Internal comms no longer the "poor cousin" of media relations

The skills needed for internal comms are blurring with those of external comms, according to leading figures in the sector.

Conference: Comms directors from Deloitte, GE Healthcare, Seadrill and English National Opera
Conference: Comms directors from Deloitte, GE Healthcare, Seadrill and English National Opera

Speaking at PRWeek's Internal Communications conference in London yesterday, Thomas Coops, director of comms for the English National Opera, said that the recession and the business restructuring that followed had resulted in internal comms coming to the fore.

"The skillset for internal comms is what you need for external. There shouldn't be a distinction between the two. Your staff are your advocates," he said, pointing out that staff could also be potential customers.

Also on the panel was Iain Cracknell, director of comms at offshore drilling contractor Seadrill Management. He said social media was leading the change in internal comms: "Today we are desperate for information. You hear about what an organisation is doing via Twitter before reading it in a newspaper."

Conor McKechnie said that at GE Healthcare, where he is head of comms and public affairs, company news is taken from internal channels and shared across the organisation: "Our employees are doing the writing for us - we use this as our key messages and get it out to the rest of the business. It also saves resources."

McKechnie added that internal comms was no longer seen as the "poor cousin" and was the difference between having an engaged workforce or not.

Also speaking at the conference was Henry Davies, founder of 106 Communications, who talked about the power of stories. "Think stories, not role models," he said. "Your organisation's story must be honest and it can be used internally and externally."

Davies referred to a helpful example of internal comms at the NHS, where at every board meeting a patient is brought in to tell their experience to financial directors, managing directors and senior board members.

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