Internal and External Communication Go Hand-in-Hand – It’s Only Common Sense

Being an old communicator means, perhaps, not being as in touch, or as conversant, with some of the latest communications thinking or tools as one might be. (This, of course, is a topic for another time – how to bridge the, dare I say it, growing divide between the younger and the more mature communications professional, who often have to work very closely together and yet have different formative influences and different views on communication best practice.)

Being an old communicator, however, brings a career’s worth of experience draw on. And a network of other old communicators, providing further careers’ worth of experience to plumb. One thing we are all agreed on – and I do hope no-one feels I’m giving away trade secrets – is that it isn’t actually that difficult. All good communication is, at its root, common sense. (For example – journalists like news, customers don’t want to be patronised, no-one likes the wool clumsily pulled over their eyes – simple and, you would think, obvious.)

This piece via the Forbes Communications Council, on the importance of internal and external communications coming together, is, therefore, rather frustrating.

The gist of the piece – and, with due respect to the author, it is important and it makes complete sense, it’s the fact that it needs discussing at all that’s the worry – is that there are benefits to be harvested when internal and external communications work together.

Listed amongst these benefits are (and these are edited):

  • Leaders of communications groups can realise efficiencies by uniting teams that develop employee and public content, including stories, videos, infographics and social media pieces
  • Communications practitioners may be interested in exploring both disciplines – this provides an opportunity
  • When internal communications work together with external, all company stakeholders — from employees to customers — feel heard and respected
  • Such an approach can generate stories that employees and external stakeholders see at the same time

And here are a few of my own, just to reinforce the importance of the topic:

  • Merging internal and external communication allows you greater control over the corporate message, with less room for re- or mis-interpretation
  • Your employees are your ambassadors and your advocates – they should hear and see what the outside world hears and sees
  • You cannot – and should not try to – tell the internal audience one thing and the external audience(s) another (which means having an eye on tone of voice as well)
  • The internal communication function sits within the Communication Department – it is not a devolved function, and should never be the responsibility of individual business function heads

This is all, clearly, common sense and, despite the qualified assertion that ‘some may say that only senior communicators reach the stage where they can and do blend both internal and external expertise’, seniority (or age) has no monopoly on common sense.

Internal and external communication shouldn’t need merging, converging or bringing together. They are two sides of the same coin, share the same aims and are predicated on the same corporate truths. They shouldn’t be separate in the first place.

It’s obvious. It shouldn’t need explaining and it certainly isn’t some secret wisdom revealed only to those who’ve spent years following the Way of the Communicator.

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