Feedback to Part 1 of this series indicates that PR agencies are not allowed the luxury of training people for internal communication function, given ‘client obsession’ with media relations. So, there is recognition of the fact that a special set of skills are warranted, for internal communication, a function that lies equidistant from the HR and internal PR (corporate communication) departments.
Will the varied skill sets required for internal and external communication stand in the way of PR agencies redefining their deliverables to include internal communication?
Cecile Dewars, Vice-President, Corporate Communications, TVS Motor Company, said, “It is possible for external agencies to play a role in internal communication providing they have HR specialists handling it. This is not found at the moment. They are trying to handle it with people who are used to handling external communication. Internal communication is very psychology oriented and specialised. If the agency had the kind of people required to handle it, they would be sitting pretty now, when a lot of it is being outsourced.”
Admittedly, agencies are aware of their shortcomings on the specialised skills required for offering clients internal communication services. But they are confident that there is a big enough market in internal communication, to make sourcing and training resources for the function a wise investment.
Said Chandramouli, CEO, Blue Lotus PR, “In today’s scenario, I don’t think PR agencies are equipped to handle internal communications comprehensively. If you’re doing technology PR, you need functional experts who understand technology; similarly for internal communication, you need functional experts who understand HR.”
At corporates like Bharti Tele Ventures (BTVL), the internal communication function falls under the HR department, with internal communication anchors in each of the telecom circles reporting to HR. A part of the internal communication is already outsourced here, too, but it is restricted to design and creation, with content and strategy coming from an internal team.
“I think the only way an external PR agency can do it is by having a person inside the client organisation. You need a deep understanding of the client culture and how it communicates with its internal audiences to get involved in internal communication content and strategy. There is scope to get involved, especially in the case of BPO firms and ITeS organisations with a large manpower base. But, I am not sure how many PR agencies are engaged in such an activity, “said Senjam Rajsekhar, Head, Corporate Communications, BTVL.
Perfect Relations has sought to move beyond the media relations function ever since its inception in 1992, through the avenues of Public Affairs and Internal Communication, according to its CEO, Bobby Keval Ramani. The agency also has an eight-member team dedicated to internal communication.
Elaborating that around 30 per cent of the work done by the agency was in the space of internal communication, Ramani remarked, “As the agency business gets more and more sophisticated, clients realise and appreciate that they can get more value – this includes internal communication. Going beyond shareholder communication, newsletters and the like, the function has become larger in scope with the understanding that the employee is the first brand ambassador.”
For the agency, while the corporate communication department is the nodal point, inputs do come in from HR departments when necessary. Underlining the level of specialisation required, Ramani explained that the agency routinely advised clients to appoint resources at senior levels in their organisations within corporate communications, dedicated to internal communication.
Most PR practitioners agree that as an industry they have barely scratched the surface of internal communications. With a higher degree of involvement and a better understanding of the function, they are confident of internal communication emerging as a key area for growth.
“At Blue Lotus, we are handling internal communication for clients, and have done newsletters, put together internal discussion forums to understand perceptions among other things, but by no means can we say that we have the skills to handle internal communication comprehensively. But these are skills all of us will have to acquire very soon,” observed Chandramouli.
(To be continued)
Internal communication: Whose job is it anyway? – Part 1