Internal Comms: Top-down versus bottom up

with 4 Comments

 

LONDON — As part of the course that I am have been asked to give in Kuala Lumpur later this month, one of the participants sent in this question:

Q: Will you be covering the topic on top-down and down-up internal communications?

In responding to the question I realised that the answer may have a more generalist interest. So I thought I would repeat it here.

My answer read something like this:

It is part of my introduction and it runs through the entire two days.

I believe that ‘communication’ needs to be a conversation. That means at least two parties exchanging information. That is what separates internal communications from advertising or public relations — the messages and delivery changes according to the audience, the content, the context, etc. And it it is why it is sometimes much harder to do internal communications than to do other corporate communications. You need to get managers and leaders to talk AND listen AND think AND adapt AND respond.

And in light of that, top-down and bottom-up, both have their times and uses.

What do you think?

/df



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4 Responses

  1. Sean Trainor
    |

    Those organisations that have realised their external communications is more effective when they create a dialogue with external stakeholders would probably argue that internal comms is no different and most probably easier. Why should that be the case?1. Employees have a greater stake (greater interest and influence on the success of the organisation) than most external ‘stake’holders.
    2. Organisations (should) know more about the needs of their internal stakeholders without expensive research.

    The key difference is that organisations rely on managers creating dialogue without the necessary skills and support. I cannot imagine many organisations putting forward an spokesperson without extensive media training, briefing notes and the backing of a PRO. Yet most depend on managers to communicate with key internal stakeholders and cross their fingers that they get it right.

  2. David Ferrabee
    |

    Sean,
    I couldn’t have said it better myself.
    Indeed, I clearly didn’t!
    Thanks very much.
    /df

  3. Kate
    |

    We’ve just completed an activity where we took a media event and with a bit of re-focusing are running it as a series of events and associated coverage internally. The preparation, coaching etc that went into the media day was extensive and clearly that was leveraged as prep for the internal audience too. Although there was a temporary panic about the appropriateness of doing it internally, what was interesting is this … For the internal event we replaced the senior leaders and enabled them to delegate the keynote speech to members of their senior team – it represented a more direct interface with the audience and positioned it as ‘less political’. But the leaders then forgot about the internal event altogether! This in no way affected its delivery or effectiveness as everyone involved had been prepared properly but is an insight into how internal comms can yo-yo in its significance: from an important internal reputation management tool to just an interesting add-on.

  4. Kevin Keohane
    |

    Agree. Saw a great quote that seems relevant: The 22-year old founder of Facebook, recently said that “the other guys think the purposeof communication is to get information. We think the purpose of information is to get communication.”

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