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Internal communication is organisational propaganda

There’s some interesting thinking on the CIPR Inside blog about the balance between broadcast communications and engaging relationships. Here’s my assessment:

It’s true that in many organisations there is an over-reliance on broadcast communication through passive intranets, newsletters, cascade team briefings and other email briefings. It depends how this is all done, but even if the content is relevant, timely, pertinent and objective it can lead to cynicism. If not done well, it is tantamount to organisational propaganda. In their book, “PR – A Persuasive Industry”, Morris and Goldsworthy controversially suggest that internal communication is “the branch of the modern PR industry that best realises the propagandist’s dream”.

Internal communication that incorporates dialogue and upward feedback that is taken seriously counter-balances the “broadcast” only approach. The combination of feeling well informed, having opportunities for upward feedback with support from committed line managers is what adds up to employee engagement.

Heron was not far out in 1942 in saying that “Communication is a line function; it is a two-way sharing of information; it is not a persuasion or propaganda campaign; it requires the freedom and opportunity to ask questions, get answers and exchange ideas.” I wonder why this wisdom has escaped so many organisations for the last 70 years?

Mintzberg (as ever) is also so right; it is all about communityship. Identifying with the organisation as a social community has largely been ignored by academics and managers. The tragedy is that leaders don’t appreciate that it actually leads to better performance.

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