When was the first employee magazine produced?

It’s earlier than you may think. Much earlier.

I’ve got a treat for your ears today in the form of a one-off radio show from the BBC focused on internal communication.

bbc-radio-4-logoThe show, called Bathrooms Are Coming: An Internal History of Corporate Comms is available to listen to online after being broadcast on 31 December by BBC Radio 4.

Actor and communications expert Vincent Franklin presents the show. It covers a wealth of information from in-house journals to industrial musicals, from opinion research to email cascades.

It’s worth a listen if you want to educate yourself about the history of internal communication, understand trends and be amused.

The first in-house journals included the “Lowell Offering“, written by American female mill workers in the 1840s, to the magazines for British Nylon Spinners 100 years later.

Yes you read the right, in the 1840s.


I shared that fact with attendees of my Strategic Internal Comms Masterclass last month as I challenged them to tell me when internal communication began.

The history of internal communication is a topic I’ve written about before, not least the fantastic research undertaken by Dr Kevin Ruck @academykev and Heather Yaxley @greenbanana of PR Academy.

Everything’s coming up profits
In the radio show Vincent Franklin explores the archive to chart the different ways in which companies have talked to their workers – and how they’ve talked back. 

You can’t beat two-way communication and this show highlights that fact.

If you’ve never heard a corporate song before, brace yourself. There are some cracking ones in there!

Some organisations still have corporate anthems today, KPMG and PwC for example.

Does yours?

profitsIndustrial Musicals
He also features Steve Young who co-wrote the book “Everything’s Coming Up Profits” about the age of the Industrial Musicals and Amol Rajan, former Editor of the Independent newspaper.

You’ll learn how American corporations developed the Industrial Musical in the 1950s, getting top class songwriters to pen numbers extolling things like the virtues of tractors, in order to galvanise their workforce.

Corporate language
Drawing on the contorted corporate language spoken around his character in the Olympic comedy Twenty Twelve, Vincent talks to its creator John Morton about the use of language in staff communication – when it works and when it doesn’t.

New techniques
He also hears about the new techniques in corporate comms being used today. With a profession numbering around 45,000 people, how have the demands of the job of doing internal communication changed?

Did you know 45,000 people work in internal comms?

It’s heartening to hear received truth being discussed and recognition of the fact internal communication as we’ve known it has evolved.

Along with the voices from the archive, there are new interviews with:

  • Tom Watson, Emeritus professor at Bournemouth University’s Faculty of Media and Communication
  • Jennifer Sproul, Chief Executive of the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC)
  • Kathie Jones, archivist and former member of the British Association of Industrial Editors.

IoIC’s Jennifer Sproul talks about employee experience, employee voice, employee engagement and the importance of understanding conversations and cultures.

The show was produced by Emma Kingsley and you can listen to it online.

Grab a cup of tea and immerse yourself in 56 minutes of listening pleasure.

What you hear may surprise you.


How to learn about internal communication

If you want to know more about internal communication, I’d love you to join one of my Masterclasses.

These are one-day courses designed to boost your communication skills, equip you with the latest thinking and provide opportunities for you to meet and learn alongside peers.


They take place in Covent Garden, London and will leave you full of ideas.

What’s it like to attend an All Things IC Masterclass? Read Advita Patel’s blog to find out.

If you work for a nonprofit organisation, use the code NFP20 to save 20%. IoIC and CIPR members can also save 20% using a membership discount code.

If you are registered for CPD, attending an All Things IC Masterclass earns you 10 CPD points under CIPR or six IoIC hours.

See the Masterclasses website to find out more (only one code can be used per transaction) and save your place.


Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 5 January 2017.

Lowell Offering picture credit: Wikipedia.

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