Internal communication is dead. Or, if it isn’t, it will be soon. That was the message from two Walmart directors at a social media conference in March this year. Chad Mitchell, senior director of digital communications, and Dan Kneeshaw, senior director of global associate communications, told their audience: “Great content is great content. There isn’t internal or external anymore.” These two directors work together to create content that is neither internal nor external, but “eternal.”
This growing trend to eradicate the distinction between internal and external communication has been building for some time. In 2014, Gerry Corbett, chair and CEO of the communication consultancy Redphlag, wrote: “Maybe it’s time to let go of ‘internal’ and ’employee’ as modifiers of communications to employees and simply designate the umbrella term of ‘communications.'”
Until now, “internal communication” or “employee communication” has been a distinct and specialist activity with its own industry bodies, qualifications and career path. Should the line between internal and external communication now blur or disappear completely?
Gerry Corbett’s convincing argument for the eradication of the division between internal and external partly lies in the nature of communication in the 21st century, which he describes as real-time, ubiquitous and instantaneous.
The influence of social media
There is no doubt that social media have made the walls of our organizations more porous. In the past, an employee magazine might have been left on the train or handed to a customer. Today, everyone can see your CEO’s tweet instantaneously. Indeed, organizations now use the permeable membrane between internal and external to their advantage, publishing the CEO’s message to employees on the web for the world to see. Type “CEO message to staff” into Google and 45 million results appear.
The convergence of internal and external communication is largely driven by the desire for greater transparency and authenticity in the way organizations interact with the world....
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