Good Comms

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What is internal communication?

This blogpost is part of the Belonging is a mindset” blog series derived from my academic research on ‘internal communication and belonging in the virtual workplace’ for the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. The data from this study was collected from new hires who started their jobs in the middle of the pandemic and internal communication practitioners. This blogpost is part of my literature review.

Internal communication goes by many names: employee communication or communications (Athanassiades 1973; Grunig and Hunt 1984; Dewhurst and Fitzpatrick 2019), employee relations (Purcell 1987), internal relations (Men and Bowen 2016), internal communication (Verčič et al. 2012), internal public relations (Kennan and Hazleton 2006), internal corporate communication (Welch and Jackson 2007) and internal marketing (Gummesson 1987; Piercy and Morgan 1991).

For consistency’s sake, I use the phrase ‘internal communication’ as defined by Verčič (Verčič et al. 2012), Van Riel (1995), and Argenti and Foreman (2005) and use it interchangeably with IC.

The Institute of Internal Communication (IOIC), the largest professional body dedicated to the discipline, active for 70 years, defines internal communication as, “the glue that binds people and organisations together… How we communicate at work has the power to transform working lives. Any organisation that does it well sees benefits, including better engagement and greater productivity” (Institute of Internal Communication 2016).

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How we communicate at work transforms the way we experience it.

Verčič et al. claim that internal communication can have many definitions depending on a given discipline. Their definition centers on “the exchange of information among employees or members of an organisation to create understanding” (Verčič et al. 2012: 225) and a “management function in-charge of intra-organisational communication and as an interdisciplinary function integrating elements of human resources management, communication, and marketing” (Verčič et al. 2012: 229).

The simplest and most overarching definition that I found is “communication inside organisations” (Field 2021: 9). The same author suggests that internal communication is about “everything that gets said and shared inside an organisation” (Field 2021: 9). This definition does not separate formal and informal communication. That concept supports Welch and Jackson (2007), who refer to internal communication as something that “happens constantly within organisations and includes informal chat on the ‘grapevine’ as well as managed communication” (p. 178).

The focus of this research is on internal communication that can be managed, and not communication through the office grapevine.

Next up

In the next blogpost, we will talk about the influence of internal communication.


  • You will find a full list of references here.
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