The line between internal and external communication is blurring. But the two disciplines are not the same.
Until now, “internal communication” or “employee communication” has been a distinct and specialist activity with its own industry bodies, qualifications and career path. But some say the line between internal and external communication is becoming so blurred it’s barely visible, that the term should be laid to rest—we are all simply “communicators” now.
Certainly the drive for transparency, authenticity and consistency supports this argument. What’s more, today’s employees are sophisticated, challenging and vocal. Workplace communication has moved on. It cannot be contained or controlled by a few from the corporate center. It has become a more involving and compelling style of communication, working hard to capture the attention of a time-poor—and often distrusting—workforce.
Marketers are masters at capturing attention. Internal communicators can learn much from the process of defining target markets, building personas, creating strong branded content and, of course, telling stories with emotion and creativity. Take the need to develop a compelling employee value proposition. Before joining, new recruits will only have seen your organization’s external face to the world. To ensure you attract the right people, you need alignment, consistency and shared learning across the communication spectrum.
But before we declare all communication essentially the same and assign the term “internal communication” to the history books, let’s re-examine the facts.
Every day employees see under the hood of our organizations. Unlike other audiences—customers, investors, analysts and the media—they see the unvarnished truth. This unique perspective gives employees intimate, behind-the-scenes knowledge. As a result, they are almost impossible to fool or beguile.
Communication to employees must be exceptionally honest and open. It must take a “warts and all” approach, acknowledging failings,...
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