Those blurred lines between internal and external communication


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Last week I co-hosted the Sequel aspic event on the blurred lines between internal and external communication. I was joined by Mairi Doyle, Director of Internal Communication for Bupa and about 30 comms professionals.

The topic seems to be everywhere at the moment as we explore the role communications plays in business and whether there is still a need to differentiate between internal and external communication.

There were no real surprises in the room and no great differences of opinion but some good discussions and a chance to reflect on our businesses and teams and how we work together.

Here were my top 10 takeaways from the morning:

  1. Structure the teams so they work together – not just physically but look at the reporting lines and see how you can bring the two together
  2. Shared objectives. The external comms person should have objectives linked to internal comms and vice versa
  3. Put as much importance in internal communication as the business does on external communication. Don’t make it ok for deadlines to be missed – you are representing all employees when you have a voice at a senior level
  4. Go social! But only if it is the right thing to do. For some companies it works and for others it doesn’t. That should be ok but at the moment we are too scared to not try it that it can be to the detriment of the business
  5. Employee engagement is not one persons job. It should be down to everyone and is the outcome of a variety of things. The minute it becomes one persons responsibility you’re giving everyone else an out
  6. CEOs are there to drive return for shareholders. When we get internal communication or employee engagement on their job descriptions the change will happen… I think we are still a long way away.
  7. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Employees talk everywhere so don’t let the fear at the top stop you from exploring new channels (read throwing sheep in the boardroom)
  8. Be commercial. If you are doing a photo shoot work with your external comms team to see if they need anything. It makes business sense and saves another department time and money
  9. Respect each others professions. I always say that internal communications is a specialist role and differs in skills from external comms. I say this with experience in media relations and also out of respect for those colleagues in that profession. The two are different and neither are the poor relation.
  10. Just work together! We should be able to sit down once a month with our external comms team and run through anything the other should be aware of. This shouldn’t be that hard, it’s just about working smarter.

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