The changing face of internal comms?

The nature of how organisations communicate with their employees and customers is changing.

IC pros don’t have the tools they need to do their job and are operating in a more advisory role.

That’s not news to IC pros, or at least it shouldn’t be. But these findings form part of a new piece of research which is hot off the press.

I’ve got a copy of it to share with you following its launch last night in London, pictured below:

Market research consultancy ComRes and communications and advocacy headhunter Ellwood Atfield conducted an online survey of 97 senior internal communications professionals between 20 September and 9 November 2016 to explore where internal communications is heading in 2017 and beyond, and what might be affecting industry changes.

So it’s a snapshot view, at just under 100 comms pros, but is worth a read.

Further reading: See the full report The changing face of internal communications.

It found as the role of internal communications continues to evolve, there is an increasing need for organisations to employ internal communication professionals who can act as a strategic internal partner.

Internal communication needs to help facilitate brand advocates from the inside out and support employees’ understanding of the organisation’s strategy, brand values and vision, and most importantly how they can play a part.

I love this. Couldn’t agree more re: supporting understanding.

It’s not true to say frontline employees don’t care about strategy, you need to make it real for them. This is a constant discussion at my All Things IC Masterclasses.

So how? Well according to the report, IC professionals need to play a primary role in facilitating this, and organisations need to use approaches to internal communications that place employee engagement at the centre of their corporate strategy.

The report highlights how businesses are responding to the increasingly globalised nature of how people work, growing customer demands and desire for digital and social media.

It appears that command and control autocratic leadership is in decline along with ‘jobs for life’.

The findings show that while there is a clear desire among internal communications professionals to align firmly with the strategic goals of organisations, there are a number of cultural and practical barriers to achieving this in the reality of the day-to-day role.

Isn’t that true!

Top three aims for IC pros in their organisation:

The research goes on to look at shifts in the ways organisations communicate with employees, and the role of internal social media in workplace communications.

Employees are increasingly choosing their employer of choice, those whose purpose and values align with theirs.

This gives rise to the importance of internal communications in helping to create a unified culture that enables people to do their best work and contribute to the success of the organisation.

The research found:

  • More than four out of five (86%) internal communications professionals agreed that internal communications has the primary focus of aligning people with the organisation’s purpose and strategy.
  • However, only around half (49%) agree that they have access to the tools and resources they need to develop high-quality internal communications.
  • Only one-third (35%) say that they have access to the budget needed to develop and implement an effective internal communications strategy.

Peer-to-peer communication

I was interested to note the feedback relating to peer-to-peer communication. I’ve written numerous times on my blog over the years about how we’re moving from created to curated content and the power of horizontal networks and peer comms (“people like me” according to Edelman).

The report states:

“Horizontal approaches to internal communications that make use of peer-to-peer dialogue and support, as well as new technologies, such as internal social media, have been much lauded in recent years. While these approaches are clearly an important part of the development of internal communications, our research finds that they are far from changing the rules of the game at present.

“The research shows that internal communications professionals appear unsure of exactly what to do when it comes to new technology and social media.

I’m surprised that’s so low! I certainly have seen a shift in the conversations over the past few years, not least the refreshing lack of head scratching over ESNs (enterprise social networks) at The Big Yak unconference, which dominated discussions two years before.

The report states: “While the trend seems to be a role in facilitating content, rather than creating it, just 29% agree that they focus more on facilitating peer-to-peer communications mechanisms than on hierarchical communications down through the business, with 51% disagreeing with this statement.

“Both are clearly important in any organisation, although it seems that the majority of internal communication professionals still focus the majority of their deliverables on communicating top down.

“While just 1 in 5 say that disseminating information is in the top-3 aims for internal communications, 46% say their role mainly focuses on creating and disseminating information.”

Changing face?! Not yet. Sigh. Clearly more work to be done here.

I know that’s the reality for many organisations, it’s just so disheartening to read.

Here’s what the report said about channels…

The ‘ad-hoc’ bit is painful. I’m in danger of ranting, but won’t. Why ad-hoc?!

Moving on…

What about the future?
The report states: “Internal communication professionals paint an interesting picture when asked which of these channels will be used more in the future.

“While all-staff emails seem to have reached saturation point (just 7% think they will be used more), internal communicators feel that digital forms of communications will be used more often: internal social media (67%), teleconference/videoconference (55%), the intranet (49%) and TV screens (45%).”

I’m not surprised by this, I would have been shocked if these weren’t in there.

Would love to see the word digital dropped – it’s all just comms. But that’s a whole other blog post.

The report adds: “Among this variety of digital and mass-audience communication, there is also a belief (and possibly preference) that manager team briefings are also used more in the future (46%), recognising the need for more local, face to face and personalised communication which helps create the sought-after two-way dialogue in an organisation to facilitate personal engagement in the strategy.”

Too right, hurrah.

Truly effective communication is about people having real conversations.  

Call it authentic, engaging dialogue if you like, but really we know our employees expect more and want to hear things face-to-face, have opportunities to have their say and to be part of the discussions. I absolutely hope manager team briefings are on the rise.

But, please ensure you have outlined to your managers what you expect of them, trained them in comms skills and given them advice and guidance, not just left them to flounder and chase them for briefing stats.

I thought this was an interesting stat re: trust in comms from the Board…


I’m going to leave you with the report so you can make your own mind up.

Is the face of IC changing?

My view? Yes, slowly, but it takes courage to change. You can do this within your own company or organisations you work with.

Take a look at the report and see what you think, well done to the publishers, it is worth reading if you want to benchmark and know what other IC pros are doing.

I feel like I may come back to some of the info in this report in future as it’s got my brain buzzing.

What do you think? you’re welcome to Tweet me @AllthingsIC or comment below.

Thanks for stopping by,


P.s. If you want to learn about internal communication, sign up for an All Things IC Masterclass.

Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 1 February 2017.


  1. Steve Gilbert says:

    Refreshing and reassuring.

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