Research Update (August 2023)

European Group for Organizational Studies

The History of Internal Communication project team has had an eventful July, filled with exciting activities and productive collaborations. Two members of our team, Michael Rowlinson and Joe Chick, had the opportunity to attend the European Group for Organizational Studies conference held in Cagliari in Sardinia. As an island located in the middle of the Mediterranean, Sardinia has a fascinating cultural heritage influenced by various European and African societies. The conference commenced with an engaging talk by Marco Trombetti, the founder of Translated, who shared insights on the potential of AI in real-time language translation.

The Roman amphitheatre near Università di Cagliari, the venue of the 2023 EGOS conference.

Michael and Joe enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to the conference through their presentation in a series of talks on ‘Organizational History for Good: Legacy, Collective Memory, and Change’. The presentation focused on the brewer and pub chain Greene King and how they addressed their historic ties to the slave trade. By promptly researching and bringing attention to these historical connections following the Black Lives Matter protests, Greene King was able to mitigate negative responses from both protestors and ‘anti-woke’ voices, in contrast to organizations that took similar actions but with a delay.

In addition to sharing our research findings, our team has also continued its research into our case studies. In July, we further explored the records of the Institute of Internal Communication, examining their archived minutes that span back to the early days of the organization. These records shed light on significant discussions surrounding the institute’s journey towards professionalisation, including behind-the-scenes debates over name changes and the establishment of codes of practice. We have also looked at the magazines of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, dating back to the body’s foundation in 1948.

The Internal Comms Community

Collaborating with professionals beyond academia has been integral to our project, especially our links with the internal communication community. We recently had the pleasure of meeting Sophie Clapp, the Company Archivist at Boots, where we explored opportunities to contribute to Boots’ upcoming anniversary celebrations in 2023. Additionally, our team engaged in a fruitful conversation with Michael Millward from Abeceder Limited, discussing participation in their Abeceder Quotation Conversation series.

Our blog continues to serve as a valuable resource on the history of internal communication. The Source of the Month for July examined the use of the rhetoric of family in large corporations at the turn of the twentieth century. This post explored how companies employed such language to bridge the growing divide between employers and employees, aiming to foster unity, loyalty, and mutual support. It highlighted the motivations behind this rhetoric, the role of welfare programs and company magazines in nurturing a sense of community, and the integration of women into the workforce through the concept of a corporate family.

We are excited to announce that the latest blog post is the first instalment of a two-part series. The upcoming August Source of the Month will delve deeper into the theme of the rhetoric of family, using the case study of Unilever. This theme perfectly aligns with our upcoming podcast interview with Alex Gapud, a Cultural Anthropologist from business consultancy Scarlett Abbott who has a particular interest in the rhetoric of family in contemporary organizations.

In July, our History of Internal Communication podcast episode featured a prominent figure in the internal communication field, Rachel Miller. Rachel is highly regarded for her expertise as an IC Consultant and her sought-after masterclasses. With extensive experience working for organizations like Visa and London Overground, Rachel’s insights are invaluable. Our team was particularly delighted to meet with Rachel due to her upcoming book ‘Internal Communication Strategy’. This eagerly anticipated publication will serve as a go-to resource for internal communication practitioners facing challenging situations. We are delighted that our research on the history of the sector has been able to contribute to Rachel’s work.

July has been a month of fruitful collaborations, knowledge sharing, and engaging research for the History of Internal Communication project. As we move into August, we look forward to building upon these achievements and continuing our research into this vital aspect of UK organizations.

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