Neill, Marlene S. (Winter 2015) Emerging Issues in Internal Communications: Generational Shifts, Internal Social Media & Engagement. Public Relations Journal, 9(4).


Internal communication is rising in prominence and resources due to generational shifts as Baby Boomers retire and Millennials enter the workforce. Through 32 interviews with executives in marketing, public relations and human resources, this study identifies some major trends including the emergence of internal social media channels, efforts to drive and measure employee engagement, and a shift from one-way to three-way communication.


Internal communication was studied through 32 in-depth interviews with executives working in 26 companies and organizations representing the states of Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and the District of Columbia. As an indication of their standing, seven of the companies are featured among the Fortune 500 and three among the Global 500.

Key Findings

  • Millennials expect more dialogue in internal communication, and internal social media channels are enabling more collaboration.
  • Opinions varied on whether internal communicators should only monitor employee comments posted on internal social media channels or engage directly in the conversations.
  • The entrance of Millennials in the workforce also has reinforced the need for employer branding as a means of increasing employee loyalty and engagement.
  • The majority of the internal communicators were well aware of this trend, and had implemented specific strategies and tactics to promote their core values as a competitive advantage such as promoting their values in employee recruitment materials, employee orientation, routine communication as well as recognizing employees who are modeling their values in annual awards program.

Implication for Practice

  • Some participants reported that adoption of internal social media tools are associated with benefits such as employee retention, productivity, advocacy on behalf of the organization, willingness to recommend as a place to work, willingness to stand up for the company in a crisis, and willingness to participate in public affairs campaigns.
  • Some challenges internal communicators reported are moving people from email to the new channels and a lack of one primary source of crucial information.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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