Communication is the string that keeps all the parties attached and involved with the company. However, it goes beyond saying a few words or typing something out. The medium and tonality are also paramount. When it comes to corporate communications, there are two routes – internal and external. It is important to remember a business or brand caters to several audiences (not just clients and customers) and stakeholders.
The importance of communications
Get the communications aspect wrong, and it will become a tinderbox for chaos, negative reputations and catastrophes. For this reason, it is the most vulnerable operation or function of any organization. It can both make and break the business and can be the reason for its downfall. Hence the saying, ‘there is a time and place for everything.’ The same applies to communication. A corporation must understand the types of communications best suited for each of the places and situations.
Internal versus external communication
In simple words, internal communication takes place within the business organization and external communication outside the company. The latter embodies a transfer of information between two or more businesses, clients and customers and can take several forms.
Within the spectrum of internal and external communication, various audiences have a vested interest and need to be privy. In the case of internal communications, there is human resources, employees, senior management and the board of directors. Never forget the inter-departmental communications as there are several divisions within an organization. When it comes to external communications, clientele, social media community, press, and media are the relevant parties.
Formal versus informal
Formal communication passes through predefined channels, whereas informal communication flows in all directions and arises from social and personal needs. Note that these are the definitions. In reality, things are much more fluid and flexible and much on the purpose of the communication.
Ideally, internal communication offers leeway and can be either formal or informal. External communication, on the other hand, is deemed well-documented. However, these notions prevailed in the pre-Internet era. With the internet, the formal versus informal lines of communications today seem somewhat blurry.
Let us check out the avenues for internal communications.
The purpose of these is to let the employees know about company policy, holidays or vital information about the business. These are addressed to all employees and staff members and adopt a formal tone.
Annual General Meetings
These are exclusive to senior and executive management, promoters and board members. But they are still internal as it involves the contributors and investors that help run the business.
Following are the avenues that prevail for external communications. Each has its tonality, demographic and user intent.
A PR is an official statement made by a company or brand about a particular event or matter. The sharing of information in this regard is formal. It is akin to a nationwide address made in newspaper publications or news channels, hence the formal way.
The purpose of PR or public relations is image and reputation management. It is a way for companies and brands to garner favourable association. Public relations is less stringent than a press release and does offer leeway for some variability in the tonality and communication of the message or information.
Thanks to advancements in technology, AI-driven automated chatbots have made it to the external communication gamut. Chatbots are essentially a way of answering queries, addressing grievances and issues. The tonality is formal as the responses are automated.
Annual reports are documents showcasing the company’s profitability and financial status over one year. However, they go beyond. There is also the message from the CEO or Managing Director, which communicates the achievements and approaches. Plus, there is the Management, Discussion and Analysis section which explains the corporate strategy and operations. Investors and the general public can avail of this to get information about the company. The tone used is formal.
There are several platforms out there today, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These predominantly use an informal tone as brands and businesses communicate advertising campaigns, product launches, interactive quizzes. Also, these spaces are great for addressing and resolving grievances. In this case, the communication is a blend of formal and informal.
As with the formal versus informal spectrum, the frequency has gotten blurry too. Earlier, internal communications were more frequent than external communications. Social media has become the defining aspect in bridging this divide. However, one thing is regular – communication of performance, profitability and financial standing. Companies communicate these at least quarterly, every three months.
Internal and external communication starkly differ in their modes. Apart from company-wide emailers, businesses often use memos, circulars, staff newsletters, notices to communicate events and developments. Minutes of the meeting highlight the purpose and discussion points. Manuals help emphasize company policies and procedures. The dawn of technology has given rise to several other modes of communication, including video conferencing, presentations and seminars. These are for meetings and discussions or training programs. In contrast, external communication happens through email, social media, chatbots and annual reports.
Internal and external communication, although important, will go through striking transformations going ahead. Thanks to innovative technology solutions, the next-gen shall be more ML and AI-powered, data-driven. Corporate communication is likely to get sophisticated with time.