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Is internal communications a marketing or HR responsibility?

Whether internal comms sits with HR or marketing, its objective is the same.

We’re not just talking about the perennial reminder for people not to leave their dirty crockery in the sink (although how you communicate that does make a difference).

And we don’t just mean email newsletters, email policy announcements, email training news, email change notices, email crisis communications….

Think bigger. Internal communication is a key ingredient in how you nurture relationships between worker and employer. It’s the behaviours displayed by those at the top of the organisation. The cues, written, verbal and non-verbal, that resonate down and set the tone for the great intangible HR holy grail.

Yes. Culture.

Bottom line, how you communicate with your employees matters. But whose responsibility is it to set the agenda and execute?

A poll of internal communications professionals found that over half reported into a marketing or corporate communications department, while only 16% reported into HR.

The case for Marketing: Every interaction a customer has with an organisation is an opportunity to influence brand perception. A phone call, email or store visit are all opportunities to reinforce the positive brand attributes they’ve worked so hard to convey, and they rest on the conduct and behavior of employees, so you can understand marketing wanting a steering hand on the tone and content of internal comms.

The case for HR: When you’re responsible for engagement, talent management, productivity reporting, and ultimately answerable for how the workforce performs, internal communications are the direct link between your people strategy and its intended recipients.

Both disciplines can lay a claim to the task, backed up with legitimate justifications.

And both teams now face the spotlight of social media, where every employee and every customer is now an instant reviewer, with a public platform to immediately air their perceptions, good or bad.

So it’s in everyone’s interests for this to be done well. The answer, obviously, is collaboration.

There shouldn’t be too much distance between marketing’s idea of how employees should represent the brand, and how HR feel their workplace culture should be portrayed. If there’s a gulf, perhaps you have bigger issues to address than who owns internal comms.

HR bring their knowledge of the workforce, it’s makeup and demographics, its frustrations and fears. Nobody works more closely with employees up and down an organisation than HR, and to a communications professional, that kind of insight is like gold dust.

Marketing brings expertise in messaging, campaign planning and content creation. Marketing can use the insight HR gives them about their workforce to segment the audience in the same way they would for an external campaign.

Using the same tools they employ externally, Marketing can also help HR track the performance of internal comms. How many employees did it reach? How many interacted with it? Track it like a marketing campaign and you’ll soon start developing insights on what works and what doesn’t.

Ultimately, HR and marketing serve the same audience when it comes to internal communications. Each team needs to play to its strengths and respect the other’s expertise.

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