New edition of Exploring Internal Communication published

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.

The latest, fourth edition, of my text book Exploring Internal Communication has been published by Routledge.

For a publication like this to be in its fourth edition  reflects the changes in practice during the past ten years and also a growing body of respected research and knowledge.

Is internal communication finally coming of age? I think it is. But there are further challenges ahead.

The book covers internal communication theory, leadership, good and ethical practice, planning, project management, measurement, change, traditional and digital channels and content. 

It is the core text for PR Academy’s internal communication qualifications (awarded by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations). It is also recommended reading for many university students studying public relations.

As a text book, it is packed with theory, frameworks, concepts and models that have been established through research. These enable practitioners to reflect on current approaches to internal communication and explore new ways to develop strategies that are associated with organisational success and employee wellbeing. 

As Kurt Lewin said, ‘There’s nothing so practical as good theory’ and the book adopts this philosophy by showing how theory can be applied to effective practice.

The book is grounded in internal communication leadership. This links practice with organisational culture, purpose, values and strategy. In doing so, it positions internal communication as an important strategic function. For too long internal communication has been seen as a ‘soft skill’ when it is as hard and challenging as any other management discipline. 

Positive cultures, winning strategies and engaging values that translate into engagement and behaviour are all significantly dependent on good internal communication. Organisational reputations are now dependent on employee engagement and internal communication is strongly correlated with engagement. 

As a result of robust academic research, a growing body of evidence-based good internal communication is now becoming established. This can also be linked to the evolution of practice and professionalism. Practice has moved on from simple internal journalism to sophisticated approaches based on research and careful planning. However, although contemporary approaches are more wide ranging, demanding and rewarding there are many really complex challenges today, such as effective business partnering, change communication and channel management. The book provides a range of tips and guidance on navigating contemporary organisational environments.

The term ‘good practice’ underpins every chapter in the book. This position avoids the illusion that there is ever any ‘best practice’.

Good practice is practice that is evidence-based and underpinned by frameworks that have been established through academic research.

Good practice is also practice that benefits employees as well as the organisation. That is why listening to employees is so important. Including employee voice in communication plans is an ethical approach as it ensures that employee voices are heard and appropriate response are provided. 

A fundamental difference is also established between the role that line managers and senior managers play in good internal communication. This challenges the effectiveness of the traditional ‘cascade briefing’ and places greater responsibility on senior managers to communicate in person (either face to face or online). It is unrealistic to expect line managers to brief teams about corporate updates that they have simply been told about in an email. And employees expect corporate briefings to be provided by the people responsible for them – senior managers.

The growing recognition of internal communication as a new profession is partially dependent on strategic planning, measurement and change communication. Ann Pilkington helps practitioners to better understand the language and processes used so that they can make a stronger communication contribution within change programmes and projects. Paul Harrison examines change communication dynamics, including behavioural change and resistance to change. He also shares research on the content that employees want from change communication.  There is a chapter on measurement that covers established frameworks. Internal communication is finally getting to grips with data. However, it is only when outcome measures such as attitude and behaviour change are measured as well as outputs such as views, reads, opens, clicks and likes that the full value of internal communication is realised.

The book has an extended range of chapters on channels and content. These include a detailed case study that examines which channels and what messages had the most impact on behavioural change. Taking a more sophisticated approach to channel management reaps real benefits. 

The final section of the book is dedicated to the digital workplace. It includes three new chapters. Peter Cardon reviews the evolution of communication on internal digital platforms and the ideals of two-way communication, transparency and employee voice. Rita Zonius outlines ways that internal communication can become a true business enabler through social working. This chapter includes use cases for communicators and the business. 

In the final chapter Rachel Royall and I consider the potential reinvention of practice. This includes a discussion of the ways that automation and artificial intelligence (AI) might impact internal communication competencies and lead to a move away from content creation to communication coaching, as illustrated below.

The opportunities for internal communication practitioners to embrace automation and AI are profound. Practitioners will face new challenges in developing different competencies and organisations will need to let go of outdated approval processes for routine content.

Rather than seeing automation and AI as a threat to traditional practice, practitioners can instead see new technologies as an opportunity to adopt a more transdisciplinary role providing greater influence across the organisation. 

The book is available in hardback from Routledge

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