Internal Communication Specialists

What Do Internal Communication Specialists Do, And Who Needs Them?

By Thomas J. Roach

The chief responsibilities of the internal communication specialist might include overseeing a company intranet site, editing an employee newspaper, writing internal announcements, and conducting an employee survey. Larger organizations might have an internal communication director or vice president who has direct access to the CEO and who designs, implements and monitors communication processes that spontaneously move information throughout the company in a system of meetings and assigned responsibilities. 

The larger the company, the more it needs someone to manage internal communication. When the owner is the only employee, there is no need to stimulate the movement of information. In a one-chair barber shop, every customer compliment and complaint gets the personal attention of the chairman of the board. In large companies, layers of employees and managers separate the person with the most authority from the customers. 

Example
A floorcovering distribution company had a problem with broken ceramic tile. It mainly dealt with flexible vinyl tiles, and its loading-dock workers did not have to worry about damaging the contents of boxes when they moved and stacked them. However, they occasionally moved boxes of ceramic or stone tile, and their rough handling damaged the contents. Boxes were labeled only with numbers, and dock workers didn’t have a key. 

Independent truck drivers would pick up the damaged boxes of tile from the loading dock and deliver them to small stores selling floorcovering products. Without anyone knowing the contents were broken, the stores would sell the boxes of tile to customers who took them home only to discover that many of the tiles were unusable. 

Angry customers then returned the tile to the tile store, and angry store managers returned the tile to the drivers, who brought it back to the warehouse loading dock and complained to the dockworkers. The dockworkers in turn told their managers they needed to have more information on the boxes, but nothing changed. 

Why did the problem go on for years when it would have been so easy to label the boxes? Too many people were between the customers and the people in charge, and the message never got through. Eventually, an independent truck driver did some research and typed up a list of product numbers that represented breakable tiles and posted the list at the warehouse and at the loading dock. Warehouse and dock workers then checked numbers on the boxes against the list and marked the tile boxes themselves. 

Something is terribly wrong when a driver who does not work for the company has to instruct company employees on how to handle their own product. An internal communication coordinator would have several ways to avoid problems like this.

Suggestion Box
A suggestion box could receive complaints about the lack of proper labeling, and an article could be written for the employee newspaper with the list of product numbers. A quicker and more effective processes would be mandatory workgroup meetings generating prioritized agendas of quality issues to be passed to other workgroups who could address the problems. 

Customer and employee satisfaction surveys could be conducted, and issues collected, turned into work lists, and assigned to workgroups. Additionally, management bonuses could be tied to communication and leadership objectives. 

There are those who believe it is a waste of time to talk about work. This is a clear example of why they are wrong. How much money was lost replacing and redelivering tiles, and how much business was lost from tile shop owners who decided to find a more a reliable supplier? Clearly just the accumulated cost of the broken tile far outweighs the time it would have taken to hold a few meetings, run some feedback processes, and track a list of action items. 

Internal communication specialists are game changers. Whether they are consultants or a full-time hires, they can assess problems, implement new processes, and save enough rework to pay their salary several times over. 

Thomas J. Roach Ph.D., has 30 years experience in communication as a journalist, media coordinator, communication director and consultant. He has taught at Purdue University Northwest since 1987, and is the author of “An Interviewing Rhetoric.” He can be reached at [email protected]

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