Email: not just an internal channel

The perils of internal email communication

July 8, 2014

An ill-thought out internal email could have saved Samsung plenty of embarrassment had the sender treated the audience as external, according to a communications consultant expert.

In a recent court battle between global technology giants Samsung and Apple, a document revealed Samsung had indicated it had its “best opportunity to attack iPhone” just two days after Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, had died.

Extracts in an email chain, written by Michael Pennington, head of national sales for Samsung Telecommunications America (STA), read: “Unfortunately, Steve Job’s [sic] passing has led to a huge wave of press coverage of Apple’s and iPhone’s ‘superiority’ … Sorry to push the issue, but I have seen this far too long and I know this is our best opportunity to attack iPhone.”

Penny Newton Hurley
Penny Newton Hurley

Penelope Newton-Hurley, a communication consultant and trainer, workplace mediator, and owner of CommPassion said: “Internal communications does get out externally, that’s why internal comms is trying to be aligned so well with external, so that what is said to employees comes out in the same vain when it’s filtered through to families, friends and the general public.

“Every word means something.

“Without tone or body language to add to the physiology, people can misunderstand it.”

At the time, Samsung were set to feel the effects of Jobs’ passing.

His innovations created Apple, a pioneering business and Samsung’s biggest rival, and the world was reminded of this.

However, the internal attempt to inspire the troops could easily have been seen as insensitive to the outside world.

After all, one of the golden rules of sales is to not criticise a competitor, so why is it different internally?

Penelope added: “It all comes down to the culture of the company.

“I truly believe if you can change your thought process first then it’s not going to be a problem how you communicate.

“When companies look at their competitors and identify holes in the market, rather than focus on creating a rallying cry, it should focus the spotlight back on itself and highlight its own USPs.”