Internal and External Communication Importance, Types and Methods:
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Activities and tactics traditionally used for internal communication:
Over the years there have evolved various ways of communicating internally. We started with informal and formal one-to-one and one-to-many meetings, where ‘the boss’ would communicate in a highly one-way fashion with employees.
Of course, the employees would then informally discuss with each other their views and opinions, out of earshot of ‘the boss’. Communication then evolved to include printed materials for formal, top-down message transmission – newsletters, annual reports, memos, and so on.
The advent of digital technology, and in particular the internet, introduced email into the business setting and with it the nature of communication radically changed. No longer did a communication take a little while to produce, allowing for a period of reflection and consideration. Now anyone could ‘bang off an email’ at a moment’s notice, often without consideration of the impact of the message.
Those who were unskilled and untrained in the art and impact of communication suddenly found themselves causing more angst than they realized. Training took place amongst senior managers in the more enlightened organizations to show them the effects of poor communication habits.
Today, digital technology has evolved to the point where not only can employees and employers freely email each other, forward messages without any editing (showing the whole conversational trail), and forward those messages outside of the corporate walls, but also employees and employers can use these emails to bring about grievance procedures, litigation and dismissal.
Equally, employers now find themselves at the mercy of employees who may email each other with libellous comments about competitors or fellow employees. Deleting these emails from personal inboxes has proven to be no defence against litigation and investigation by external regulators and legal agencies.
Today there are a plethora of techniques and technologies used to communicate, both up/down and side-to-side within an organization:
• Staff/team meetings
• Voice mails
• Video broadcasts
• Audio files (usually downloadable audio, but increasingly sent out via rss technology)
• Staff-to-staff newsletters
• Corporate newsletters
• Annual Reports
• Quarterly Reports
Importance of internal communications
Smart organizations recognise that employees will always talk with each other, so it is better to set the agenda and informal discussion points than have them dictated by an uninformed staff.
This is no different from external communications, where the role of the PR practitioner and business communicator is to engage with and reflect the position of the employer or business to that employer or business’ larger group of ‘publics’ – that is, anyone who may have any impact on or be impacted by the organisation.
A large number of studies by both professional management groups and professional communications bodies consistently finds that ‘communicating with employees’ is a useful and powerful way of engendering greater ‘engagement’ – the propensity of the employee to want to come to work and want to contribute to the success of the company.
Some professional employee consultants argue that ‘engagement’ is at a lower level now than, say, twenty years ago (mostly due to the changes in job security, the shifting demographics of the workforce and the more fluid requirements of businesses to be able to change to meet the demands of their rapidly changing marketplaces).
Smart employers realize that in environments where employees are able to move from one employer to another with relative ease, it is in the company’s best interests to retain the smarter and more productive employees; doing all they can to communicate with them, inform them, influence them and enter into some sort of psychological contract with them is a wise move.
Equally, in environments where employees have less chance to move, smart employers recognise that an unhappy and trapped employee is a potential liability.
Four essential elements of successful internal communications:
If we ensure that the internal communications have taken into consideration the following four elements, we can be assured that the message will have a very high chance of not only being noticed, but actually achieve its communication goal:
• Is focused on one (only) specific strategic business issue
• Is written in language the receiver is able to comprehend
• Has an outcome that is specific and measurable
• Is delivered in a timely manner and in a medium that the receiver is willing and happy to receive it in
External communication is where the business communicates with people & organisations outside of the business. This is closely linked with the idea of “stakeholders” – i.e. those who have an interest in the activities and results of the business
Examples of external communication include:
• Press releases
• Marketing materials (e.g. adverts, brochures, direct mailings)
• Published financial information (e.g. accounts)
• Letters, emails and telephone conversations with customers and suppliers
• Reports to government and other agencies
NEED FOR EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION
Communication is a vital tool of management. It helps in maintaining favourable relationships with outside contacts. The need for external communication arises from the necessity of keeping in regular touch with outsiders in order to carry on its business activities successfully. It has to enter into numerous transactions with outside persons and organisations in connection with sales; purchase, finance, marketing, collection of bills etc. It must also be in touch with various external sources to secure information about market conditions, prospects of raising finance changes in laws and rules affecting business operations and other related matters. Above all, it has project a good image among the customers, investors and the public in general through publicity in order to promote business and goodwill. All these necessitate a continuous flow of external communication.
Effective external communication results in:
i) Increased prestige among its investors, customers, suppliers and the general public. Neatly produced and promptly delivered communication invariably creates a favourable impression and enhances goodwill
ii) Improved public relations by keeping the public, including its investors, well informed about its activities. This helps in securing their understanding about the enterprise and its activities.
iii) Improved business by creating favourable relationships with customers, suppliers and the public in general.
TYPES OF EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION
External communication may be of two types: Oral and Written.
All business concerns be both the types of communication in varying degrees depending on the nature of business and needs of particular circumstances.
Oral external communication may be conducted in two ways:
Personal visits for face-to-face communication and Telephonic communication.
Personal visits for face-to-face conversation are an effective means of external communication. The greatest advantage of face - face communication is its effectiveness in getting quick results. The personal approach helps both sides to come to a speedy decision on any matter. It also heIps in removing misunderstandings and resolving disputes. A business deal which may take weeks to finalise through written communication may be concluded in single personal visit. However, it is costly and time consuming. Moreover, it does not provide a written record which may be necessary as evidence.
The telephone is the workhorse of the modern communication system. It is widely used for oral communication, both internal and external. The telephone can be used for oral communication with any outside person provided he is connected by telephone. Recent improvements in the telephone services and introduction of highly sophisticated telephone instruments have further enhanced its usefulness.
The greatest advantage of telephone as a means of oral communication is its speed and effectiveness. It saves valuable time as personal visits for oral communication are not necessary.
External communication through written media is the most effective means of maintaining favourable relationship with external business contracts. It constitutes the principal means of communication in an office. Most of the business transactions of an enterprise are concluded through some form of written communication