Author(s), Title and Publication: Sebastião, S. S., Zulato, G. G., & Trindade, A. A. (2017). Internal communication and organisational culture: The management interplay in the view of the Portuguese communication consultant. Public Relations Review, 43(4), 863-871. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2017.05.006

While management consultancy is a well-known commodity with robust underpinnings supporting its history, there remains a dearth of information on the topic of communication(s) consulting. Nonetheless, heightened expectations of transparency and communication from all levels of organizations has increased academic and professional attention to the consultancy role, specifically in the United States where there is growing pressure for CEOs to communicate directly with stakeholders. Typically, external observers and consultants are capable of efficiently recognizing issues, advising and assisting clients in achieving unbiased reflection of capacity, and providing effective solutions to problems. To evaluate whether such expertise transcends organizationally to form an internal communication consultant role, this study evaluates the interplay of organizational culture and internal communication as interpreted by Portuguese communication professionals.

Focusing on how internal communication consultants consider organizational culture in working out proposals for their customers, and how the interconnection between internal communication and organizational culture influences their work and the choices of strategies to be applied, the authors conducted qualitative in-depth interviews with Portuguese communication consultants. Divided between two major themes, organizational communication and organizational culture, interviews revealed organizational strategy, structure and leadership distinguish an organization’s environment. Results further suggest strategy and message intent impact the way internal communication messages are received from consultants or unfamiliar organizational members. Specifically, consultants reported perceived barriers from clients regarding financial communication, indicating consultants as non-group members do not have access to perceived private information. The result suggested the importance of establishing mutual trust with internal stakeholders. A second major finding of the study suggests understanding organizational culture includes capturing the essence of the culture and the experience as a whole, rather than in isolation. While the study also notes internal communication consultants tended to offer one-size-fits-all approach to client problems irrespective of the organizational culture, overall findings illustrate culture should be factored into strategic communication and decision-making and that internal communication and organizational culture work in harmony.

Implications for Practice
Strategic communication and public relations consultancies should (1) acquire internal communication expertise abroad or through academic programs, (2) focus on individual organizational cultures to better understand clients’ unique needs and provide stable internal communication advice, and (3) build professional service portfolios through networking, trust, collaboration, and long-term relationship-building.

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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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