Exec comms is from Mars, internal comms is from Venus

An Executive Communication Council study finds yawning philosophical gaps between two disciplines who MUST work together effectively.

The Executive Communication Council convened an Employee Communication Summit to help internal comms folks and exec comms folks work together better.

Last week, conference co-chair Sharon McIntosh and I saw the preliminary results of some original research we did on the state of internal exec comms.

There is a lot of work to be done, just to get practitioners of these two disciplines on the same page.

A lot.

Two findings leapt off the PowerPoint slides:

1. Asked “what feedback channels does your CEO use to understand employees’ experiences, needs and understanding,” communicators’ leading answer was “town hall questions.” That’s not good, and if you have to ask why, you should come to the conference. (And if you know why, you should still come to the conference.)

2. Asked how they measure the effectiveness of internal CEO comms, a leading answer from this heavily exec comms crowd was “CEO satisfaction.” Which reminded me of measurement guru Angela Sinickas once telling me of the speechwriter who quantified the results of a speech she submitted to an awards program as, “Afterwards, the CEO gave me a dozen roses (12).”

The observational conclusion from these and other revealing findings that we’ll share at the Employee Communication Summit came from our researcher Ryan Williams, who specializes in internal communications measurement. 

From the data in this survey, Williams perceives exec comms pros as essentially event-oriented, with internal comms folks much more process-oriented.

That is, internal comms pros see–or ideally see–their work as a continuous effort to orient and re-orient employees to the changing realities of the marketplace, and to engage them as committed and intelligent actors on the organization’s behalf. 

Whereas exec comms folks mostly march along event-by-event, exec-by-exec, focused on getting the message right for the moment and the audience. And then, without a great deal of detailed feedback, satisfied to the extent the principal is satisfied, and moving onto the next.

Neither Williams nor McIntosh nor Murray believes the difference between exec comms and internal comms perspective is quite as stark as that. But to the extent that this mindset chasm exists, much of the Employee Communication Summit will be dedicated to closing it: to helping exec comms folks think about internal comms more as an ongoing conversation between leaders and employees … and to helping internal comms folks support that effort by more deeply integrating a continuous leadership communication effort into their own internal comms operation.

In a shared philosophy, and in daily practice.

Whether you’re in exec comms or internal comms, this is one event you should not miss. Register yourself (or, affordably, your whole staff) today.

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