I started working in internal communications in 1997. I don’t know if it’s more chastening to say 20 years ago or last century!
While internal comms has developed enormously in these last two decades, I’m not convinced it’s fully grown yet. Here are three reasons why I think its best years are yet to come.
The best way internal comms has changed in the last 20 years is its development as a profession. This is thanks to a handful of commercial organisations who recognised the need and desire to share best practice, accelerated by social media and how easy this made it for internal comms people to do this themselves.
Thanks to this, we better appreciate and understand all the components of internal comms that sit alongside our responsibility for great content, which felt like the main focus 20 years ago.
The more we continue to develop ourselves to also deliver strategies, planning and measurement that demonstrate we understand and can add value to the organisations we work for, the more mature we’ll become as a profession.
Developing our internal comms armoury shifts the perception that we just exist to write and send stuff. Others have written more extensively on the importance of an organisation’s purpose, notably Christine Crofts in an excellent recent series of LinkedIn posts. I agree with her that internal comms has the chance to define its own purpose more clearly by taking the lead in helping to shape and connect people to this.
Great internal comms allows people to understand how their work contributes to their organisation’s purpose. In my view, nothing could be more engaging than people feeling what they do makes a difference to the fundamental reason their organisation exists. Internal comms has a huge opportunity to be the profession that organisations turn to first to make this happen.
The reason I got into internal comms 20 years ago and why I’ve stayed ever since is people. I’m curious about what people are interested in and how to grab their attention, and it’s exciting when you can harness this energy to connect them to what their organisation does, where it’s going and their role on that journey.
People should always be at the heart of great internal comms – we listen to them, talk to them, share things with them, involve them and understand the difference this all makes to them.
I recently heard someone say HR is the voice of an organisation’s management, so internal comms should be the voice of its people. There may be something in that, and it’s a debate that’s probably a blog in itself.
But if we believe that, we should say so more explicitly. Along with purpose, it has the potential to clearly define us in the years ahead.
I’d love to know what you think. What has made you stay in internal comms, and where do we go next?
Neil Jenkins is the Head of Internal Communications, BT Group.
He joined BT in December 2016, having held senior internal comms roles at Siemens, Vodafone and Coca-Cola in a career spanning more than 20 years. Passionate about the difference great internal comms (with a heavy dose of digital) can make, and still yearning for Liverpool FC’s 19th league title.