NEW YORK: Note to companies: The time to focus on internal communications is always - not just when in-house memos land in the hands of voracious reporters.
Five PR executives advocated closing the gap between internal and external communications at the fourth and final PRWeek/ Peppercom Breakfast Roundtable, held October 14 at the Waldorf-Astoria.
"In my experience, many companies miss the boat on this gap issue," said Peppercom partner and senior director Ted Birkahn, calling employees the "strongest ambassadors of the brand" for companies.
Indeed, the panelists agreed that widespread weaknesses in internal communications are often a result of management not taking those audiences seriously. Many bemoaned the fact that companies still use the HR department to carry out the function, pointing out that most HR people are not trained in communications.
"There's been silos between internal and external communications," said Michael Holland, community relations manager for Honeywell. Synergy between all aspects of PR is crucial within an organization, Holland said, so that the internal communications team doesn't find itself simply writing memos for HR all day.
One stumbling block to quality is the image problem of in-house communications. "Internal is not seen as the hot and sexy [field] that media relations is," said David Verbraska, director of communications at Pfizer. Consequently, "the resources," both human and material, "do not flow," he said.
But successful strategies do exist. At Deloitte Services, "Internal communications has a much bigger seat at the table than PR. And that's intentional," said Deloitte's national PR director, David Schutzman.
Sophisticated companies are always seeking talented external communicators to fill their internal communications positions, said Heyman Associates president and CEO William Heyman. "Great companies get great candidates," he added.