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Internal Communications: whose responsibility is it? And should PR be involved?

It’s not uncommon to see job ads for PR and communications managers at fintech start-ups mentioning the role has responsibility for internal communications. It’s often thrown in with PR when smaller businesses don’t have a proper home for it.

And this does make some sense - before a business reaches a scale where it can hire internal communications specialists, it’s important that people with communications expertise and emotional intelligence are heavily involved in internal communications.

The problem comes when it’s tacked onto an already significant external communications workload, there isn’t sufficient senior support, and it's not clear who is actually responsible for its success.

In this article we will outline the basics in terms of identifying where responsibility for internal communications should lie and how PR professionals can play an important role in moulding successful internal communications strategies.

Who should be responsible for internal communications?

The primary objectives of internal communications are to improve employee engagement, productivity and satisfaction. These are objectives that the senior leadership and HR teams are invariably responsible for achieving - it therefore follows that these groups should hold a large proportion of accountability and responsibility for internal communications.

However, it’s unrealistic to think that the senior leadership and HR teams would take full ownership of the internal communications strategy and execution. In small and medium sized fintechs it has to be a collaborative effort.

There are many different aspects that need to be brought together to make internal communications successful.

  • An understanding of the engagement and happiness levels of people in the business

  • An understanding of the business’s roadmap - what’s coming up that will affect employees etc

  • An understanding of how to effectively communicate with different audiences

Ultimately, senior leaders, HR and PR all need to contribute. The PR team should not be held fully accountable for the success of the internal communications strategy, but professional communicators need to be key contributors to bring the necessary communications experience.

Cohesive internal communications strategy

The parties with responsibility for internal communications must work together to create an internal communications strategy that will be effective in inspiring employee engagement and positive culture within a business.

From a PR point of view, internal and external communications strategies need to be aligned to ensure messaging is cohesive and timings for announcements are in sync.

Saying one thing externally and another internally is a really bad idea - employees will lose trust, become disillusioned, and eventually the internal message will leak externally, causing confusion.

A strong internal communications strategy encompasses the following:

  • Clear messages that are conveyed consistently

  • Effective processes for making announcements (defining the message, the spokesperson, the distribution strategy etc.)

  • Initiatives and campaigns to promote and enhance the company culture

  • Access to leadership for employees

  • A feedback loop to measure how communications have been received

How involved should the PR team be?

In a very small company, or a new start-up, the PR team should be involved in developing the internal communications strategy, as well as the execution.

Even if the CEO is a strong communicator and passionate about interacting with employees, the PR team will need to ensure they remain on message, there is consistency across all types of communication and that messages are rehearsed and refined.

Getting internal communications right early on in a business’s life is hugely important. It’s the foundation on which to build a strong culture with engaged employees. This also spills out into the outside world and affects a business’s overall reputation. Happy and well informed employees can be a great asset to the external communications programme.

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