In the world of business communication, every now and then an old idea gets renamed and passed off as a great innovation, even when it may be better left on the recycling heap.
Such is the case with Walmart’s “invention” of “eternal communication” – the idea of recirculating external messages internally, while de-emphasizing internal communication.
Chad Mitchell, Walmart’s Senior Director of Digital Communications said last week in Ragan’s PR Daily: “Internal communications is dead. Or, if it isn’t, it will be soon. Internal communications messages tend to be known as the boring stuff, like emails about the parking lot getting repaved. Though that information is important in its own way, what employees really want to hear are the stories you share externally.”
As goes Walmart?
So, what does Walmart’s pronouncement of Internal Communication’s death actually mean? Walmart is a US company offering mainly low-wage jobs to 2.3 million mostly-retail employees, and it appears in this case that Mitchell’s job is focused on keeping those millions entertained.
If the primary role of internal communication is employee entertainment, then it makes sense to look at whether it’s entertaining enough to fulfill that role.
Mercifully, for internal comms pros and the people we serve, we have far more to offer. We can help organizations align on common objectives, drive towards ambitious visions and amplify the voice of the customer. We accelerate programs, integrate projects, mobilize influencers, clarify priorities and reinforce cultures.
Walmart might not see competitive advantage in effective internal communication. That’s no reason why everyone else should overlook the many opportunities it can offer to organizations that want to make a difference.
Mike Klein is Principal of Changing The Terms, an Internal Communication-focused consultancy in the Netherlands. A dual US/UK citizen, Mike has driven Internal Communication initiatives for Shell, Cargill, EasyJet Airlines, VEON, and Maersk Oil.