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Internal-External Convergence: We Can Lead

BY mikeklein One topic of ongoing contention in the comms world is that of how the boundaries between internal, external, and social communication are likely to dissolve in the coming years.

The trends are moving in that direction, particularly as communication in all three areas moves towards personal advocacy and away from formal,  official messaging.

But internal communicators need not find ourselves at the mercy of those trends, but as leaders driving, shaping and enabling those trends.

With the exception of the most consumer-oriented sectors, companies, markets and communities have common characteristics—a limited group of participants, easily identified, defined by common affiliation (the boundary that makes communication ‘internal’ in nature), and connected by common interests and relationships (the ties which make communication ‘tribal’ in nature).

External communicators have a tendency to see the world as an open space where communication takes place indirectly through brands and media and reporters.

Internal communicators have much greater fluency in communicating directly with stakeholders in ´closed´ spaces.

And even though social media is seen as a great opener of communication, its area of greatest value is in creating  enclosed spaces for communities to form and for companies to allow conversation among colleagues and customers and other stakeholders.

Internal communicators have the skills and orientation to drive and accelerate the internal and external convergence.  But I sense we lack the confidence.

As a species, we still see ourselves as subordinate, and as practitioners, we see such convergence as out of our ´scope.´  But, by focusing on empowering colleagues to share organisational stories and messages with their own communities through social communication, we become the ones who drive the convergence between internal, external, and social.  By doing so strategically, consciously and confidently, we change the terms.

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6 thoughts on “Internal-External Convergence: We Can Lead”

  1. I must say, there are a lot of stereotypes in YOUR depiction of “external” communications, Mike: External communicators have a tendency to see the world as an open space where communication takes place indirectly through brands and media and reporters.

    It sounds like you think external communications (namely, public relations) is related solely to media relations and marketing PR. Are you familiar with the Global Alliance’s Melbourne Mandate and its focus on being a “communicative organization?”

    The Mandate first took shape with the results of a global survey of association leaders, followed by a brief that posited three areas of emerging value for public relations and communication management:

    – Leading the definition of an organization’s character and values.
    – Building a culture of listening and engagement.
    – Instilling responsible behaviours in professionals and organizations.

    I think blurring the lines between external and internal communications works quite well in relation to the Mandate, but not when it subscribes to your apparent stereotypes.

    And let’s be honest, over the years hasn’t internal communications been limited (or suffered) more at the hands of reporting to HR than it has with any relationship with “external” or corporate communicators?


    P.S. I’ve copied and pasted from here: The Melbourne Mandate: A professional beacon for PR http://ow.ly/w5ic5

  2. Thanks for your reply and for bringing me up to speed on the Melbourne Mandate, as it is always good to hear of new thinking from the Global Alliance.

    That much being said, I stand behind my premise that the increasing centrality of the employee as channel as well as champion is a potential game changer that can benefit internal communicators if we can seize the initiative. That “PR” is discovering and adapting to the same trends to an extent is not a bad thing. But adoption of principles by an industry group hardly represents a universal change of culture by a profession that has been heretofore quite successful without those principles.

  3. The Global Alliance of Public Relations and Communication Management is a global (not-for-profit) association of national PR associations, Mike. Hardly an “industry group.” Perhaps you should research it a bit more, before making more assertions (and stereotypes).

    About GA

    The Global Alliance for PR and Communication Management is the confederation of the world’s major PR and communication management associations and institutions, representing 160,000 practitioners and academics around the world. The Global Alliance’s mission is to unify the public relations profession, raise professional standards all over the world, share knowledge for the benefit of its members and be the global voice for public relations in the public interest.

    The Global Alliance works on the cooperative efforts of communication professionals to tackle common problems with a global perspective. By partnering with regional, national and international bodies to increase professionalism in Public Relations and Communication Management, this Alliance works to enhance the influence of the industry among its constituents around the world.

    The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management is a non-profit organization registered in Switzerland.
    – See more at: http://www.globalalliancepr.org/website/page/about-ga#sthash.anlYK7Z6.dpuf

    FYI, Mike, one of the founders and the inaugural chair of the Global Alliance is (Italian) Toni Muzi Falconi, who very much believes that internal communications is central to effective organizational communications. In the GA’s Stockholm Accords, he actually coined the phrase “communicative organizations,” upon which the (2012) Melbourne Mandate was built. By consensus.

  4. Hi, Mike — I enjoy how you explore new ideas from different angles. Here, I’m a little confused. Like Judy, I noticed what seemed to be value statement that prioritized internal over external. Is that your intent?

  5. Thanks for your note-and apologies for confusion! The short answer is yes-I am making a “sectarian” appeal to my internal comms co-conspirators to take ownership of the convergence process. I justify this approach because internal communicators have no lack of the skills and competence to do it, and because our understanding of employees and the dynamics in which they interact with each other, their customers and their communities is a collective strength of ours. I am not saying PR has no seat at this table–just saying that this is an opportunity to take the lead.

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