With IT and ITeS on a song, the ‘internal communication’ function has raced to the top of the corporate communicator’s agenda, driven by HR needs. Recognition of the function as a specialized practice has also led to PR agencies looking at internal communications as a key area for growth.
Mpower Business Facilitators, a 14-year-old Mumbai-based HR consultancy, has tied up with Prime Point, a Chennai-based communications consultancy, to offer ‘image audit’ and ‘corporate communication’ training modules. The idea was to understand what people want and to provide them with what they want, as much as to shape perceptions, according to Srinivasan Iyer, CEO, Mpower.
Iyer added, “For long, people have neglected internal communications. A lot of companies are on mass recruitment drives, but they forget that the employee is their first ambassador. An employee wants to be part of an organisation that creates history, and not a part of some that remain a mystery.”
With at least 8-10 per cent of employees leaving any organisation on an average, it was critical to ensure that they carry a good impression of the company even when they letf, he explained.
“To brand yourself as an employer is only the end result of the process. We first need to understand the ground realities. Clients are very bullish on the concept of image audit and internal communication. Both PR and HR need to work together because the HR guys don’t have the necessary skill sets,” he added.
Some PR practitioners offer that the area has always been on their set of offerings. Admittedly though, it is one area on the way up, and, therefore, will be a focus for many agencies in days to come.
Jaideep Shergill, COO, Hanmer & Partners, said, “Only now have people started entrusting this job to agencies. We do a considerable amount of work in the space. Most of the work, say about 90 per cent, comes from companies in the BPO, ITeS and technology space. As clients realise the complete potential of PR, this can only grow.”
For Mpower and Prime Point, the image audit and training modules will take off next week, starting with, yes, a technology company. Prime Point has handled image audit assignments for several organisations in the past, including the Indian Postal Department, several nationalised banks, Bharatiya Janata Party (Tamil Nadu), besides IT companies.
On the tie-up, K Srinivasan, Chairman, Prime Point, said, “The discussions with Mpower have been on for around six months now. We wanted to perfect a model ensuring zero resistance or reservation on the part of employees when we seek their feedback. New generation companies have started realising the urgent need for internal communcation and development of human skills. Unless companies develop a good internal communication model, survival would become difficult.”
Torque Communications is another agency that is already engaged in internal communication work, and its MD, Supriyo Gupta, said that there was a large number of HR consultancies looking at this area too.
Gupta explained where PR consultants could add value. “For one, they are, or should be, good at mapping perceptions. The second area where they can work effectively is in creating communication content. Typically, they create communication that reaches out to a mass undefined audience. When there is a defined internal audience, this has to get better,” he said.
With employees, especially the younger workforce, jumping jobs for a few thousand rupees more, the challenges faced by HR and corporate communications seem to be providing an opportunity for PR agencies to extend their services beyond the mainstay of media relations.
It isn’t just IT and ITeS driving this function, according to Meenakshi Sachdev Varma, CEO, Good Relations. She said, “Internal communication is very much part of the PR realm. We have been doing a lot of work in the space. I wouldn’t say that it is a new phenomenon. Probably what has happened is that it has emerged as a new focus area in our business. A lot of the clients in the space are from IT and ITeS, and we also work with FMCG companies.”
The premise on which management intervention could be effected was honest feedback, and the mechanism of its proposed image audit would provide accurate internal opinion, felt Srinivasan of Mpower. But are PR agencies equipped to take the growth route of internal communications?
Gupta’s comment perhaps answers that question: “PR agencies cannot play that role unless they can relate to the practice. It has to be a fundamentally different practice. You need to constantly track dynamics and understand how the dynamics work. In internal communication, if you go wrong, you create systemic challenges.”