The 2013 IPR best in class employee communication practices study emphasises that internal communication must evolve to help organisations cope with fast-paced change. With expectations rising and pressures mounting, how can internal communicators ensure they evolve professionally?
As an educator and researcher, I’m interested in a key question: What do evolutionary internal communication professionals need to know? If internal communication professionals want to develop professionally and stretch intellectually to serve the changing needs of employees and organisations, what do they need to learn? What areas of their general knowledge do they need to develop into deeper insight?
Let’s take a moment to focus on knowledge as information and insight acquired through education. Let’s separate it from skills, experience and practical expertise for the moment and ask: What should internal communications professionals know? What specific specialist knowledge should internal communication managers possess beyond “general knowledge” or “a reasonable overview”? What should they know more about than their clients and their colleagues in other disciplines?
I’ve constructed a knowledge framework for internal communication professionals based on research summarised in a forthcoming Public Relations Review article. The framework has 10 component knowledge areas in four clusters (view framework matrix). Examples of some of the knowledge areas in the matrix include:
Fundamental specialist knowledge
Employee relations (e.g. employee engagement)
Strategic communication management
Leadership (e.g. leadership communication)
Management (e.g. relationship management)
Strategy (Internal communication strategy and objectives
Underpinning theory and research
Communication science (e.g. employee communication needs)
Concepts and theory (e.g. Internal communication theory)
Research and evaluation (e.g. Internal communication audits)
Context and tactical considerations
Organisational culture and context
Internal issues and crisis communication
Emergent communication methods (e.g. social media)
Now, imagine you are creating an education specification for evolutionary internal communication professionals. What would you add to this matrix of required knowledge? And what, if anything, would you strike from the matrix?
Dr. Mary Welch is a senior lecturer in communication management for the Division of Communication, Marketing and Public Relations at Lancashire Business School – University of Central Lancashire, UK.