To reflect a renewed focus on business communication and, specifically, internal communication, and because I was able to get my hands on a great URL, I have created a new site and blogging platform called “Changing The Terms” which can be found at http://www.changingtheterms.com.
Posted by commscrum on 04/05/2014
The Debate Arrives…Let’s Move It Forward
Opening my laptop for the first time some days into a trip back to my native United States, I was excited to see a real debate about the nature of internal communication emerging in various corners of the professional blogosphere. This debate about the nature of internal communication is important because it prompts a re-examination of what kind of orientation of is appropriate for internal comms practitioners and functions.
David Murray and Shel Holtz go to great lengths to discuss their views on the subject, agreeing on the imperative for communicators to support business literacy. They diverged on the extent to which technology is worth discussing, the appropriateness of the journalistic mentality, and above all, the level of curiosity and integrity of the practitioner. Their pieces build on an online discussion led by industry legend Roger D’Aprix on the subject “Are Internal Communicators Intellectually Lazy”? These are important topics that those of us who care about the profession need to discuss. But before the debate continues, we need to get straight with ourselves about some underlying realities. 1) There are serious limitations to the traction of a discussion focusing solely on the nature of normative internal communication.
Sure, it’s important to attempt to refine a common sense of core purpose and values and accepted standards and practices. But this is an industry where there are no barriers to entry and where access is determined as much by executives, HR folks and externally-oriented communication directors, as by senior internal communication pros. An intramural consensus on “what is ‘normative’ is unlikely to engage those who make hiring and budget decisions, and unlikely to be visible to the legions of practitioners entering the industry from other fields.
2) There seems to be an assumption that formal communication, either of the managerial or published variety, is somehow the sole or primary vehicle for connecting employees with the information they need to do their jobs.
Such an assumption belies the reality that much of the information employees glean in their workplaces are collected through their interactions with peers and colleagues, the “grapevine.” In my view, our role is neither to “inform” employees in a journalistic manner, or “align” them so that they behave in a certain, specified way. Employees select their own information sources, and choose how they behave, based on their own perceptions of what they need to know and to achieve their desired levels of performance. And, in reference to the conversation about intellectual laziness, this is no less true of our fellow internal communicators
3) There also seems to be an assumption that internal communicators all have the same raison d’etre.
Internal communicators are internal. We are not paid for our objectivity, our ability to dance to our own moral drummer. We are paid to work for our organizations. As to why we are paid? It really depends on the organization and the arrangement. In many organizations, we are paid to make it easier for employees and their companies to work toward common objectives. In others, we work to facilitate productive interactions between managers and staff, drive business literacy, or to stimulate effective social communication between colleagues across the organization.
Those are not the only models, however. Some companies see internal communication as a vehicle for advancing their organizational agendas, and others as a box-ticking exercise or as a tool for achieving better social cohesion. The first step for a communicator to begin to maximize his or her influence is to figure out which model is the actual one the organization is operating in. Coming in with a one-size-fits-all set of moral or professional standards could be most counterproductive.
Moving the debate forward
In order to move from debating the nature of internal communication to shaping its future, the main task is to recognize its current context and assess what is driving its future development. Questioning the values, behavior, standards and savvy of practitioners and, indeed, the collective mind-set of the industry is no bad thing. The debate about the future will marry such an inquiry with a deep appreciation of the diversity of contexts in which we operate and the trends, be they demographic, cultural, financial or technological, which we will increasingly confront. Let that conversation begin.
LINKS TO REFERENCED PIECES
David Murray Article: http://ragan.com/Main/Articles/47612.aspx#
IABC Group Discussion on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=58441&item=ANET%3AS%3A5804261464583725059&trk=NUS_RITM-title (registration may be required)
Posted by commscrum on 26/11/2013
In my latest article for Ragan Report, Jeppe Vilstrup Hansgaard of Copenhagen’s Innovisor social analysis consultancy and I discuss the underlying mechanics of social communication, and the extent to which they can be applied even without access to Enterprise Social Network tools like Jive, Yammer and Newsgator.
The full article, along with a thought-provoking Editor’s Note by Ragan’s William Sweetland, can be found at:
Posted by commscrum on 10/06/2013
In my latest article for Ragan.com, I take a look at the current IABC crises and attempt to shift the focus from the current IABC leadership and onto IABC’s current mission and business model.
The piece may be found at:
Posted by commscrum on 15/02/2013
My latest blog post can be found on the CIPR Conversation at:
Interested in your thoughts and comments.
Posted by commscrum on 26/08/2012
“That’s me in the corner…”
The departure of rock band REM from the scene last week prompted me to examine my own, if temporary, hiatus from the blogosphere.
Until now, most of my activism in the internal communication world has been based on a belief that manager communication has been over-emphasised. My book covers that ground, and it’s all over my five+ years as an industry blogger.
But lately, I’ve been “losing my religion,” as REM once sung. Back driving comms on a massive change programme , I’ve been confronted by a huge gap in the manager communication space. Most searingly, I’ve also been confronted by survey scores demonstrating that manager involvement resulted in an increase in positive attitudes toward the programme from 10 to 30 percent on our key measures.
Game. Set. Match. So have I become a born again cascader? Sort of. I’m still convinced the manager is overutilised as a communicator and that direct and networked communication can be decisive. But I also believe manager comms – if it builds on and leverages manager credibility in addressing ambiguity, can also be decisive.
And if that means I’m losing my religion, so be it.
Posted by commscrum on 25/09/2011
In my latest post, this time on the UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations Conversation site, I reply to recent lamentations about the fate of the internal communicator in the current environment.
The piece can be found at:
Posted by commscrum on 19/06/2011
Communications associations, and indeed much of the internal communication industry, have been in for some heat lately. No hotter source is that of one of my publishers, Kevin Keohane (http://kevinkeohane.wordpress.com/), whose latest broadside claims a desire to bin every piece received from communication associations or anyone remotely mainstream in the comms industry.
Now, I share Kevin’s boredom with ten-year old debates on things like preferred powerpoint formats for line manager cascades, and his disgust with the increasing prevalance of tactics like “pay to play” on the conference circuit, where consultants pay for access to conference audiences. Injecting new ideas into the communication discussion is not easy.
But communication associations have a mixed record, not a record of total recalcitrance. The newly rebadged Communication Leadership Exchange (formerly CCM: www.cccmconnection.com) remains a beacon for new ideas and spirited debate in a membership well divided by age and consultant/in-house status. I have also personally found the European Association of Communication Directors and its sister institution, Quadriga University, to be highly open to my ideas and input, and to bringing in talent from new and unexpected sources.
As for the International Association of Business Communicators, the major global association in the field: there is no question IABC is conservative and holds a lot of the old conversations in place. But I was recently offered a position on the committee which reviews content proposals for the 2012 IABC Conference. After some deliberation, namely about whether I thought I could have enough impact, I agreed to join. So in this case, I’m fully inside the tent.
Communication associations need member help and support to remain topical, and to remain open to newer and more distinctive voices. Some of that help will come from losing members and from external pressure, but I think at least as much will come from those who stay and stand for something better. Ultimately, no groups of people care more about organisational communication than these associations. Therefore, they warrant the investment of time, and even of aggravation, that moving them forward sometimes requires.
Posted by commscrum on 14/05/2011