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  • April 2023
    S M T W T F S
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Wait, I thought internal comm WAS PR

cafe.jpegI 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?


Month One

Well, I completely flew by my one-month anniversary of agency life. Taking a deep breath, I thought I’d provide a little bit of a retrospective of that month.

The most difficult aspect of this time has been pairing my education and experience with the realities of what faces me as I sit in my office on a day-to-day basis. There shouldn’t be a disconnect, but somehow there is. People hand me things or ask me to fulfill requests and I have hesitated. Looking back on it, I can clearly see that I have been properly trained, I was just apprehensive about performing a task for which I’m getting paid as opposed to graded. So, what, I can pay to make mistakes, but don’t want to make them when I’m getting paid? Sounds about right.

But it’s more than that. My reputation is on the line. I have a sincere desire to please my employers and supervisors with my work. I have a vested interest in not getting fired. In case you didn’t know, Ohio is one of those at-will states. So they can fire me at will. Ever hear a movie line where the captain of a vessel (boat, submarine, space ship) yells, “fire at will!”? They weren’t talking about a guy named Will; they were campaigning for easier ways to fire people.

And since I now spend so much time in the car, I can really dive deep into the podcasting world and continue to learn more from the loquacious of our field. These individuals take the time to share their knowledge with anyone who wants to listen. Social media is a beautiful thing, not sure exactly what the benefit to some of the podcasters and bloggers is, but for me it’s invaluable. I have really grown to enjoy the chats with the Better Desirable Roasted Communications team of Jenkins and Hopkins. Lee, best of luck to you in your new venture, by the way. I’m wishing you the best.

And am still completely addicted to the dynamic duo at For Immediate Release, of course. But as agency life progresses, I find myself gaining more and more value from Inside PR. Even though they’re a couple of Canucks, I really find their discussions on life on the agency side fascinating and hugely relevant to my life. So thanks Terry and David for the excellent work. Thanks, also, for addressing my insecurities about hockey and the Habs. I wasn’t upset that you used the word, I was upset because you assumed no one listening would know what it meant. I mean, I know you have a huge following in Indonesia, but people in the States know a thing or two about puck. Well, the cool ones.
So if you haven’t gotten into podcasts yet, you must. My only regret is that I only have so much time in the car a week. I have to limit what I can listen to. New people keep podcasting and I’m having trouble fitting it in. However, if Shel and Neville get the FIR podcast down from 90 minutes to 60 or so – I might be able to squeeze a few more in there. Paull and Donna , I’m listening, I really am. Brian, Mitch, you’re on deck. Oh the agony of it.

Happy belated one month to me, I’m looking to so many more. PR rocks.