Come out, come out, wherever you are …

I had an interesting meeting with some of our internal comms folk yesterday talking about social media and its impact on them and their roles. It really felt like pushing at an open door which is very refreshing. I guess now that we have these tools, none of us can ignore the impact they might/are having.

One of the big things I tried to impress upon them was the importance of their own personal on-line brands. Until now, internal comms people have been the invisible fixers behind the scenes – orchestrating, organising and feeding words into mouths. In a social media space, they need to come out of the shadows.

To employees, internal comms managers represent the ‘company’ – which could make it very difficult for them to engage in social media channels without getting an automatically hostile response. Getting a hostile response is significantly more likely if an internal comms person suddenly appears in a channel from no where and starts to present the company’s view. That’s why internal comms people should be building relationships and their own personal brands with their audiences now … building trust … before the time comes when they might have to deliver uncomfortable or unpopular messages. The danger is that employees are busy building networks and trust relationships among themselves cutting out the internal comms managers to the point where it will become increasingly difficult to engage and join those networks when they need to become involved to fire-fight or propagate messages.

For me, internal comms has always been about facilitating the relationship between the management and employees of an organisation. With social media tools I think the line between management and employees within an organisation disappears … suddenly, we’re all just people. It doesn’t matter where you sit in an increasingly irrelevant organisation structure, what matters is your influence on those around you. If you don’t join in, build your own brand, build trust … you will inevitably have no influence and become irrelevant. That’s not only true for internal comms people, but for all of us in any kind of organisation or network.

We all need to build trust relationships and influence now so that we have something to support us when times get tough … and tough times are always just around the corner!

5 comments

  1. I’ve been reading some of Wedge‘s stuff, and he’s talked about personal branding in the past.

    Chris Brogan has written a lot about personal branding, and has dedicated articles about it.

    I think the blogging and YourViews space in BT is a really good introduction to developing brands internally – I just wish we saw more genuine engagement from senior management.

  2. Hi Richard, OK, I am coming out!

    What a very interesting angle, that I can relate to, being a manager internal communications in a global company myself. In fact, our job is changing rapidly, just two days ago I posted this article on our internal blog: (I am not a native speaker of English, so please forgive any shaky English).

    Who took my job and shook it around?

    Manager Internal Communications, my job title has a reassuring familiar ring to it. I have been working in the field of internal communications for some 15 years now, I was even a lecturer in this field at a Dutch University, but in the past two years the earth shook under my feet and my job turned around almost 180 degrees.

    The good old days…

    I used to be able to send messages to designated target groups, of which we knew their information needs through regular surveys and focus groups. My agenda was filled with appointments with copy writers, designers, art directors and agencies, and -of course- , my internal customer: THE BOSS, who wanted to communicate something. I made neat little communication plans, brochures, annual reports, beautiful internal magazines that everybody read, and controlled all the internal media that were available to us. Every now and then, I needed to put something on the internet, of course, which meant sending a Word document to an internal internet expert, an IT guy, who took care of the immensely difficult job of getting it on the internet with a few pictures attached to it. Nobody else understood HTML and other difficult words, of course.

    HELP; I am in IT land now

    Somehow, over a period of about three years, this all changed. I am now talking to IT about servers, SharePoint, CMS platforms, RSS-feeds, Blogs, Wikis, and all of a sudden I find myself responsible for tools that used to be safely hidden within the IT department. Copy writing? The read-and-write web is open to everyone. Art directors? No time for that, just copy and paste a picture from the internet.And you know what? WHERE DID MY TARGETGROUPS GO? They are scattered all over the place in their own wikis, forums, and communities, arrogantly clicking away any news message from Corporate Communications.

    I have a new job. The days of command and control in our trade are over. Welcome to the age of the dialogue. Anyone need a manager internal communications?

    Jan van Veen

    Manager Internal Communications

  3. Jan – thanks for sharing this – it’s great to see recognition of the changes to the ineranl comms profession from an internal comms manager!

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