Industry News

What are the most frustrating misconceptions about internal communication?

We’ve all read that Cosmopolitan article, right? Wait – you haven’t? The one about how all internal comms practitioners dash about wearing headsets, “reach out” to colleagues and organise departmental birthday cakes?
 
While the tongue-in-cheek piece rankled a few internal comms practitioners, we’re all too busy – "busybusyverybusy", in fact – to take it to heart. And the writer recommended IoIC’s online magazine, Voice, so we have already forgiven and forgotten.
 
Of course, we all know the value internal communication brings. As IoIC president Suzanne Peck told PR Week: “People want to know their goals, understand the plans for getting there, and be confident about the value they're bringing to the business, which is especially true for millennials and Gen Z, who rely heavily on feedback and interaction."
 
However, IC specialists will also be all too familiar with the poor opinions of their department as the fluffy team that sends all-staff emails and makes leaflets look pretty.
 
We asked our network for the misconceptions about their role that annoys them most.
 
“Misconceptions? That giving a change programme a logo makes it engaging. That the design of the look and feel for said programme will only take a day. That ‘we'll ask a few people afterwards’ rather than building in measurement at the start is good practice. That IC is PR/marketing/advertising. We know we do a good job and the majority of our organisations know how we add value. Can we be better at proving that? Sure. Always.” – Suzanne Peck, IoIC president
 
“That our job is to take boring, irrelevant content, that even the owner admits no one really cares about, and to sprinkle magic comms dust on it to get people engaged.” – Martin Fitzpatrick, internal communications business partner
 
“Where to start… That there is a cupboard full of pens and balloons just waiting for their promotional event, and that production lead times don't exist. And tardiness in the client camp can be squeezed onto the supplier/producer. That anyone can write and that creativity and ideas generation are skills that don't carry a monetary value.” – Stephen Chawke, communications and engagement specialist
 
“I hear far too many ‘party planner’ comments when people are referring to internal comms people and teams. It really frustrates me that it's not seen as a professional discipline.” – Yvonne Henderson, brand and communications manager
 
“I once arrived early for an offsite meeting as the speaker was having difficulty connecting a laptop to the AV system. She was glad to see me, saying, ‘You're in communications, you must know all about this.’ I sighed, figured it out, and shot the profession in the foot.” – Jeff Campbell, communications consultant and writer
 
Some IC practitioners suggested we need to maintain perspective.
 
“It’s a misconception that what we do is as important as heart surgery (usually from the IC community itself). Lighten up! However, effective internal communications should always be a group effort and driven by leaders who listen. If you’re counting on one person to transform the culture of a whole organisation, you’ll be sadly disappointed.” – Husna Borg, communication consultant
 
“Whilst it’s kinda sweet people think that internal comms is some sort of magic bullet, it won't actually solve all their problems, and a bad decision is still a bad decision, no matter how effectively it's communicated!” – Sarah Browning, communications specialist

And there were mixed views on the Cosmopolitan article itself. Many were not impressed.
 
“Most of it is inaccurate stereotypes, and I've never organised anyone's birthday cake!” – Iain Bradbury, communications and engagement manager
 
“Shocking that… no research, poor journalism” – Tony Beresford, creative director
 
Others took it with a pinch of salt.
 
“Can't believe anybody took the Cosmo stuff seriously, but it served its purpose and generated publicity way beyond its worth.” – Tim Vaughan, head of content and corporate communications
 
“Rather than have a collective nervous breakdown about one jokey, throwaway article in a magazine which isn't necessarily read – or noted – for its career advice, let's just crack on with doing a great job.” – Nick Andrews, business development director
 
“An alternative response would be satisfaction that Cosmoplitan has been enlightened enough to acknowlege the role of an internal communicator and read it as a sign that the practice has gained some mainstream recognition. The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.” – Mark Hannant, creative services entrepreneur
 

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