I listened to a great interview with Peter Vogt from eBay about internal communications hosted by the (in)famous Lee Hopkins pushed through the Comms Cafe podcast recently. I know that Lee is huge on internal communications and I appreciate his passion for proper communications. The interview was excellent, Peter having some great things to say about his experiences with Microsoft and eBay. Fascinating stuff. You should all check it out.
There was, however, one thing I took issue with. Now, I’m not sure how people define public relations in general, but I have my own thoughts and ideas. In fact, I’m rather passionate about my views of PR. I tend to look at PR as a parent phrase for all kinds of communication. I’ve felt this way for many, many years. The one thing that does shake my beliefs a little bit is how few of the broad spectrum of PR colors one gets to use on a daily, or even, job-related basis.
I mean, if you pitch products 50 hours a week to consumer rags, chances of you viewing issues management as part of your PR job are slim. If you comb through the minutae of details of investor relations tactics 5.5 days a week, you’re not going to understand how media training really fits into your job description. And it might not. And you shouldn’t expect it to. But just because I don’t do something often or ever doesn’t make it foreign to my field. If I’m a chef, just because I only boiled lobster and roasted chicken today doesn’t mean that suddenly grilling steaks is no longer cooking. Follow me? So I don’t frequently handle crises, but I would expect to know more about what to do if a client were to call with an issue then he would. Because I was trained, you see, as a public relations professional.
So imagine my surprise when, while wrapping up this delightful interview, Vogt said something that confused me and left me wondering if I should go back and relisten to the entire interview.
Peter, who has a degree in public relations, said, “I actually did quite a bit of PR work with my internal communications here and there… but I always found that internal communications actually had the opportunity to really make a difference in many ways, and that when done well it can be the true leader, it can lead the change rather than PR leading the change.”
Oh, internal comms can lead corporate change differently, and sometimes better than having PR lead the change? Excuse me while I ask this one simple question: what are you talking about?
When he said it, I nearly drove off the road (incidentally, I was actually driving when I listened to this podcast). To me, that phrase is akin to saying “I would never let my sister say that, but certainly one of my siblings could” or “I really hate roses, but I enjoy flowers of all kinds.” Internal communications is a subset of public relations!
Let’s break it down. Employees are internal audiences. Internal audiences are a public of an organization. Public relations is the management function that builds two-way relationships with various publics. Internal communications would be public relations to – gasp – internal audiences!
There, now while I hop down off my soap box, will someone explain to me what he meant?