Internal communications are a huge part of today’s workplace.
Many modern companies operate globally and, with the ongoing pandemic, some organizations are managing a more remote workforce. Internal communications are what bring people together, working toward a common purpose, and sharing a common vision.
That being said, there are still some troublesome misconceptions around internal communications that can reduce its effectiveness.
Keep reading to learn about 20 outdated internal communications myths – and the realities that matter in today’s business landscape.
Myth 1: Internal communication is the role of the internal communications team
This is the number one myth for a reason.
One of the longest-running and most perpetuated misconceptions around internal communications is that the function belongs only to one department or individual. If you don’t have a dedicated internal communications team then perhaps you look to your marketing or HR groups.
This is the case for many companies, but it shouldn’t be.
Effective internal communication draws on the input, experiences, and expertise of different departments and individuals across the entire business.
Though senior management should shape top-down internal communications strategies, all employees should engage in this form of communication – interacting, responding, and providing feedback upward.
Myth 2: Internal communications equals employee engagement
Many companies regard internal communications and employee engagement as the same thing, but they’re not.
In actuality, internal communication is one aspect of enabling overall employee engagement. In fact, Gallup has conducted extensive research into the topic to develop Q12 that identifies the different elements that make for engaged employees.
Overall employee engagement has many factors, one of which is strong internal corporate communications that foster a shared culture.
Myth 3: Employees only engage when they’re on the clock
Many leaders have bought into the myth that employees only engage during the “best time to post” – which has traditionally been viewed as a standard 9-5. And historically, this was the case.
In today’s hyper-connected world, people no longer access communications tools only from the confines of their office.
Technology has broken down barriers and usage data shows that 23% of intranet activity occurs outside of business hours. That’s a trend you can expect to see go up.
Myth 4: Social media tends to hurt communications goals
A very common – and somewhat old-school – philosophy is that social media leads to a lack of control when it comes to internal employee communications.
While there are certainly adherence issues to pay attention to, encouraging employees to be active on social can play a powerful role in creating brand advocates, recruiting new employees, and sharing company culture.
Additionally, social media is a tool that most employees are familiar with and comfortable using, which means it can actually be a key internal communications channel.
Myth 5: You don’t need to worry about quality with internal videos
Video is becoming more important, both in external and internal communications. Many people believe that videos created “only” for employees don’t require a strong focus on production.
Consider the potential negative impact of poorly produced content getting out there. Employees are an important audience so ensure every video you produce has a strong narrative and well-constructed key messages.
You don’t have to commit the same levels of time or financial resources that you would for external videos, but always put best practices in place for planning and producing all video content.
Myth 6: Internal communications professionals are basically party planners
Elaine Ng, head of communications at Philips ASEAN Pacific, explained in a recent article that the internal communications profession is highly underrated.
Unfortunately, some people still believe that internal communication is no more than writing newsletters or organizing a few events. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The fundamental importance of internal communications is to get an accurate sense of employee engagement and develop tactics that help all employees drive business performance.
Once in a while, that may include planning parties – but only as a part of larger initiatives that help employees work better together.
Myth 7: Internal communication can’t be measured
People used to say that marketing couldn’t be measured, and now we all know better. You might occasionally hear that you can’t measure your efforts, but doing so is paramount to improving internal communications.
Almost anything can be measured if you have the right tools. Understand the right mix of KPIs and you’ll be able to track data such as clicks, opens, engagement, and more.
Track communications as closely as possible to see what’s resonating and create content from there.
Myth 8: Internal communications are nice-to-have but not necessary
Marketing is a necessity.
Sales are a necessity.
Internal communications are also a necessity even though they haven’t always been viewed as such.
Studies show that companies who understand the importance of internal communications outperform those who don’t. Internal communications planning involves getting everyone on the same page and working singularly toward company goals – and what could be more necessary than that?
Myth 9: External communication and internal communication need to be kept separate
Lots of companies have separate functions for internal and external communications, but the fact is that internal and external communications are not as different as you might think.
At the end of the day, all forms of messaging being relayed from your company deal with your corporate reputation. In fact, employees are crucial to managing your company’s reputation and brand.
The core mission and values of your company should be present in any communications, whether internal or external.
Myth 10: Social is useless in internal communications
You cannot control your employees’ use of social media. For this reason, communications professionals often want to steer clear of social media when it comes to executing internal communications.
However, a strong social media policy can be your best friend.
