emotions and personal capital to their organisations like to be treated with dignity, respect, to have their intrinsic worth recognised and desire a partnership with their employer that allows for influence over their future including opportunities for co-design, co-creation, co-recognition and co-reward. Internal communication and engagement is the medium through which these rich and complex interactions take place. No wonder it has risen up the corporate agenda, because what is at stake is no less than the health and future prospects of the organisation and the well-being of those on whom they depend most – the people who constitute it.
This new book by IC Kollectif makes a major contribution to the exploration of the rich and complex work of internal communication.The collection of contributing authors is first class, drawn from across the world and all with a record of being thought leaders in the area as well as experienced practitioners.Their chapters range across the skills and knowledge that are required of the high-performing internal communication professional, to how internal and external relations need to be aligned, to the leadership role that IC specialists need because at the heart of organisations and organising is communication. A welcome chapter on the future of internal communication rounds of this excellent volume.
What comes across is the volatility and uncertainty of organisational life. Not only is this getting less predictable and the issues that have to be grappled with more slippery, but organisational form is changing too. Companies like Uber and AirBnB are totally different from traditional companies and their disruptive influence means that more traditional, established companies are having to respond in radical ways. Governments, too have to re-engineer the way they are interacting with citizens and this requires huge internal change programmes in the public sector. People want a level of constancy when all around is changing.This is driving a huge focus on organisations reexamining their purpose and values in ways that provide meaning for people who are not only coping with huge organisational change, but who are experiencing all the lack of certainty and turbulence that is present in the world. Organisations are a point of stability for many and at the heart of this is IC. For all these reasons internal communications has come of age, and not before time.
That this volume is available free is testament to the commitment of these authors of IC Kollectif to share their work and thinking widely for the benefit of the global internal communication community. For this, our professional community is deeply grateful.
About the author
Professor Anne Gregory, PhD, FCIPR, CIPR