There are many myths, misconceptions and untruths about internal communication.
The four issues addressed below reflect the reality of working as an internal communicator today:
Myth 1: Internal communication belongs to one person or team in an organization.
If it does, it shouldn’t.
Internal communication is too important to be left to one department. It should be everyone’s responsibility in an organization. The purpose of internal communication is to help an organization achieve its objectives.
You should have accountability when it comes to budgets and overseeing business strategy—the same is true of your channels. Sue Palfrey, head of internal communications at the National Trust, described it perfectly:
The intranet doesn’t belong to Internal Communications or IT or HR. It’s never yours. It will always belong to your audiences. You invest in it long before it’s even a project and long, long before it’s a reality. You may own the content and usage strategy, but ultimately it’s not yours.
When auditing internal communication, look for evidence of the correlation to company strategy. Everything you do as a communicator should align with the objectives of your business. That’s how you prove your worth—and the worth of internal communication.
Working with a clear focus on the purpose of the company will help you weed out what distracts you from that primary purpose.
Myth 2: External communication should be kept separate from internal communication.
If external and internal communication are viewed independently and there’s no correlation between them, you’re doing internal communication wrong. Stop thinking about internal and external communication as separate, unrelated entities.
Many companies have converged teams and merged their approaches to internal and external communication.
Get to know your marketing and PR colleagues. While you’re at it, get to know your HR colleagues, too. You are all focused on corporate reputation.
All internal and external communication campaigns aim to enhance, maintain or create your reputation. If you view your work through that lens, you’ll see where the disciplines overlap, align and can strengthen each other.
Effective communication, both internal and external, is about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.
Myth 3: Social media has no role to play in internal communication.
Social media can play a crucial internal communication role.
Every year since 2008, more and more companies have started using social media to improve their communication.
However, a medium is only “social” if it allows for interaction, which is the ideal mindset for internal communication. For an example of an organization doing it right, see how the NHS Trust is encouraging its employees to communicate via social media.
Extend your social media policy to cover the use of social media for internal communication purposes—including messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Slack.
You will not be able to control social media use. Instead, take the opportunity to identify where your channel gaps are and why employees are filling it with their own methods and channels.
This isn’t as bad as you think. Don’t look to lock it down; open up the popular channels of communication, and join the conversation.
Myth 4: Internal communication is about telling people what to do.
It’s about creating shared understanding and meaning. Unfortunately, in many organizations, it’s still about top-down, one-way communication.
Employees expect and deserve more. Internal communication used to be all about us (the entertainers, informers and internal journalists); now it’s all about employees. The role requires community management and close collaboration.
As opposed to telling people what to do, ask their opinions, solicit their feedback and include them in the messaging process. Your message stands a much better chance of resonating.