Internal communication: unique or part of a communication family

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.

PR is no longer, if it ever was, just about media relations.

For those people who doubt that internal communication is part of public relations, recent research by CIPR found that 52% of PR people spend most or some of their time on internal communication.

PR is about relationships with a range of different groups of people connected to organisations. These include journalists, investors, analysts, regulators, pressure groups and employees.

The people in organisations who communicate with individuals in these groups share fundamental communication skills and (hopefully) communicate in similar ways that reflect the values of their organisation.

However, the nature of the relationship with different groups does vary according to expectations (and in some cases laws) about the way that information is shared. That is why there are specialists in the field, as in accountancy, law or psychology where there are a range of different aspects to the profession (for example, clinical psychologists and occupational psychologists).

Communication specialisms are currently represented by different organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC). Of these, I believe that CIPR has the broadest outlook on communication, representing media relations, public affairs, digital communication, financial communication, marketing communication and internal communication. However, of the chartered bodies listed, CIPR is the smallest organisation. It has the least resources and so the importance of an integrated approach to corporate communication is perhaps not given the attention it deserves by the wider business community.

Of all the groups of people connected with an organisation, employees have the deepest long term relationship. They depend on the organisation for their livelihood, they contribute most to its ongoing success and their own status outside work is reflected in what they do and where they do it. Because of this, communication with employees should be prioritised more than it is. It should not though be considered as unique and separate from other communication activities. If anything, organisations should bring marcomms, customer service, media relations, public affairs, digital communication and internal communication together into a Chief Communication Office so that a more joined up approach is in place. Otherwise, reputations may be seriously undermined if communication is not congruent across all departments.