Research Update (February 2023)

The project has taken some exciting steps over the last month. We have launched our website, met with two of our project partners, and finished research on our first case study.

Website launch

In early January, we were delighted to announce the launch of the www.historyofinternalcomms.org website. One of the distinctive features of our project is that our key audience is internal comms professionals first and foremost, not just an academic audience. For those wanting to know more about their profession’s history, the website summarizes the history of our case studies, has blog posts on interesting sources, and allows users to listen to our monthly podcast series.

Alongside the website, we have launched our social media channels, allowing users of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to follow the progress of the project. We’ve been pleased that, as we hoped, internal comms professionals have been interested in connecting with the project, with our LinkedIn page topping 200 followers in its first fortnight. Best of all, by using social media to speak beyond academic circles, we are now in contact with people who have worked on our case study magazines. We’re pleased that Matt Eastley and Sam Bleazard will appear on future episodes of our podcast to talk about their work on internal comms at Royal Mail and the BBC.

Meeting project partners

A vital element of our project’s connection with internal comms professionals is our nine project partners. One of them, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, has celebrated its 75th anniversary this month. Happy birthday CIPR!

This month, two members of the project, Michael Heller and Joe Chick, met with Jen Sproul and Sam Medaglia from the Institute of Internal Communication in Milton Keynes. The IoIC believes the project can play an important role in its own goal of giving a greater sense of professional identity to internal comms practitioners. Michael Heller was interviewed by the institute’s magazine Voice, which will feature an article on the project in its next issue.

The whole team also met with Claire Tunstall from Unilever, another of the project’s partner organizations. Lever Brothers was an important player in the welfare and internal comms movement of the early twentieth century. It has made great efforts to make its archive material accessible for research, including the recent digitization of its magazine. We’re looking forward to visiting Port Sunlight later in the year to see Unilever’s surviving records.

Archived volumes of Personnel Management, the journal of the CIPD’s predecessor from the late 1960s to mid-1990s.

Archival work

At the heart of our approach to research are the archives of our case studies. We have decided to begin by studying the professional institutes of which internal comms practitioners are often members. This will give us insights into the debates that have taken place over approaches to comms. Later, we will study some specific organizations for examples of their internal comms.

This month Joe Chick finished the first of our case studies: the Industrial Welfare Society. He is perhaps now the first person to ever read all 30,000 pages of every edition of its magazine! Many valuable articles have been identified discussing methods of internal communication from the 1920s through to the 1990s. There are also surviving cassette tapes made for training. As enjoyable as the nostalgia was of winding through a cassette, Warwick University’s Modern Record Centre is also kindly digitizing these sources. Work has now begun on the project’s second case study: the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Unlike the Industrial Welfare Society, the organization is still in existence. However, it originated from the same era, beginning life as the Welfare Workers’ Association in 1913. Research is currently underway on its magazine, which began in 1920. Whereas the journal of the Industrial Welfare Society was written for managers, this source was aimed at welfare workers who often produced company magazines as part of their work.

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