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At Voice Live in November, we’ll be looking at why the comms function of the future will see a blurring of lines between internal and external communication.

It will come as no surprise that the way we live and take in information as consumers, outside of work, is shaping the way internal communicators reach their audience. And yet, many IC and external comms functions have not yet fully married.

While in some organisations, the two teams are combined, or at least closely collaborating, many are keeping the skill sets apart. Shan Chatoo (pictured), group head of corporate communications for OCS Group, believes this is holding internal communication back.

Adapting your approach to an app economy

Shan will be talking at Voice Live in London on 19 November about how IC teams must evolve to offer “a complete blend” of comms styles and offerings.

“We live in an app economy,” she says. “We’ve moved away from searching for news. Push notifications have become the norm. A lot of organisations are ditching posters, leaflets and intranets – traditional IC channels – in favour of Workplace by Facebook or employee apps, because how we get information outside of work has changed.

“If you want your storytelling to be impactful, it’s important your employees feel empowered to tell those stories, especially on social channels. The only way they can do that is if internal and external strategies match up. In this age of authenticity, it’s going to be the differentiator.”

Aligning internal and external

When you are taking employees on a journey, especially if you’re going through any kind of transformation, the alignment of external and internal stories has to be spot on.

“When you have teams working separately, it feels like internal communication is always following and sometimes that story is not the same as the external one.

“If you’re doing it right, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you go for information, it’s the same message and the timing is similar. If you’re using an employee app, for instance, your people get the news instantly. You don’t want them seeing it first on the BBC and reading it internally five days later.”

The new-look IC team

The dynamics of comms teams need to change in line with the evolution of channels, adds Shan. She notes the increase in corporate affairs director roles and their ascension to the C-suite – “a reflection of how comms teams are encompassing internal, external and marketing comms” – and that individuals’ skills are broadening.

“From my team’s perspective, that’s made us much stronger. And the digital tools we’re using give us better measurement. It’s hard to see the impact of posters and written comms. Now I have the insight to go to the business and ask for more money. IC used to be the poor relation, but that’s not the case when internal and external comms teams – and their budgets – cross over.”

Shan believes many IC functions are not doing enough to bridge the gap.

“Start by treating your external comms colleagues as stakeholders. Align your goals and policies with theirs, and harness the power of bringing them together.”

Shan Chatoo will be speaking on our Future of IC panel at Voice Live on 19 November, and will be joined by Tom Abbott, partner for strategy at 44 Communications– on how agencies must evolve their offering in line with their clients’ changing priorities; Simon Greenman, co-founder, Best Practice AI – on the impact of artificial intelligence and industry 4.0 on internal comms; Luke Kyte, head of operations, Reddico – on the value of offering a flexible working model; and Justine Stevenson, head of internal communication, London Stock Exchange – on the need to maintain strong journalism and storytelling in the digital age of short-form content

Click here for more information on Voice Live and to book your place.

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