Should We Take the "Internal" Out of Internal Communications?

By Gerard Corbett

“Internal communications” is an anachronism.

Born from the recognition that employees were becoming a critical constituency, companies at the turn of the century began establishing internal communications departments to develop employee morale.

According to one historical source, internal communications was a mechanism to help employees understand a company’s mission and instill a sense of pride in the organization.

The method of implementation varied, of course, depending upon politics and the persuasion of the CEO in command.

Sometimes it resided with “human resources,” or more affectionately, “employee relations,” and often it was located in legal or corporate communications.

In this pro’s experience, corporate communications was always the best department for handling specialized employee or internal communications, because nothing succeeds like consistency.

Should We Let Go Of Internal Communications?

These days, however, it seems to be a hodgepodge of organizational dysfunction and redundancy.

How well the function operates depends on which way the winds are blowing, who’s in charge, and what are the priorities and politics of the boss.

Taking a page from Richard Edelman’s manifesto that “Communications Marketing” is the next wave, 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.”

Here are some reasons why.

Information in this Century is Realtime, Ubiquitous, and Instantaneous

There is no need to isolate and insulate.

Because of the speed of information, people have many channels and avenues to get information when it transpires.

It is best given directly from the source to those for which it is most critical when it happens.

Employees are Stakeholders

Employees can influence the movement of shares as much as they can sway the effect on customers.

They are the front line and should be treated and honored as other constituents.

Employees are Adults

Employees are educated, intelligent, and decision makers.

They are not to be coddled, cuddled, or conscripted.

Employees are Equal

They are as significant as stockholders, media, analysts, government officials, and executives, to name a few.

Their stature is no less than any other constituent.

They have a stake and can use it responsibly.

Employees are No Longer Mushrooms

No doubt you understand the comparison.

That said, the sunlight of full disclosure is the best disinfectant.

If the employee is trustworthy enough to hire, treat them as you would other favored constituents.

Employees Know More than You Think

Even without your formal communications strategy.

Given all the facts, employees will surprise you every time with their information, insight, innovation, and intuition.

This is even more evident in many of the start-ups emanating from the innovation capitals around the globe.

Many times the front line is where the magic happens, so open the floodgates and convey ownership and dialogue equally to all constituents.

So, is it really about “internal” communications anymore?

Gerard Corbett

Gerard (Gerry) F. Corbett is Founder, Chair and CEO of Redphlag LLC , a strategic branding and communications services and counseling firm. Gerry also is an Instructor on Personal Branding at UC Berkeley, Extension. Gerry has more than four decades of technology, PR and marketing experience in several Fortune 200 firms, is past chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America and an avid photographer, career coach and blogger.

View all posts by Gerard Corbett