I’ve worked in half a dozen different internal communications jobs and the function has sat in half a dozen different places. In many organisations it’s subservient to something else, either HR or marketing. Does this imply a function that hasn’t quite found its place at the top table yet?
I’m pleased to hear that the new government communications competencies place it squarely as one of four parts of the communications skills mix alongside campaigns and marketing, press and media management and digital.
But does this imply that the right place for internal comms is as part of a wider communications function? Sure you’ll be more connected to the external world but your relationship with internal teams like HR, change and strategy may suffer. If you’re part of HR you’ll be tied in well with them but probably be too internally focused and not have good enough links with the likes of press office.
Of course no structure is perfect and ultimately it’s about the strength of the relationships you build. With those you can overcome pretty much anything.
In my role at UK Trade & Investment, internal comms reports to a director who is also responsible for strategy, board secretariat, change and HR. It works really well – it means we’re very connected to the executive team and that we have control of all the levers of people performance in one place. And it means that HR and internal comms are on the same level, whereas so often internal comms reports to HR.
In the Department for Business, one of our parent organisations, they’ve now followed a similar approach and taken internal comms out of the main communications directorate and put it alongside the secretariat and change teams in a directorate called corporate effectiveness. I like the title – it does what it says on the tin!
Our new chief operating officer, who’s joined from Virgin Atlantic, says in that organisation internal comms reports to the chief executive. I think that’s a pretty good place to be – and it sends out a powerful message that nothing is more important.
So where does your internal comms team sit? And more importantly how do you make it work?
Image used under Creative Commons from droetker0912