Research Update (July 2023)

Collaboration with the Institute of Internal Communication

The highlight of this month’s work has been attending the IoIC festival. At the scenic rural setting of Tewinbury Farm near Welwyn Garden City, complete with a river and alpacas, we joined the gathering of professionals from across the internal communication sector. We had the opportunity to attend thought-provoking talks, including a particularly relevant panel exploring the future of internal communication. Speakers Dev Mistry, Alli Cary, and Kevin Ferneyhough highlighted several significant themes, including the merging of internal communication with external communications, the rise of IC practitioners as business advisors, and the transformative impact of COVID-19 on communication practices. When it comes to understanding change over time, history is very relevant to the present and the future. The festival was an excellent opportunity to meet lots of internal communication professionals and we look forward to returning next year.

The 2023 IoIC Festival

We also worked with the IoIC on this month’s focus group. We were thrilled by the overwhelming response, which led us to conduct not just one, but two engaging sessions. Participants enthusiastically discussed the changing role of the IC professional and their understanding of internal communication’s historical context and the strategic use of an organization’s past in their own internal communication practices. These focus groups will be repeated at the end of our project to gauge the impact of our engagement with IoIC members over the next three years. With workshops and an exhibition planned throughout the project’s duration, we aim to demonstrate even greater knowledge and insights in the future.

Engagement with Practitioners and Academics

Building connections with other project partners is a vital part of our journey. This month, we celebrated the 110th anniversary of the CIPD by writing a special blog post, which unearthed a fascinating magazine from 1923 that discussed giving employees a ‘voice’. We also had the pleasure of meeting Katie Macaulay from AB Comms. We had a fascinating discussion about of what history can offer for current internal communication practices and we look forward to appearing on her podcast series in the coming months.

In our very own History of Internal communication podcast series, we engaged in an enlightening conversation with Jenny Davenport and Liz Cochrane. We explored the concept of industrial democracy during the transformative 1970s and the development of the Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) and masters programmes.

The last month has been a milestone in our engagement with academic audiences too. The team presented its first conference paper at the Association of Business Historians conference in Newcastle. The talk set our findings on communication practices from our archival research into theories about institutionalization. The audience received our research findings warmly and raised interesting questions about how communication is received rather than just how it is transmitted. Our dissemination in the academic world will continue in July when we will be presenting at the European Group for Organizational Studies conference in Sardinia.

Archival work

Our research has continued and we have been exploring the IoIC’s archive. We discovered a remarkable 1948 edition of the House Organ Institute magazine. This organization, founded in 1937, was a precursor to the British Association of Internal Editors, which later evolved into the IoIC. Our research also took us to the British Library, which holds magazines from the early days of the British Association of Industrial Editors and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

During our visit to the British Library, we met with Lola Mattos, the Subject Librarian in Business & IP. We discussed our collaborations with the library, which is one of our project’s partners. This will include assisting with improving the cataloguing and accessibility of their company magazine holdings through the search engine. Additionally, we will be crafting a guide for accessing historical resources at the library, ensuring that valuable knowledge is readily available to all.

With these fruitful collaborations, engaging discussions, and intriguing discoveries, our team is looking forward to our upcoming endeavours. The month has been a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with internal communication practitioners. Increasing our understanding of current practices will give us a clearer understanding of the past practices that our research is uncovering. Our archival work continues to reveal valuable insights and we look forward to uncovering more in the coming months.

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