The Changing Role of Internal Communications. Are Required Practitioner Competencies Keeping Pace with the Opportunities and Challenges?

Chalmers, Sally (2008) The Changing Role of Internal Communications. Are Required Practitioner Competencies Keeping Pace with the Opportunities and Challenges? In: Euprera (European Public Relations Education and Research Association) 2008 conference, October 16-18, 2008, Milan. (Submitted)


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“Internal communications have advanced a long way from the management-sponsored house journals of yesteryear to well-organized systems of internal communication.” (Baines, Egan and Jefkins, 2004, p. 312) . Over the years the role of the internal communications practitioner has changed considerably. Rather than controlling and directing employees through providing information, today’s practitioners need to focus on involving and engaging employees and help employees to be flexible and deal with constant change and innovation effectively (Keenan and Hazelton, 2006). The focus has moved from journalistic skills, emphasising expertise in writing and editing, drafting messages (Tench and Yeomans, 2006) and ensuring that communication channels are open (Tourish and Hargie, 1998). Today’s practitioners concentrate on engaging employees, involving them in business improvement (Tench and Yeomans, 2006), stimulating thinking, creating opportunities to participate, networking of know-how, provoking ideas generation and developing employees’ sense of what is achievable (Tourish and Hargie, 1998). This paper seeks to identify, through literature review, the role of the internal communications practitioner presented in contemporary public relations, internal communication and employee communications texts. The key competency themes isolated are: understanding people in organisations; strategic focus; planning and process management; change management; coaching and consultation; communications through technology; tactical skills; management competencies; sectoral knowledge and professional knowledge. To discover the extent to which these themes are reflected in the competencies demanded of internal communication practitioners today a content analysis of job advertisements was undertaken. Advertisements appearing between January 2007 and March 2008 in the UK’s PR Week, and between March and May 2008 on the UK Jobshop page of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations website, were studied. This paper concludes that senior internal communication personnel are indeed required to have strategic focus alongside tactical skills and that in particular their ability to work effectively with senior management, integrate their work with that of other functions, deal effectively with ambiguity, network and build relationships are valued. At a non-managerial level tactical skills remain key and practitioners need to be able to use technology for communication. Research skills and the ability to deal with people at all levels are also valued. Across all roles reference is made to competency in change management, understanding people in organisations and providing coaching and consultancy. The paper concludes that, although today’s internal communication practitioner roles are broader and more strategic than literature suggests was previously the case (Baines, Egan and Jefkins, 2004), the requirement for expertise in tactical skills, now including use of technology for communication, remains.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: trends, internal, communication, roles, functions, technical, operational, competencies, skills
Divisions: School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management > Media, Communication and Production
Date Deposited: 26 May 2009 09:56
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2017 15:38


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