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Communications propaganda

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A revealing comment can be found on Euan’s blog about internal propaganda communications at the BBC that could have only been made by a communications professional (read PR) who drinks his own koolaid.

Having the opportunity to hear hard hitting questions put to the director general, listening to people talking ‘live’ in a group situation can be powerful tools.

The point must be that in any organisation communications are layered across a range of media and through both formal and informal interactions. The overall effect will always be cumulative.

…to suggest that the internal bulletin board makes more than a minor contribution to a sense of organisational cohesion stretches credibility.

Oh dear. Euan’s response was vehement and healthy – after all he is speaking from his own experience:

ah there speaks a comms professional. To be honest to most of the people I knew at the BBC the comms stuff not only had minor impact it was actually negative. It made us feel more disengaged and cynical.

Communications professionals do not speak as people. They are meant to (and paid to) represent the corporate and collective voice, in the best possible fashion. That is not a voice which allows conversations, which are messy, chaotic and do not follow a script. So internal communications end up being another form of broadcast to the populace, the audience being the employees who can’t escape. Staged and tightly managed townhall meetings with no meaningful discussions dispel any delusions that employees matter or have any impact on what is going on within the company. Ultimately, interactions among employees (and beyond) cannot be controlled but that is precisely what every communications professional I have encountered so far does. After all, it is their job.

Giving people tools, or allowing them to use some, to communicate among themselves, might just get them to communicate as themselves and not as disembodied voices parroting the corporate message. Once they can use their own voices, external communications won’t be a problem.

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One Response to “Communications propaganda”

  1. John Connell
    on Aug 4th, 2007
    @ 12:32 pm

    The crux is in the comms professional’s definition of ‘organizational cohesion’. It is not that the contribution of the internal bulletin board stretches credibility, but that the use of the bulletin board to give employees a voice enriches the definition of organizational cohesion itself!

    As Euan says, because the raison d’etre of the comms person is to speak in the voice of the corporation, whatever that means, he/she is incapable of grasping what that wider cohesion – paradoxically chaotic, messy, real – might look like and sound like.

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