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Internal communication, internal PR and marketing - what do they have in common and what is different?


I must admit that I started thinking in such definition categories only when I started working on the theory part of my doctoral thesis. Before, I had one definition for internal communication in my mind that included certain (very narrow) understanding.


However, during the research, I realized that scientists, practitioners and researchers, when talking about internal communication, use several definitions, such as internal communication, internal relations, internal corporate communication, employee relations, employee communication, internal public relations and internal marketing. This in turn made me wonder why there are so many wordings for one function.


To understand how these concepts are perceived by my followers on social networks, I have asked to answer one question: Do you think internal communication and internal PR are the same thing? And it must be admitted that approximately 80% stated that they don't think so! And the short answer to this - you are right! Admittedly, several pages are devoted to the explanation of terminology in the dissertation. In this article, I will try to summarize very briefly what is the difference between the three concepts mentioned in the title - internal communication: internal public relations and internal marketing. For a small digression, from time to time someone addresses me about the open vacancy for the positions of internal communication manager. It also made me check these advertisements and conclude that what is in the job title often does not correspond to the content of the job. Managers of internal communication channels or internal public relations specialists are usually sought in Latvian market, who have little to do with managing internal communication, but everything in the job title indicates the opportunity to lead. And then there are those awkward moments when the candidate demonstrates the awareness of internal communication management in the interview, but he/she is told that only operational work will have to be performed. This is just one episode that illustrates why it's good to know the differences between the concepts. Internal public relations In my opinion, the most easily understood concept involves communicating messages to employees and organizing events. And this follows from one of the researchers Bill Kirke's conclusions that traditionally internal communication relates to communicating management conclusions and packaging management thinking into messages intended for mass distribution and consumption. Internal public relations are part of the overall concept of public relations, which historically involves viewing employees as an audience to whom information must be conveyed to inform them of what is important to managers. But in this concept, there is no mandatory need for feedback and dialogue. This definition also assumes that the implementers of internal public relations are a kind of public entertainers who organize events where employees relax, get positive energy, possibly also experience, knowledge and "come together". Researchers have also concluded, and I have observed it in practice myself, that agreement on what is the mission of the internal communication specialist is essential. Managers of organizations can hire an internal communication manager who feels that he/she will lead the organization to quality relations, healthy internal communication, collaborative culture, but the manager of the organization expects internal PR, such as communication of bonuses and benefits, building the manager's internal image, polishing the image of the employer in a simplified way, i.e. by circulating positive content about all aspects of the company without the possibility for the internal communication manager to decide whether it is necessary and important message to the employees at a particular moment. And this is neither good nor bad, but internal communication is more than stories on the intranet about how great the annual bonuses will be, the parents have a holiday on September 1, and that the company ended the year with a profit. I have added Welch's internal communication levels (picture) to make it easier to understand the area of influence of internal public relations. The corporate level is where internal public relations work. And that is why there is a popular opinion among both practitioners and researchers that internal and external communication cannot be separated from each other. This is indeed the case when it comes to corporate messaging and content. However, this is not the complete story of internal communication.


Internal public relations and marketing are only a small part of the internal communication in the company.

Internal communication This concept is complex and interdisciplinary. First, unlike internal public relations, the concept of internal communication is more often heard in connection with the concept of stakeholders. The company in which the employee is one of the important parties of influence for management, with whom cooperation can lead to the result, more often will correspond to what is understood in research and literature by internal communication. "Internal communication is considered strategic management interaction and relationships with stakeholders at all levels of the organization" (Welch, Jackson, 2007). Anna Gregory, on the other hand, points out that when communication works well, people are encouraged to say what they think about the information they receive, and they see that what they say matters. “When people see management responding to their feedback, the process gains credibility” (Gregory, 2004). In this process, the focus is not broadcasting news, but involvement and building relationships at all levels of the organization, resulting in the formation of trust, which allows developing quality work environment and achieving results. If when analyzing internal PR, it is quite clear at which position it can be done, for example, public relations and communication specialists together with management and personnel specialists, then managers of all levels should be involved in the implementation of internal communication. Returning to Welch's model, we see that depending on the level of internal communication, it is both clear who should implement the communication and with whom. However, the complexity is hidden in the fact that someone must make a decision - what to communicate and how? The role of internal marketing in this story It is interesting that, although the very concept of internal marketing was mentioned in studies already in the 70s of the 20th century researchers began to pay attention to it around 2000, when in fact this direction expresses claims and desire, and the ability to manage internal communication in the company from the marketing department. And this can really be done if the company is brand-focused on its business strategy and it is important for each employee to be the brand ambassador. In addition, this concept includes the employee as an internal customer (neither an audience nor an influence party) who has the same understanding of brand values and elements as external customers. In fact, internal marketing stands alongside internal public relations at the corporate level and can work well together to achieve common goals. As you can see, there are options to look at internal communication. However, in practice, it is good to be aware of how we have positioned internal communication in our organization and the easiest way to do this is to ask ourselves: who is an employee for us? Customer? The audience? Someone to be influenced? Because this is the key! We can appoint an internal communication manager who writes news and organizes events, and to some extent we will cover the part of the internal communication process, but an equally important and even larger part remains uncovered, even though we have the internal communication manager!

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