PR: the cuckoo in the internal communicator’s nest?

The current media meltdown following the News of the World scandal has left a lot of very raw egg on a host of very red faces. Once again, some of the soggiest have been the MPs. The Labour lot for having largely popularised spin and control of the airwaves in pursuit of presidential politics masterminded by Campbell, Mandy and co. The Tories for the ongoing and deeply concerning Coulson debacle.

In Brand Engagement, a manifesto for authenticity in internal communication, Ian calls for consistency in behaviour to back up fine words and heralds the “end of the era of spin”. We now appear to be witnessing a rather spectacular conclusion to that epoch.

But where does that leave the communication discipline of PR?

Having both served a term as CIPR Advisory Board members, aiming to help steer the CIPR Inside function onto practical, pragmatic shores, it’s clear that internal communicators can still learn a great deal from the PR practitioners and that PR professionals in the main value the role that internal communication can play in an integrated communication strategy. There is, however, something innately uncomfortable about associating internal communication and its stakeholders who demand authenticity (and are very demanding customers), with internal PR.

There are clearly challenging times ahead for PR functions. Regardless of whether they face externally or, in fact, internally they have always been, to some extent, perceived as the cuckoo in the internal communicator’s nest. Unfortunately, recent events in the PR space and plummeting consumer confidence in message management aren’t likely to have done much to help the cause.

Based on previous and current client experience, we rather suspect that we’re about to see a new generation of enlightened and empowered HR functions take back much of the territory lost to their communication counterparts as they start to prepare for recovery and move increasingly into the largely behaviour-based engagement zone.

Collaborations between the people functions would clearly be better. But cutting through the hype, the noise and the fog in order to restore lost confidence is clearly going to be key regardless. It would appear that HR , with CEO support, is currently best placed to lead the revivalist charge.


6 thoughts on “PR: the cuckoo in the internal communicator’s nest?

  1. But PR is not a synonym for spin. Taking the Excellence study, public relations is two-way communication seeking to achieve mutual understanding. Therefore, internal communications is part and parcel of PR.

    • I agree that PR isn’t intentionally associated with “spin”. I’m not sure anyone would admit to that association these days.
      As I say in the post, internal comms and the other communication disciplines owe much to the founding principles etc.
      But it’s about time practitioners accepted that what really matters, especially in the current market, is stakeholder perceptions which are, at least for them, the same as reality.
      We’ve just experienced what was arguably the age of PR.
      Can’t help feeling that something much more authentic, humble and grounded in explicit and trusted, timely feedback will be “fit for purpose” for the foreseeable. Simply changing the semantics won’t be enough when austerity bites as people need leaders who lead by example and don’t just talk a good game.

  2. Pingback: Quick plug for the PR Institute’s Internal Comms Event | The Brand Trilogy (TBT)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s