Marketing, PR and internal communications – specialist disciplines or not?

There has been much discussion of late about the different roles of marketing, PR and internal communications. Some people regard them as separate disciplines with different audiences and objectives – reputation management, brand-building, employee relations, and so on.

With that debate comes the usual problems of organisational boundaries and politics as to who owns what function (and budgets!)

I think we need to go back to first principles and start with the brand.

The brand is vitally important in every organisation – consumer, B2B, not-for-profit, charity, public sector, academic – but it is often ill-defined and its power misunderstood.

For my part, I see internal communications, PR, reputation, and marketing all as a sub-set of the brand strategy.

If by “brand” we mean a promise kept, then your employees are clearly brand ambassadors who need to deliver the values of the organisation. This needs effective internal communications about who you are, what you stand for, and how you want customers to perceive the organisation. Internal communications is an integrated part of the whole – effective delivery of the brand.

Of course, the cultivation of brand ambassadors is not the sole responsibility of any one function. Organisations should be developing effective leaders who are fully conversant with the purpose, vision and values of the organisation, and whose behaviours exemplify those values.

All employees need to live the brand.

Employees aren’t a homogenous mass, nor are they different in attitude and motivation from any other audience.

An effective communications strategy – internal and external – starts with the brand vision, values and proposition and tailors messages to all audiences accordingly.