Research Update (April 2023)

Engagement with Internal Comms Practitioners and Archivists

One of our project’s main objectives is to engage with internal communication professionals and archivists, and this month we were able to work with both groups.

We collaborated with our partners the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) to conduct a survey of its members. We were thrilled to see that we’ve received over 100 responses already, which will help us to gauge the impact of our project on the profession. We’ll be repeating the survey at the end of the project, and we’re also planning a focus group in the upcoming months.

In terms of archivists, we’ve been able supporting the work of Sophie Clapp, the Company Archivist at Boots. Sophie has been researching Eleanor Kelly, who was appointed Boots’ first welfare officer in 1911 and became the president of the Welfare Workers’ Association, the organization that ultimately evolved into the CIPD. As one of our case studies, we’ve been able to unearth a number of magazine articles that shed light on the life of Kelly and her prominent place in the interwar welfare movement.

Photograph of Eleanor Kelly. Reproduced from the Boots website with kind permission.

Online Content

We’ve been busy developing our website as a resource for anyone interested in the history of internal communication. This month, we posted about a pair of sources we discovered that use a short story and a cartoon to highlight the dangers of workplace rumours. We found it interesting how these sources draw parallels with current concerns over misinformation on social media. It’s clear that informal channels of communication have been a persistent issue, with rumours on the grapevine taking the place of social media in the past.

Our podcast series continues to attract listeners, and this month we released our latest episode featuring Matt Eastley, a Content Strategist and Editorial Specialist. We were delighted to speak with Matt, who has previously worked for two of our case study organizations: Royal Mail and the BBC. We’ve also conducted interviews for future episodes with Sam Bleazard, Dom Walters, and Bill Quirke.

Archival Research

Our archival research into the magazines of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) continues. We’ve made trips to the Warwick Modern Record Centre and Birmingham University to look at back copies of the magazine going back to 1920.

We’ve also made arrangements for our upcoming visit to the Unilever archives in Port Sunlight. Unilever has had a number of internal communication publications, including Progress magazine (founded in 1920), Unilever Magazine (from 1974), and Uniview (from 1979). We’ll be taking a ‘content analysis’ approach to these publications, sampling a magazine from each decade and analysing the themes that appear in each.

Overall, March has been a productive month for our project, and we’re excited to continue our engagement with internal comms practitioners and archivists, as well as share our findings with a wider audience through our online content and podcast series.

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