Biker’s Guide to Internal Communication

About the author

Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and is the author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.

Now that the weather is improving I got my bike out this weekend; yes I am a fair weather biker.

My first bike was a Yamaha FS-1E. It was a 50cc bike that you could ride when you were 16 years old. I loved it.  Then I got a Yamaha 125, twin carb, twin exhaust.  After a few years, I hung up my leather jacket and got a car. As you do. I still have the jacket though and it still fits! Last year, I decided to get back in the saddle and now ride a KTM 690…quite slowly.

Getting back on a bike after all that time made me realise how exposed you are on the road compared to being in a car and how much more you observe what’s going on around you. In some ways it’s a bit like working in internal communication. You are inevitably in the middle of a lot of activity, things coming at you from all directions, sometimes seemingly at the last minute…often without much protection against the flak that also sometimes comes your way.

When I think back to when I started on a bike and compare it with when I started working in internal communication, there was not very much in the way of guidance. You just got stuck in and survived on your instincts. On the bike there was also little or no protection. Yes I had a leather jacket and helmet, but compared to the Kevlar lined jacket and double lined crash helmets of today they were primitive. There is also much more professional support today for internal communication practitioners in the form of institutes and networking groups. Access to better information prevents some internal communication ‘crashes’ and helps practitioners to discuss common issues with colleagues.

A report by the European Communication Profession Skills and Innovation Programme  has identified three top personal attributes for an internal communication manager as empathy, courage and curiosity. This is an interesting combination, with empathy notably being the top attribute.

From a returning biker perspective, here are some alternative thoughts on these attributes:

Empathy – Know your fellow road users (employees) as well as you possibly can. See things from their perspective. Know the road (business) environment as intimately as possible so that you intuitively know what people will think feel, and do in any given situation.

Courage – Going into a corner too fast, or too slowly, does not work. Too much bravado and you come off. If you go too slowly, the engine might stutter and you look inexperienced. If you take a calculated risk, the bike goes with you and you can accelerate smoothly out of the corner on to the next challenge. If you know the line to take and keep focused on it the bike follows.

Curiosity – Keep up to date with the mechanics (channels) and new developments about them. Read technical (business) articles, even if you don’t always fully understand them at first. Keep learning, take advanced driving lessons.