Internal communication as part of nationbuilding in government

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I was recently summonsed to the Presidency in Pretoria to come and assess their “internal communication”. It struck me – once again – that even in the highest order of government – the concept of internal communication is totally forgotten. Nobody – except for the newly-appointed head of the section – had any idea of the concept of internal communication or why it might be important. The question that came up: If the government of a country neglects internal communication in its corridors, how should the nation interpret the government’s treatment of other levels of its communication?

4 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder if this is not a general tendency in our part of the world (Africa). Whilst I was doing training amongst the government communication specialists in Tanzania recently, it was openly acknowledged that internal communication has never previously been considered part of the responsibilities of government communicators. However, in the new communication dispensation (reported on by Toni elsewhere) there was understanding that this should indeed be happening. I wonder what is going on in the rest of the world in this regard?
    BS

  2. In Italy, but also in most of Europe I believe, there has been a growing trend within organizations to consider employee communication as an integral part of the corporate communication function.
    Until the mid nineties it was mostly part of the human relations function.
    The law 150/2000 approved by the Italian Parliament, which formalized the strategic role of communication in all public sector organizations, includes explicit reference to internal communication as being istrumental to the improvement of relationships with the citizen.
    In 2002 I cooperated with the then Minister of Public Function to draft a ‘directive’ to all public sector organizations underlining the fundamental role of internal communication as part of the overall communication effort.
    It is ironic that when, in 1978, my then public relations agency SCR (in the framework of a diversification policy which eventually led to the creation of five other companies) had 50% of shares of a start up management training company called Methodos (where I work now…).
    In the early eighties our Methodos partners asked us permission to expand into the internal communication area where they had found new spaces in their interlocution with human resource directors. We of course agreed as our traditional pr interlocutors at the time were not interested in employee communication.
    The situation today has completely changed and Methodos, being the market leader in change (transformation) management practices, is often also mistaken for a public relations consultancy because our interlocutors are often also directors of communication.
    My personal viewpoint is that stakeholder relationship governance, which is what we are all about from a strategic perspective, should place employee relationships at the zenith of priorities (admittedly not in every organization, but in most) for at least two excellent reasons:
    °the organization does not work if employees are not involved, informed and motivated;
    °external stakeholder groups increasingly recognize that the quality of their relationship with an organization is mostly influenced by their dealings with its employees.

  3. Thank you Toni, for this clarification on the importance of internal communication/relationships in public sector (and other) organizations in Italy.

    Can you please also clarify the exact meaning of ‘interlocutors’?

    Since we are now into clarification, my remark re ‘a general tendency in our part of the world’ refers specifically to internal communication in government. I would say that in South African business organisations, internal communication is mostly seen to be part of the responsibilities of public relations/corporate communication practitioners.

    However, I don’t think that employee ‘relationships’ is necessarily seen to be part of PR’s responsibility in SA. It is my own view that PR has more of a support role to play here, i.e. the PR ‘educationist’ role which refers to supporting organisational managers/ leaders/ supervisors with their communication responsibilities towards their subordinates–assisting, encouraging or teaching the principles of the role. And last but not the least, facilitating the manager/employee relationship. But it remains the responsibility of the manager to communicate with employees (motivating, leading, resolving conflict, sharing organisational direction, etc) and building relationships with them. In the past, there has been too much emphasis on employee publications/other channels and too little emphasis on informal interpersonal communication between managers and subordinates.

    (In addition to the ‘reflective’ PR role) the PR ‘educationist’ as referred to above was empirically verified by one of my masters students, Mateboho Green, in Telkom (our recently privatised telecommunications service provider), according to the expectations of 150 top executives. It must be noted that this conceptualisation differs from the EBOK ‘Educational’ role which is focused on assisting organisational members to become communicatively competent in responding to societal demands.

    BS

  4. Hello..I am a student in Professor Falconi’s Global Relations course this Summer. I currently work in Internal Communications for a Retail Company in New York. I have to agree that companies are realizing now more than ever how important their employees are as employees are their ambassadors and can influence corporate reputation greatly. I do think it works best when the communicators understand the overall business goals of the company and can interpret those to the employees. I often find myself communicating something but not understanding the overall business goal it is supporting. This we need to improve upon as a company in today’s world.

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