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A look back at 70 years of Internal Comms

Tomorrow, 12 March 2019, marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of the British Association of Industrial Editors, now known as the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC).

As a Fellow of the Institute, I’m going to mark the occasion and celebrate their birthday by looking back at the history and sharing their story with you. You can find the full story via the IoIC website and I’ve extracted some of the highlights to share with you.

Happy birthday IoIC, thank you for all the support you have given me over the years. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve gained through my membership including meeting amazing IC pros, speaking at your conferences, judging IoIC awards, studying the post-graduate diploma in Internal Comms Management, teaching one of your training courses a few years ago and meeting my wonderful mentee Eleanor.

IoIC believes internal communication has the power to transform organisational performance and working lives by helping people feel connected, engaged and purposeful.

This rings true for me. I believe the purpose of IC isn’t telling people what to do, it’s to create a shared understanding and meaning. Only then can employees align themselves to a company’s purpose.

Let’s start at the beginning

Originally formed in 1949 as the British Association of Industrial Editors (BAIE), the IoIC’s core purpose has remained the same for the last 70 years – to raise the profile and professionalism of the industry.

The Institute’s 70 year history very much reflects the way in which the practice of internal communication has evolved over the last seven decades.

Further reading: Regular readers of my blog will know I wrote about the history of IC a few years ago, which starts further back than 1949. In fact it starts 100 years earlier, in the 1840s.

As the only professional body dedicated to internal communication in the UK, the IoIC says it exists to help organisations and people succeed through promoting internal communication of the highest standard.

How it all began

The IoIC state: “Back in 1949 there were a number of major companies that provided newsletters/magazines – then called “house journals” for their (largely) blue-collar workforce, and many of these did not reach very professional standards.

From the disparate group of employees responsible for these productions, a group of senior members gathered with the aim of “creating out of an amorphous mass of journalists, advertising men, company secretaries’, secretaries, welfare officers, publicity men, sports club managers and others who had been given the added responsibility of writing, editing and publishing a house journal, a homogeneous, professional organisation”.

“Cheerfully amateur”

These founders quickly realised that a more modern approach to industrial editing was needed, and this was emphasised early in 1949 when an in-depth analysis of 115 house magazines was carried out with many being described as “cheerfully amateur”.

On 12 March 1949, 51 founder members got together at the National Cash Registers offices in London to form the British Association of Industrial Editors, which was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee with no share capital with the purpose to raise the profile and professionalism of their industry. The Association’s internal publication Industrial Editor launched in May and ran until May 1963.

You can also view the first newsletter.

Internal Comms in the 50s and 60s

The first general meeting was held with 35 Founder members and 16 Associate members.

The first conference was held in London with keynote speakers including the Minister of Labour, and this was followed a year later by the first European Congress of Industrial Editors, which was also held in London, when delegates could hear the views of a major steel company chairman, and journalists from five European countries.

By the late 50s, the Association was producing its own publications and eventually claiming a combined circulation figure of 4.3 million for journals produced by its members and a readership of 10 million people. Most of the publications were in magazine or newsletter format and three-quarters still had editors with other major duties. The BAIE was instrumental in forming FEIEA – the Federation of Industrial Editors Associations.

By this time BAIE was so well respected that HRH the Duke of Edinburgh proposed the toast to the Association at its 10th anniversary luncheon at the Dorchester Hotel in London attended by 460 people.

He said “The most important function of a house journal is to maintain a proper relationship between the industry it serves and the community which serves the industry… and all of you know the impact and influence which house journals can exert.”

In the 1960s membership reached 1,000 for the first time. In 1968 the Association’s profile was raised by the Guest of Honour at the Annual Convention, held in Brighton, being the Rt. Hon Edward Health, MBE, MP  who two years later would become Prime Minister.

Women come to the fore (finally!)

The 1970s marked the emergence of specialist house journal agencies.  For some years house journals had been viewed as inoffensive and ineffective organs of company propaganda, but companies began to recognise the benefits of communicating directly with their staff.

And for the BAIE this was when women finally started to come to the fore, with two female national chairmen and ultimately seven ladies serving on Council. The male-only dominance of the 40s, 50s and 60s was over.

Technology saw the first message sent via ARPANET (forerunner of the Internet) and the development of email including the first use of the @ symbol. Annual conventions were held at Peebles, Bournemouth and Harrogate and the FEIEA Congress was held in Paris.  A consultancy service was launched, and steady membership numbers were recorded.

New Media

In August 1974 a survey was conducted among Council members and Fellows where the phrase ‘new media’ began to be used.  The technology being discussed was microfilm retrieval, document transmission, video telephones and closed-circuit television links.

More than a third of respondents were worried that the written word was in decline, with 40% predicting that newspapers would eventually be replaced by electronic media.