Your employees are using social, and using it often. Your best bet is to identify channel gaps and find out why employees might be using social to fill them. Ensure your social policy is widely distributed and understood so that your employees can use it for interaction and engagement.
Myth 11: Telling people what to do is what internal communication is about
This myth is rooted in truth. In many cases, internal corporate communications do tell people what to do.
However, from a larger perspective, internal communications are about creating shared understanding and meaning. That is what your employees expect and deserve.
The difference in reception is in telling rather than selling – consider consulting employees and persuading them, not simply informing them of things they must do.
Myth 12: Internal communication is simply sending out stuff
It’s easy to see why people might have this perception. After all, employees are likely to receive plenty of communications from internal staff.
It’s important for employees across your organization to understand that corporate internal communications go so far beyond simply sending messages. Successful internal communications range from coaching leaders on their communication style to building dialog with staff or ensuring consistency of tone across channels.
Myth 13: Employee generated content threatens the work of internal communications
Not all companies have employees who want to generate content. If you do, consider yourself lucky. Again, this is about giving up some control – but if you do, you’ll open new channels of successful communication.
Internal communications best practices will equip and enable staff to create content that resonates with other employees.
Rather than try to reign in employee-generated content, consider coaching others on things like brand standards, logo usage, channel choices, and use of social media.
Myth 14: Frontline employees don’t care about company strategy
In some cases, this might be true. However, it’s the job of internal communications leaders to make employees care about the bigger picture.
The best way to do this is to tie objectives and goals back to the larger company strategy. Your corporate initiatives will be more likely to succeed if employees understand how their role contributes to the bottom line.
Also, be sure that employees understand how you’re using the insights you gain from them to improve things in their workplace.
Myth 15: Mobile apps are transforming internal communications
It’s true that there are new applications that enable your internal teams to speak to one another.
Take a look at platforms like Whatsapp, which enables private, encrypted chatting, or the chat function that many conferencing services have enabled.
That being said, the basics of internal communication – sharing information across the organization for the purposes of enabling company success – isn’t changing. Some tactics might evolve, but company leaders need to keep their primary internal communications strategy at the forefront of any innovations or new technologies.
Myth 16: Internal communications don’t affect the bottom line
It’s easy to think that since internal communications are only seen by employees, they don’t have a way of impacting actual revenue.
That’s a dangerous belief though. Poor internal communications can create a domino effect that has a negative impact.
Lackluster communications can lead to poor morale which can lead to turnover.
Unclear communications can lead to misunderstood expectations, missed deadlines, or other issues.
Employees that are frustrated by internal communications (or a lack thereof) are more likely to leave, which leads to staffing shortages and decreased productivity.
Myth 17: Internal communications stay internal
It’s right there in the name. People who send internal communications assume that they’ll remain within the company’s four walls. Sometimes, though, that doesn’t end up being the case – which can cause problems.
The lines between internal and external communications are continually blurred. Especially with social media, messages can be shared more easily than ever.
Additionally, sometimes employees are customers. Every time you create an internal message, think about how it could be perceived externally and adjust accordingly. In case one ever gets out, you’ll be glad you did.
Myth 18: Internal communications is just lesser PR work
Internal communication has often been viewed as a less-glamorous arm of PR. However, as organizations get smarter about their biggest asset – their employees- more focus should be applied to internal communications strategies.
Now more than ever, businesses can see the importance of valuing employees. They are what drives the success of an organization, and effective internal communications will go a long way toward building these critical relationships.
Myth 19: One all-staff email is an internal communications strategy
Email tends to be the easiest way to reach people so naturally it’s used often.
It’s important to consider how many emails your staff receives though. Will your message be white noise? Will it even get opened?
For important communications initiatives, consider multi-faceted campaigns that leverage more tactics than just email and reach staff across several touchpoints, including company meetings, hard-copy memos, and digital signage in populated areas.
Myth 20: Messaging needs to get out NOW
Does it, though? If everything is urgent, then nothing really is.
We all have our own definition of important or critical, but it’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking all content is time-sensitive.
Consider creating a priority matrix which will help to set expectations about which communications are urgent and which can wait. Something like this Eisenhower Matrix can help your team to decide timing on various communications.
With so much uncertainty and employees working in so many different ways, every form of internal communication is crucial.
We help companies improve the way they communicate with their employees and within their buildings to create better aligned and more productive workplaces. To learn more, review some of our solutions or read our past blog posts.