Comments on my “PR and Change Question”

Commenting on my post on PR and Change (here), Indy at noted that: “Some businesses have people/departments who actually specialise in communicating with internal audiences.”  This approach is probably the best I’ve seen.  They work behind the scenes with advice and hands-on support. Indy continues:

Frankly, if the job is being left to PR people, it’s usually not a good solution. If you come up through the ranks of PR you do tend to have a skill-set/knowledge base focused on external audiences. There are PR people talented enough to turn their hand to internal matters, but it’s not something automatically successful.

Indy’s point on skill-set and knowledge base didn’t immediately come to mind when I wrote my original post.  But that helps explain the blind spot when working internally — PR is “hidden” by the brand or spokespeople during external campaigns, PR’s involvement is much more transparent to internal audiences.

Finally, the last paragraph makes an essential point — cascaded strategy and change must have multiple communication channels.  As Indy notes:

It is true that people trust and accept messages more when they come from peers and line managers. However, it’s also true that those groups of people can be “blocking filters” who do not transmit certain things.

Ceris62 (no blog link) suggests that social media has potential for mediating these discussions without internal messengers (or at least not formal or “approved” messengers).  I believe that’s true, but with a caveat: many of these initiatives are also driven by marketing-focused colleagues as well.  The association with marketing/PR does contribute to skepticism, especially at start-up.  However, that barrier is much lower and weaker in my experience, validating Ceris62’s general direction.

Why do PR and marketing lead culture, service, and sustainability initiatives?

While blogging on Scott Berkun’s interview with Grant McCracken, this statement by Scott prompted a comment and some reflection: Corporate PR departments often talk about their “company culture”.

That makes sense on one level: public relations and marketing groups should communicate to the wider world about company culture, sustainability programs, community service initiatives, etc.  However, that statement prompted a question: why are PR departments so often the voice and face of the corporate culture to internal audiences? 

I can get that you’d like experienced and strong communicators to craft and deliver the message.  However, I wonder if executives behind such initiatives realize that when marketing/PR is the face and voice of change, most employees believe (or feel) that it is all for show.  This risk would be particularly high in sectors where the marketing culture would not traditionally be close to the culture of line management.  Perhaps it is a limitation of my experience, but I’ve found that the most effective corporate cultures had messages that were transmitted and reinforced via line management or peers, not professional communicators.

Would any of my PR-savvy readers care to share some tips/examples on mitigating these risks?

Leveraging non-business disciplines

Back in the day I made an abortive attempt at getting a History PhD (I’m still paying for the loans).  That experience was not a total waste: my advisor gave me the best career advice I ever received (go to business or law school) and I learned how to do “real” research.

I also gained an appreciation for the insights of all disciplines, which brings me to a Scott Berkun interview (here) with the anthropologist Grant McCracken (blog here).  

No real comment other than to say that the interview and the links therein are well worth a read.

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