Internal Comms in the 1980s

In the 1980s internal publications were beginning to become more “hard-nosed” with readers demanding answers from management. As the years progressed it became important for internal communications to not only beat external news streams in speed, but be more transparent to the employees.

IoIC state: “A fine example occurred during the miner’s strike, when the BAIE editor of Coal News persuaded the chairman of British Coal to allow a whole tabloid page of space for the miners to give their views of the conflict – this was ground-breaking indeed.”

For the Association 1985 marked a major change in communications when the first computer system was installed in headquarters.

Acceptance of a MORI/BAIE survey finally confirmed the need for a new name for the Association, and widening of BAIE roles within the field of communications in industry, commerce and public service organisations.  The recommended new name at that time was The British Association of Corporate Communicators.

After all the previous discussions delegates were asked to vote between the current name, the British Association of Corporate Communicators, the Institute of Corporate Communications, the Institute of Corporate Communicators, the Association of Corporate Editors and BAIE – the association of Corporate Journalists. Unfortunately so divided were the opinions that no majority view was reached and the resolution to change to the name failed at the AGM.

What the 90s brought

IoIC state: “The groundwork for change was laid early when the strapline “communicators in business” started appearing on BAIE literature. The Association clearly signalled its intention to become a management “thought leader” with the launch of Communicators in Business magazine, a large glossy publication that was intended to be produced quarterly.”

1993 was an important year for the Association for no other reason that after years of debate official incorporation came on 21 November 21 as THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNICATORS IN BUSINESS LIMITED.

A new mission statement was adopted:

“The Association aims to be the market leader for those involved in the management and production of corporate media by providing professional authoritative, dynamic, supportive and innovative services”

By 2002 the headquarters office was established in Davy Avenue, Milton Keynes, and a possible amalgamation with the Internal Communications Association considered.

It was decided to announce the goal of becoming the Institute of Internal Communication be announced publicly at the 2009 AGM.

On  23 September 2009 an Extraordinary General Meeting was held to consider the Special Resolution: That the name of the company be changed to the INSTITUTE OF INTERNAL COMMUNICATION with effect from 6pm on Thursday 13 May 2010.  The majority in favour was 80.2% of those voting.

IoIC state: “Owing to the ongoing national financial crisis much of the initial work of the new IoIC board in the latter part of the year was concentrated on reducing expenditure and increasing income. Discussions also began with Solent University with regard to proposed accreditation, to drive the standards for the Internal Communication Professional.”

After the launch of the pdf magazine InsideOut in 2010, IoIC returned to print in 2017 with the launch of the award-winning Voice magazine. They also launched a new profession map and competency framework to encapsulate the skills and knowledge of today’s internal communicator.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: New competency framework launches for IC pros.

The training programmes was expanded, CPD was introduced and a mentoring scheme launched. Extending their partnership with Solent University in 2018, IoIC takes over the Masters in Internal Communication Management. (I’m going to be a guest speaker on the course at the end of this month and I’m looking forward to meeting the delegates).

By the end of 2018, membership of the IoIC had reached the highest in its history.

We Matter At Work

Jen Sproul, IoIC’s Chief Executive says: “IoIC’s purpose has the remained the same, and it as powerful today as it was 70 years ago, as by communicating effectively we will not only improve organisations but create better working lives because #WeMatterAtWork.

“Employees deserve to feel that they matter, and that they are valued and being kept informed authentically, truthfully and with respect. To this end, IoIC is launching a new purpose that continues its work over the past 70 years to champion the role of effective internal comms in creating environments where people thrive. #WeMatterAtWork is a new long-term initiative that will examine employees’ sense of purpose and value at work by focusing on how we communicate with them.

“Internal communication has the power to transform working lives by helping people feel engaged and purposeful – that they matter at work – and this makes for better organisations and a better society overall. Through #WeMatterAtWork, we will reach out to organisations, internal communicators and, most importantly, employees, to find out what makes them feel valued at work.”

Find out more: Listen to Jen talking with Katie Macaulay on The Internal Comms Podcast about the initiative:

IoIC will publish insights, examine common themes and ultimately create a movement that will support the Institute as it builds a body of best practice advice that will stand the test of time.

Would you like to read more about the IoIC’s history? See the IoIC website and below to discover stories told by members in their own words.

Stories from members:

Join upcoming IoIC events

If you are new to Internal Comms, check out FutureNet – the network for IC newcomers.

IoIC member benefits from All Things IC

Don’t forget if you are an IoIC member you can earn CPD hours from attending an All Things IC Masterclass. You can also save 20% off the price of my Masterclasses using the discount code IOICmember at the checkout.

Happy 70th birthday IoIC, thank you for everything you do to support Internal Communicators. Here’s to the next 70 years!

Post author: Rachel Miller. With thanks to the IoIC for creating the original content on their website.

Published on the All Things IC blog 11 March 2019.



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