IC HUB

Why does internal comms struggle for respect?

October 2, 2017

Probably like most IC bloggers, my laptop is filled with internal communications articles that I started but never finished.

Why?

Being brutally honest, some were simply too dull to be published. Some bit the dust purely because something better came along.

Such is life.

Now for the big confession: this is one of those aforementioned articles.

Yet there should be no shame in it.

This belter was cast into the wilderness many months ago while I devoted my precious time to more *ahem* worthwhile topics like cars being mistakenly blown up and how to politely ask people not to defecate in the shower.

However certain events in recent weeks brought my attention back to this certain effort – and this theme in particular.

I’m sure you already know where I’m going: that awful description of an IC professional in Cosmopolitan.

You know the one: “… the internal comms strategist is always busybusyverybusy – despite their whole job seemingly being about organising people’s birthday cakes.”

Ouch.

To be clear, this is not a hatchet job on Cosmo.

I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean to upset a large swathe of the IC community with a few ill-thought out words seeking cheap laughs. Humour is subjective, after all.

Nor is this a knee jerk reaction.

I let the dust settle – because the rage at the crass wording has been expressed far more succinctly than I could manage.

Yet this tongue-in-cheek article does expose a harsh truth: how the internal comms industry faces a daily battle against unfounded perceptions.

It comes down to a single word: respect.

It may be merely seven letters yet its importance cannot be understated.

Generally, respect tends to be hard to earn and far easier to lose.

Casting a look over the Headlines IC blog over the past couple of years, the same question begs to be asked: does the internal communications industry, as a whole, get the respect it deserves?

It had begun to feel like times have changed.

And that’s why the Cosmo article is so frustrating.

Because it suggests the stigma of IC being something of a frivolous, non-essential part of a business continues.

Elaine Ng, then head of communications at Philips ASEAN Pacific, touched upon these challenges of recognition in this excellent blog posting for PR Week, : “When people look at internal comms, they tend to think about a nine-to-five job that doesn’t require you to go out to meet people.

“They think about a job that is narrow in scope and inward-looking where you occasionally speak with senior management and HR – all with the sole purpose of writing those newsletters, or what some call internal memos (yes, I still hear this term being used!).

“It’s worse when someone comes to you and says, “You’re in comms right, then can you draft this email that will go to all staff?”

This theme was reflected by IC practitioner Jane Revell, who highlighted IC being regarded as “PR’s poor cousin” in her ‘Myths about Internal Comms’ article.

But Jane is keen to point out that there is a bright outlook for IC professionals due to a shift in attitude.

She said: “Internal communications has traditionally been regarded as PR’s less exciting, less glamourous cousin.

“It has been great to see that the recognition of the importance of IC has grown so enormously in recent years.

“Communicators and senior leaders now realise the importance of valuing employees, first and foremost, as the people who drive the success of an organisation, and recognise the impact effective internal communications has on business performance.”

This view is backed up by numerous comms experts – keen to highlight that robust internal communications provide the foundations for commercial success.

It was neatly summed by in this blog via corporateclassinc.com: “Even for companies that prioritise customer service and external relations, it is essential to foster positive internal communication and respect for employees.

“Without a strong internal foundation, external relations can’t follow suit – and external contacts will notice fissures in an organisation that has weak internal relations.

“Also, an organisation likely will have less focus and lower quality outputs if internal staff does not communicate well or feel appreciated.”

Nicely put.

So perhaps – and this is just a thought – that there are some damn good reasons why IC professionals are forever “busybusyverybusy”.

Anyway gotta go: there’s cake to be ordered.

“When people look at internal comms, they tend to think about a nine-to-five job that doesn’t require you to go out to meet people.

“They think about a job that is narrow in scope and inward-looking where you occasionally speak with senior management and HR – all with the sole purpose of writing those newsletters, or what some call internal memos (yes, I still hear this term being used!)."