Review: Current Trends and Issues in Internal Communication

About the author

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

Current Trends and Issues in Internal Communication: Theory and Practice
Edited by Linjuan Rita Men and Ana Tkalac Verčič
Palgrave Macmillan, 2021, 258 pages

A sure sign that internal communication is now being treated more seriously is the increasing number of academic journal articles and text books dedicated to the subject.

This latest text book, edited by Linjuan Rita Men and Ana Tkalac Verčič, brings together contributions from leading academics and thought leaders. It is a valuable contribution to the body of internal communication knowledge and will be useful for students and practitioners who are interested in applying theory to better-informed practice. It is now included as a core reader for the PR Academy’s delivery of the CIPR Specialist Diploma: Internal Communication.

In chapter one, Linjuan Rita Men summarises the development of the field and the evolving research into internal communication. She concludes that ‘internal communication is both a management function and a public relations specialization’. It was interesting to see contemporary practice described in a more wide-ranging manner than has been customary in the past, incorporating listening, connecting (minds, hearts and souls), inspiration, motivation and engagement. Research has traditionally explored four streams of internal communication: definitions and practice, demonstrating value, best practice/excellence, and various contexts (such as change or crisis comms). Current trends are highlighted as changing workplace and culture dynamics, transparency and authenticity, employee activism, technological advancements, and a more diverse and globalised workforce. 

This book review summarises some of the discussions from selected chapters; it does not include commentary on each and every chapter as that is beyond the scope of this short piece.

Leaders as communication agents is a topic that is a personal interest and I found the chapter by Cen April Yue, Linjuan Rita Men and Bruce Berger on this to be really informative. As the authors state, ‘leadership and communication are inextricably linked’ and yet ‘despite its importance and relevance, research into the communication aspects of leadership has been sparse’. The chapter makes a useful distinction between leadership styles and leadership communication styles. It provides a good overview of the benefits of a ‘responsive’ style described as ‘warm, friendly, tender, compassionate, and sensitive to others’ needs’. 

It was great to see a chapter devoted to employee advocacy in the book – a subject that has generated a lot of opinions but not very much rigorous academic analysis. Patrick Thelen provides an excellent and thorough exploration of the factors that lead to employee advocacy. These include openness, transparency, positivity, giving employees a voice, listening to their needs, ensuring that employees understand the business strategy, developing social media guidelines and facilitation (making it easy for employees to share information). 

Employee activism is an emerging hot topic and Arunima Krishna’s chapter is a welcome addition to thought leadership on the subject. As the author highlights, in the research on activism ‘few studies have focused on the role of internal activists in bringing about organizational change’.  The chapter makes a valuable point about understanding employee activism as either a form of support (advocacy) or opposition to organizational policy or action. It also raises an intriguing question: is adversary activism inherently bad? 

Justin Walden’s chapter on employee well-being is an excellent round up of the challenges that developed during the pandemic. He makes a great point from the off, stating that ‘The question moving forward is not whether firms should address employee well-being, rather it is imperative to reflect on how firms can address the multitude of stressors that employees are contending with and help to bring out the best in employees’. The chapter highlights the importance of internal communication for a strong employee-organization relationship which contributes to employee well-being. It also discusses navigation of trouble spots.

Other topics in the book include employee segmentation and issue management, internal social media, CSR, internal crisis communication, measurement and evaluation, internal communication in a cross-cultural and global context and, (full disclaimer), a chapter by myself on voice, listening and dialogue.

The book is available in ebook and hardcover formats from Springer Link

It is a core reader for the PR Academy’s delivery of the CIPR Specialist Diploma: Internal Communication and is provided as an ebook to students on the course.