Helena foggy (2)

How come in comms we don’t use the right words? Isn’t that our job to be perfect wordsmiths when it comes to describing something? Don’t we pride ourselves on being masters of plain English? Being able to make sure people know what it says on the tin is what’s inside.

We need to do some catching up. I’m not talking about the complexities of matching the right tone of voice to a challenging message or getting to grips with ‘YOLO’, ‘totes amazeballs’, ‘my bad’  and the like… I could list more, but only because my team are all younger than me and so cool. Instead I’m talking about simple descriptors that seem to have sunk so far into our unconsciousness that we don’t seem to consider their relevance anymore.

To get to what I am talking about, consider the use of ‘internal communications’ and external communications’. Surely we now have to make these redundant? There is now no such thing, even though there are still many job titles out there that reflect and perpetuate the myth, “Internal Comms Manager”,  “Head of external affairs” etc.

The lines between what is external an internal have gone all foggy. For instances, we put out messages to both colleagues and customers about weather warnings on Twitter (forgive the weather link). Or our CEO puts a message on Yammer for colleagues and it gets copied onto someone’s Twitter feed. The boundaries are just not that clear anymore.

So what are the implications for comms teams? Well here’s some starters for 10 …

  • Collaborate even more on what you may have previously seen as internal and external communications domains
  • Don’t close anything down or ban anything  – you’ll just drive it underground. Spend time on guiding and supporting the whole of your organisation (not just your comms gang) to understand the implications of any communication they do on any channel and to make the most of what they can access
  • And after this you’ll probably want to review your job titles and their content

… and I managed to write this without  using the words social media!… flip … just did!

Would love to know your views



  1. Hi Helena, I hope you’re well. Really good piece that (as usual) challenges the traditional by comparing it to reality.
    I’m working in Wales all next week and part of my remit is to talk with all colleagues about welfare reform (hopes, fears, threats etc.) My central theme is a four-letter word that many will not have directly come across regularly in their roles. It’s a word that many customers will also have not bothered too much about in recent years.
    It’s one of the most powerful words in the housing business, representing much of what the business stands for.
    In people’s lives it is the connection and definition between landlord and tenant.
    And yet. traditionally, the word has lost its true meaning.

    See you! Barry Marlow

  2. Great article and very true. I think the lines between internal and external comms have been blurring for a while now. Although they are different and distinct disciplines, it’s healthy to recognise the areas of overlap and pool resources and effort. Social media certainly makes the fog thicker as the distinguishing lines blur further.

    I’m not sure whether ‘internal’ and ‘external’ will become redundant terms. The focus certainly appears to be moving towards conversations, and who is responsible for overseeing them with relevant parties – be that employees, stakeholders, customers or media. Interesting times ahead!

    Thanks for sharing, Rachel

    1. Thanks for your comment Rachel the think the point you raise about accountability for conversations is one well made ….

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