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There are a lot of things that are believed about internal communication that are, at best, rarely true.

These beliefs undermine perceptions of #IC’s value and impact and make it difficult for real #internalcomms professionals to be effective. Yet they persist because they are easy to believe, and perhaps there are occasional bits of evidence that make them easy to believe.

That’s why I call them “near-myths” – in that they are mostly untrue and counterproductive.

I also argue that the continuing belief in them produces lousy results for organizations, and a lousy climate for IC pros to operate in.

Here are some of my favorites:

1. It’s a cost center

It can be a cost center when there’s no strategy or intent behind it. But when internal communication is focused on aligning organizational intent with the actions of staff, it can be an engine for cost optimization, or even cost reduction.

Why? Because it can help reduce the time employees spend on unproductive activity. And, as we know, “time is money.”

2. It should be under HR because “it’s a people thing”

Yes, “internal communication is a people thing.”

Kind of like “sales is a money thing.” But most organizations don’t put sales under finance.

Unless your company’s main differentiators are in the areas of culture and talent attraction and retention, internal communication can have more impact from reporting to whatever functions and activities are your biggest drivers.

That way, IC can help employees focus on the knowledge, behaviors and conversations that drive improvements in performance.

 

3. Anyone can do it – or you need tons of different skills to do it

There are a lot of people who think responsibility for internal communication can be delegated to a junior employee or even an intern. And others who come up with job specifications that imply that an IC professional has to be a flawless and proactive writer, event planner, graphic artist, project manager, and executive coach (at a salary in the range of a junior accountant or engineer).

These practices reflect a bigger near-myth: that there’s no value in treating IC as a strategic function, and of hiring IC professionals capable of going toe-to-toe with the C-suite on matters of policy and strategy and meriting inclusion in strategic conversations.

 

4. It should just be treated as a part of public relations

There’s certainly a need for internal communication to align with what’s being said to external stakeholders like customers, investigators and political decision-makers, and some may think it’s more efficient to just send your employees the information you send to other stakeholders, without making internal communication “a thing.”

But treating employees as one stakeholder group among many, and sharing just the same information with them neglects three important realities about employees:

  • Employees have a more-than-transactional relationship with their organizations and their jobs. For many, work is not a mere exchange of work for cash. Relationships matter. Shared values and objectives matter. Pride in a well-known or well-loved brand matters.
  • Employees own, or at least drive, your relationships with your customers. That means they need to be more knowledgeable than your customers are, to be able to answer their questions and maintain or increase customers’ confidence.
  • Employees are one of your leading external communication channels – talking about your company and your brand not only with customers, but also with their friends, families and neighbors.

5. Everybody understands what employee engagement is

There are persistent beliefs that there is a common definition of employee engagement, and that it can be credibly measured on a scale of 1-100.

But the people who push the use of employee engagement surveys define engagement in a number of different and conflicting ways. Like “discretionary effort”, “job satisfaction”, “commitment”, and “willingness to recommend their company” either to customers or potential employees. The almighty 1-100 scale belies startlingly different motivations employees have toward their jobs and their organizations.

 

6. You can’t measure the impact of internal communication

A lot of these near-myths are based on an implied foundation myth that “it’s impossible to actually measure the impact of internal communication.”

It’s true that it’s impossible to measure the impact of internal comms solely by using most of the measures that are commonly used: employee engagement scores, eNPS scores, click rates and open rates.

But it’s entirely possible to measure the impact of internal communication if you measure the changes that take place after you baseline what your world looks like before you start communication initiatives.

If you want to change behaviors, start by measuring the behaviors you want to change, before you start communicating about them.

Then communicate the changes you want to see, and measure the growth or decline in those behaviors as your communication efforts continue.

When you put your mind to it, it’s not only possible, it’s actually easy. And that’s what I teach in my Measurement Masterclass.

 

In closing

I know that these aren’t the only near-myths, or even, flat-out myths which people believe about internal communication. But if you want internal communication to move from being seen as a cost – or even as a nuisance, challenging these “near-myths” is critical to changing the game.

 

Want to change the game? Let’s talk.  Book a free 40-minute strategy conversation here.

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Mike Klein

Mike Klein is Principal of Changing The Terms, a consultancy focused on internal, change and social communication. Mike has worked with organizations in the US and Europe for more than 20 years on pressing strategic communication challenges, and is a prolific writer and commentator on communication strategy topics. Mike is also the Founder of #WeLeadComms, an initiative to drive open recognition and in the communication profession. He holds an MBA from London Business School, and is a former US political consultant.

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