Is internal comms an HR or external comms function?

Ask any ‘marketeer’ and they’d undoubtedly say that Internal Comms sits with external marketing and ask the same question of an HR professional and I’m guessing they would say the same! I for one have seen it housed within both functions at the different companies I’ve worked for and come into contact with over my time.

I would say it depends on the business, its overall strategic goals, marketing strategy and people strategy – How ‘mature’ is the HR department? Does the HR function deal mainly with transactions and compliance or are they managing organisational development? If the latter, then you could say internal comms would be a very important element of driving this strategy, by engaging with and motivating your employees.

Of course, employees are simply another (very important) segment of your audience. The skills you use to get your key messages to customers, prospects and wider stakeholders are the same skills that you employ in grabbing the attention of your staff – whether that is in the form of an internal memo/email, a company newsletter, a poster on a notice board or an employee event. You still have to get your value proposition right, choose your media appropriately, get the right creative expression, keep it simple and have the appropriate call to action. So why do companies put the responsibility in HR?

A study run by HR magazine gave us the encouraging news that 22% of respondents said Internal Comms was already part of HR while marketing and operations accounted for 18% and 13% respectively. In addition, today’s internal communicators are well represented by people with a background in HR: 10% have either been or are currently in HR.

The majority (54%) wanted a dedicated Internal Comms unit, however, it was a close-run thing between HR and external comms, with an 18% and 21% preference respectively. In HR’s favour is the fact that the people function is perceived to be more likely than external comms to manage Internal Comms as a priority: 33% of those who said it is managed by HR felt it was given high enough priority. This compares to 18% who said it is a high enough priority among those who work in external comms.

Internal comms should deliver business value – it’s no good having reams of information and newsletters without a true connection to the wider strategy. Whichever function it sits within it’s imperative for each area to work closely together and so where the function is actually physically situated is neither here nor there.

I’m not sure this is a debate which will ever have a clear answer, but what we must bear in mind is that it’s all about strategy and open communication as with everything in business.

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