Uncovering Insights in the Archives
May has been a productive month for our team and we’ve been able to dedicate much of our time to our archival research. Our first stop was the CIPD in Wimbledon, where we were warmly welcomed by Rose Marney. Navigating through their archival material, we were pleasantly surprised to discover an abundance of fascinating records as we went through the boxes. Among the gems were records detailing how the CIPD commemorated past anniversaries and reflected on its own history.
Archive boxes at the CIPD in Wimbledon.
The research took us to the British Library, where we read through past copies of PR Week, a magazine of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) that has been running since 1984. What caught our attention was the annual special edition magazine dedicated to the awards ceremony, featuring a prize for outstanding internal communication. It reinforces our impression that these awards play a pivotal role in creating an image of professionalism for a sector. Our research has been supported by Katie Marlow of the CIPR, who has kindly granted us access to recent digital materials such as the CIPR’s Influence magazine and the Engage podcast series.
Next, our research took us to the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC). Here, we were able to go beyond consulting member magazines and examined their extensive collection of minutes. This has been a treasure trove of information. While many archives keep minutes, they are often so copious that finding information on a particular topic is a case of looking for a needle in a haystack. The way archives are catalogued normally only tell you dates of a meeting and nothing of what was discussed. The remarkable ‘almanac’ summarises key topics for meetings from 1949 up to 2010, meticulously compiled by Kathie Jones who was chair of the predecessor organisation the British Association of Industrial Editors during the 1990s. Thanks to this, we have gained unprecedented insights into the behind-the-scenes workings of the industry, going beyond the external image portrayed in the magazines.
Sharing our knowledge with the academic community has been an integral part of our mission. In early May, our team presented a captivating talk at the Brunel Business School conference. We explored the nuances of archival research, highlighted our meticulous source analysis methods (including content analysis and the theoretical underpinnings of historical analysis), and showcased intriguing findings. We are also preparing to share our insights at the Association of Business Historians conference in Newcastle and the European Group for Organization Studies in Sardinia this summer.
Engagement is at the heart of our project, which seeks to work with an audience beyond academic circles. We had the pleasure of meeting with Katie Marlow and Dan Holden from the CIPR. Together, we explored the potential role our project could play in commemorating the institute’s seventy-fifth anniversary this year. Additionally, we discussed plans for future lunchtime workshops for CIPR members.
We have also had the pleasure to collaborate with the Institute of Internal Communication to organise an upcoming online focus group. Twelve members of the IoIC will participate, engaging in stimulating discussions and thought-provoking word association exercises. This interactive session will take place in late June after the institutes’ festival, an event we eagerly anticipate attending. We look forward to connecting with fellow enthusiasts, answering questions about our project and the exciting focus group.
Our online presence has been an opportunity to keep interested parties posted on our findings. Our thought-provoking source of the month blog post seeks to draw parallels between current practice and past experience. This month was no exception. It focused on the impact of social media on internal communication, drawing intriguing comparisons to the “new” technology of film in the mid-twentieth century. Comments from the past on the importance of not letting technology distract from the fundamental elements of effective communication remain as true today.
Through our podcast series, we have had the pleasure of connecting with many interesting people from the world of internal communication. This month featured an interview with Dom Walters and Bill Quirke. Dom Walters, a seasoned Leadership Communication Consultant with a wealth of experience, has experience from many prestigious organizations such as Lloyds, PWC, and Computershare. Bill Quirke, the Managing Director of IC consultancy Synopsis, stands as a prominent figure in the world of internal communication. They gave their fascinating perspective on how internal comms has developed across their careers. Some of Bill Quirke’s thoughts echoed those of the source of the month, noting how technology has created an expectation of having the right to say things that would not have been expected in a mid-twentieth century organisation.
We have had an enlightening time in the archives this month. Our engagement with the academic community and internal comms practitioners has allowed us to share our findings and spark valuable discussions. It has been a pleasure to share our findings with a wide audience through our blog posts and podcast series. As we continue our research and prepare for upcoming conferences and the focus group, we are excited to further contribute to the understanding and professionalisation of internal communication.