It used to be that internal communications was the Cinderella of our profession – that area of what we do that got the least focus and resource. Now, as we've seen from the Page Society's paper on the new model of corporate communications “Building Belief," we're recognizing that the employee audience is not only critically important, it's arguably the most important audience. Not only do employees hold the organization's brand in their hands, they influence what every stakeholder thinks of the organization. This has far reaching implications for how we think about focusing our work and allocating resources, so the release of a new best practices white paper is particularly timely.

For the past year, the Institute for Public Relations' Commission on Organizational Communication has been working to complete the first phase of a major study on best-in-class practices in global employee communication. Areas the research explored included

  • The new agenda for global employee/internal communication;
  • Meeting the challenge of protecting and enhancing a global brand and reputation across geographic boundaries and cultures;
  • Roles, responsibilities, structure and competencies required for delivering a best-in-class function; and
  • Practices, programs and leadership that separate best-in-class organizations from others.

The Commission's research partner, KRC Research, explored the mechanisms, tools, and techniques that world-class companies employ for addressing everyday challenges, as well as looming or real crises. It also learned how companies approach hot topics within internal communication, such as digital strategies, talent retention, strategic planning, diverse languages, and establishing common knowledge.

The qualitative research was based on in-depth interviews with 10 corporate leaders – most of whom are Page members – and the results have just been published by the Commission in a white paper. The paper along with an executive summary can be found here. Among the best practices that consistently appeared in the interviews are:

  • Taking a strategic role with the corporate leadership, influencing overall business practices and reinforcing corporate culture through employee communications.
  • Utilizing the power of direct supervisors as communicators.
  • Relentlessly reinforcing message platforms and the path forward through a dedicated content strategy.
  • Using measurement and key metrics to prove that employee communications programs are helping the workforce achieve key objectives.

The next phase of the Commission's research program will be a broad based quantitative study to be conducted over the next few months to test the findings, with the final results of this quantitative phase expected in November. But even at this early stage the white paper has reinforced the importance of a strategic approach to employee communications as a key business driver for the organization. It's compelling reading for anyone wanting to know what best-in-class global companies are doing in this area.