Traditional internal communication is dead, claims former BBC IC chief

Traditional internal comms dead, says ex-BBC chief

February 3, 2015

Traditional internal communication is finished and must be replaced by a more individual-centric approach, says the former head of IC at the BBC.

Lucy Adams, who left her high-profile position as the Beeb’s director of HR and internal comms in April 2104, insists successful future internal communication will be “all about the individual employee and how they prefer to communicate”.

In a fascinating interview with imgZine, Adams, who is now the MD of comms agency Firehouse, is eager to stress IC can help build trust – but only if the approach is carefully tailored to the audience.

She said: “How we communicate and how we listen is vital.

“The tired old engagement survey, the broadcast techniques of yesterday and the fun but patronizing employee engagement initiatives need to be replaced with approaches that are based on different assumptions – such as ‘my employee is not a child’, ‘people are motivated by so much more than a bonus’, ‘one size cannot fit all’.”

“Traditionally, internal communications tended to be about taking the key messages from the leaders and sharing them with their employees (newsletter central). Now, it’s all about the individual employee, how they prefer to communicate and receive information.

“When are they motivated and what will encourage and enable their performance? Leaders will understand how to build trust and will coach others in changing their approach.”

The experienced IC expert believes the evolution of internal communication will lead to the blurring of the lines between HR and IC.

She said: “They should work together at both a strategic and operational level, as this is crucial for the delivery of a compelling employee value proposition.

“This includes three key elements: the Promise (the employee brand), the Personality (the organisation’s values) and the Relationship (the people policies and processes).

“In order to make sure they are harmonious and mutually reinforcing, HR and IC teams need to be joined at the hip in its creation – not just its execution.”

Adams goes a step further in the newly published ebook Trust Me, PR Is Dead urging for a complete review of the relationship between comms professionals and their audience.

She wrote: “Internal communications as a narrowly defined function and approach is dead, and a fundamental re-think of communications — and more importantly relationships — with our employees is needed.”

Her dislike of email as a internal comms channel is plain, describing the approach as “possibly the most loathed of all internal communication”.

Adams, whose internal emails would land in some 20,000 BBC inboxes, added: “My emails, in an era of cutbacks, were rarely pleasant to write or read.

“They typically announced the removal of some perk, some new rule to follow or, worse still, another below-inflation pay deal or even redundancies.

“One day I got a call from a guy in News who said ‘my emails were crap and I should get someone else to write them for me’. I realised with dismay that he was right.”