Secret diary of a Comms Director…

“I am not an HR professional and I don’t want to be. I am a communications professional and as such I align myself with the world of PR not HR.

“But I am increasingly seeing HR professionals assuming they are also communications professionals and this is dangerous to confuse.”

Today I have a guest post from a Communication Director who wishes to remain anonymous.

I was fascinated by a discussion we were having regarding this topic and encouraged them to let me publish their thoughts in the form of a guest post. I’m delighted they agreed as this is a conversation that usually happens behind closed doors.

Let’s air it.

Everyone thinks they can do comms, that’s not new. It’s raised constantly at my monthly Masterclasses, where I facilitate conversations helping practitioners think through what that means for their role and organisation.

But what does this perception mean for communicators?

I’m currently doing a lot of thinking about this topic and the future of internal communication. Thank you to everyone who responded to my Tweet the other day about the future of IC to contribute to an upcoming article.

I’d love to know what you think of the issues and views expressed in this guest post. Do please get in touch to let me know by commenting or Tweeting me @AllthingsIC.

(P.s. The images in this article won’t help you work out who the author of this piece is as that’s me in the photos. Sorry! All I will say is they are based in the UK).

I’m going to let my mystery Communication Director continue and thank them for allowing me to air their thoughts.

Secret diary of a Comms Director…

“Both HR and Internal Communication have broad reach. As someone who has worked in HR, Marketing, Commercial and pure Communications functions, I have had the value of understanding how some of these relationships can work, and how they do work best.

Let’s look at the definitions:

An HR professional is someone helps an organisation to create value through its people – literally providing human resources. The work of an HR professional will vary depending on the type and size of their organisation, but could include recruiting people, training and developing employees, and helping to decide how staff should be paid and rewarded.

There are even roles which focus on employment law and protecting the rights of employees at work. HR professionals will also often deal with legal issues, help to shape the culture of their organisations, and focus on what keeps their colleagues productive and engaged. Definition via CIPD).

An internal communication professional is someone who practices the planned use of communication actions to systematically influence the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of current employees. Delivered correctly, internal communications has the ability to inform, engage and inspire your workforce to fulfil your ambitions and overcome your challenges. It has the opportunity to encourage employees from all parts of your organisation to share ideas for continuous improvement and provides a facility for staff from all ranks and roles to learn from each other and celebrate the successes that are happening. Definition via Tench, R and Yeomans, L (2006). Exploring Public Relations, Pearson, Harlow (quoting Strauss and Hoffman), plus Local Government Association.

And employee engagement is a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being. Plus Creating the conditions in which employees offer more of their capability and potential. Definition via Engage for Success.

And this is where we all get in a muddle.

Employee engagement is linked to the four enablers and in my view, HR should champion these enablers, building ways to make them a reality inside the organisation.

Here are the four enablers – Rachel

As an internal communicator, I’m here to ensure what we do supports these enablers.

But my focus is mainly on the messages we deliver through the business, aligning them to the external perception of our business (for potential employees, customers, partners etc), ensuring we have a story that people can engage with and that they have a clear line of sight between what they are doing and what the company is doing.

I am not worried about comp and ben, payroll systems, l&d strategy or recruitment – but I will support it to get the alignment to the business strategy right and make sure it is in line with our brand.

I wonder if HR can take the view that they need to focus on all these elements listed above and not worry about channels, digital workplace strategy, risk of reputation to the brand, engagement in the strategy?

Yes we need to work together.

I have to say reporting to HR for four years of my career as an internal communicator was invaluable – and I learnt what a great HR function looks like .

But we each have to respect our specialisms and give each other the space to deliver what is right for the business based on years of experience, not what we think is best based on minimal expertise.

Post author: Anonymous Communication Director.

What do you think? What’s your view? I spent a decade in-house as a professional communicator and my reporting lines included reporting directly to CEOs, but also sitting within Marketing, HR and Corporate Communication teams.

Throughout my career I’ve worked with HR professionals in many guises and today am hired by Communication and HR teams alike to help them transform the way individuals and their organisations communicate.

I’ve written before how I believe the best relationships are ones where communication professionals are listened to.

That comes down to you and your relationships with stakeholders and employees – not where your reporting lines are.

But if you are reporting though a function that doesn’t understand comms, I’ve seen the impact that has not only on the morale of comms practitioners, but on the outputs and the outcomes of their work.

In my mind, everyone is focused on people. Or they should be.

What matters to you? Do you align with PR or HR? Or both?

For me, it’s both. It has to be. I’ve written about employee experience a lot in recent years as I believe it’s the mindset we need to champion with organisations – how can companies organise themselves to provide the very best employee experience (technology, culture, food, physical environment etc) for our people?

Benefits, training opportunities, even the chair or tools they have to do their jobs, is part and parcel of this.

In the same way internal comms and external comms lines are blurring and merging, is the same happening with HR? What does that mean for our individual disciplines? What do we gain or lose by combining forces? Or should we continue to respect the “boundaries” and not overstep them?

So many questions. You can see why this interests me!

What’s your experience when it comes to working with HR colleagues?

I’ve been reading Lucy Adam’s book recently, HR Disrupted: It’s time for something different.

It’s helped spark some thoughts as part of some consulting work I’m doing for the HR department of a current client and I recommend it.

Do let me know your thoughts on any and all of these points. There’s lots in here to digest. You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Thank you for stopping by and also to my anonymous guest writer,

Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 26 April 2017.


  1. Joanna says:

    This is really interesting – thanks! I work in an internal comms role and regularly collaborate with our HR business partner to work on things together and see how we can align our work. It’s a really helpful approach.

  2. […] reading: Secret diary of a Comms Director… – for thoughts about HR and Comms and their roles – […]

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How can we help?

All Things IC helps practitioners around the globe increase their knowledge of internal communication.

There’s a variety of ways we can support you including trainingconsultancy and 1-2-1 support to boost your skills and confidence.

Or visit the shop to see everything we offer.

Who has hired All Things IC?

Clients say working with All Things IC leaves them feeling inspired, motivated, full of ideas and ready to turn plans into action.

We’re proud to have been invited to work with, and advise, some of the world’s leading brands.

Get in touch...

Would you like to work with All Things IC? Do get in touch below. Please note we only accept guest post ideas from in-house IC pros who have read the blogging guidelines.

Asking for advertising, back links or pitching services? We do not offer these and will not reply. Thank you.