Myth-busting internal comms: Debunking 6 common myths
As the internal comms function has evolved, not everyone has stayed on the same page. We've grown tired of rolling our eyes at common misconceptions we hear time and time again, so we decided to unpack the six most prevalent internal comms myths to bring you the facts behind the fiction.
Busting the 6 most common IC myths
The role of internal communications has undergone something of a metamorphosis in recent years, with the dawn of the remote workforce pushing forward the function’s infrastructure and tooling at pace.
No longer viewed as simply a means of disseminating information from above, modern internal comms (IC) is rightly recognized as a strategic entity central to organizational redesign, and ultimately success.
Along the road, however, some pervasive untruths have persisted, muddying the waters and holding us back as we strive for clarity in the new age of strategic internal comms evolution. As the function forges ahead, defining a new path for the next generation of internal communicators to follow, we figured the time was right to set the record straight.
Myth #1: You can’t measure IC impact
One of the most common myths that internal communications professionals come up against – and the one they’ve worked hardest to overcome – is the notion that it’s not possible to measure the impact of IC. This perceived inability to demonstrate the ROI of internal comms efforts leads to a reluctance from leadership to invest in resourcing IC initiatives, in turn, hampering progress.
While it may be true that pinning down the value-added metrics isn’t a straightforward calculation, that doesn’t mean that quantifying the impact of communications initiatives isn’t possible.
There is a growing body of research that supports the role of internal comms in underpinning organizational success. Enterprises pioneering the most progressive IC functions are beginning to tie outcomes to the popular Gallup Q12 Engagement Survey, using performance on specific questions to benchmark and prove IC value.
Rather than relying on narrow, surface-level output-based metrics like views, shares, and intranet adoption rates, modern organizational leaders take a more holistic approach to measuring success, considering outcomes such as employee retention, recruitment, and satisfaction as key indicators.
For leaders who remain unconvinced by new models for tracking IC worth, considering the cost of internal miscommunication may illuminate value. A study by David Grossman surveyed 400 companies with 100k employees finding that each cited an average loss of $62.4m per year due to inadequate internal communications. Bear in mind also that almost three in four business leaders believe their company is currently underestimating the cost of poor communication. Combine this with Gallup's finding that low engagement is costing the global economy $8.8tr p/a, and the true value of effective internal communications is brought into sharper relief.
Myth #2: IC creates unnecessary noise
In a world that’s more distraction-filled than ever, internal comms can often be unfairly blamed for creating additional noise within organizations. A common complaint is that unfocused, irrelevant communications create excess chatter, draining productivity by throwing employees off task for no good cause.
Is this a fair accusation? We think not, given that modern internal messaging tactics increasingly mirror the personalized strategies that marketers capitalize on to great effect. IC pros are leveraging the firepower of new technologies like AI-powered employee experience platforms to ensure their messages are laser-targeted to reach the most relevant audiences. These platforms utilize sophisticated content targeting and user segmentation to create personalized communications experiences, specifically resonating with a specific employee’s role and interests.
Noise? What noise?
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Myth #3: IC is an executive mouthpiece
Where traditional IC may have been little more than the voice of leaders, modern internal comms is as much about listening as it is delivering top-down missives.
High-performing ICs are the voice of the people – they convey information from across the organization, shaping deep understanding of employee priorities and translating them into people-focused policies.
In fact, the most impactful internal communicators aren’t afraid to say no to leaders, using their knowledge of workforce sentiment and employee engagement best practices to coach executives on the optimal ways to communicate with and motivate their people. Today, ICs have a voice at the executive table, helping to shape policies and practices that underpin a winning employee experience.
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Myth #4: Internal comms is all about sharing business updates
Another common misconception is that internal communicators’ primary responsibility is to share business updates concerning critical news and strategy changes. While this is one part of IC’s role, there’s also a new culture-focused component that’s rising to the top of communicators’ agendas.
Today, internal communicators spend as much time seeding stories from the workforce as they do communicating updates from the top. Through employee spotlights, Q&As, and user-generated content, ICs help to tell the story of the organization and elevate the voices that are core to breathing life into culture and values. Rather than merely disseminating updates from the top-down, the best ICs play a crucial connecting role between the employee voice and executive decision-making. It’s all part of ensuring their company’s strategy aligns with employee sentiment.
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Myth #5: ICs are just writers
While strong written communication skills are essential for a successful IC career, a modern internal communicator’s role extends far, far beyond writing alone.
Today ICs are podcasters, videographers, data analysts, trend forecasters, social media experts… the list goes on. The shift to digital-first ways of working has also created a demand for digital skills in the IC function. As well as working closely with IT to bring in the best tools for efficient internal comms, IC teams increasingly need in-house digital dexterity to optimize channels and leverage new technologies like generative AI.
Outside of content creation and tech optimization, IC teams are also developing new skills in project and stakeholder management. As enhancing employee engagement becomes an enterprise-wide priority, organizations are increasingly creating cross-functional teams to launch integrated initiatives that consider all elements of employee experience.
To collaborate with and oversee the success of these multi-disciplinary teams, ICs must develop a broad range of skills. The days of ghostwriting leadership updates are over, and the future of this dynamic function requires a multi-talented team that pools skills from across disciplines.
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Myth #6: IC sits within HR
While IC may have started out as an HR subset at some organizations, modern internal communicators have carved out their own niche, with more and more comms leaders rightfully taking a place at the executive table.
In fact, Chief Comms Officers are quickly amassing more power than some of their C-level colleagues, with 75% of CCOs reporting that they have slightly or much more influence among the C-suite than their non-communications counterparts.
Although comms is decidedly its own function, it’s true internal communicators often collaborate with HR leadership to address employee engagement challenges. The departments naturally work together to ensure their organizations offer a compelling workforce experience that’s consistent across factions. As we strive to redesign the end-to-end employee experience through the wide lens of the full employee lifecycle, harmonious relationships between IC and HR will be pivotal to future success.
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A bright future for internal comms
While there's no smoke without fire, and every myth has its origin in truth, it's clear that the internal comms teams of today are a far cry from their early predecessors. The old rulebook has been thrown out, and the new one is being rewritten by a new generation of savvy IC leaders. Myths may pervade, but the truth will always out. As we strive to define the bright future of internal comms, consensus and clarity may allude us for now. But, stay strong ICs - you're part of something great, and we see you!