Research Update (March 2023)

Over the last month, we have particularly focussed on engagement with the internal comms profession, our key target audience. Archival research has also been progressing and we’re looking forward to our teams’ upcoming trip to the Unilever archives at Port Sunlight.


Engagement with the internal comms profession 

This project is different from most academic projects. When applying for funding, we made it clear that academics were not the primary target audience. Instead, we have been building links with the internal comms profession. The Institute of Internal Communication has been a key partner. Increasing knowledge of the profession’s history goes hand-in-hand with the institute’s goal of creating a sense of professional identity.

With this as our goal, we are excited to be featuring on the Institute of Internal Communication’s Future of Internal Communication podcast. The team were interviewed by the hosts Jen Sproul, Dom Walters, and Cat Barnard for a forthcoming episode. It was an opportunity to reflect on how the past can have lessons for the future.

Engagement is more than just a buzz word for our project. We are actually measuring the impact we have on the profession. To this end, we are running a survey which is going to all Institute of Internal Communication members. This exercise will be repeated at the end of the project to measure whether our project has had an impact on practitioners. Alongside this, we are running a focus group as a chance to have a more detailed discussion with a selection of members.


Blog and podcast

Additional content on our website has received an enthusiastic response. Our latest Source of Month looked at how team meetings, now seen as an obvious and natural element of communication, were a radical innovation in the 1960s and 1970s. The source was a particularly thrilling find. It got right to the heart of the project’s themes. It didn’t just tell us about the origins of the team meeting. It revealed conscious thinking by managers on the process of institutionalising new practices.

The History of Internal Communication podcast gained new subscribers with the launch of its second episode. This month we spoke with Suzanne Peck and Jen Sproul, the President and Chief Executive respectively of the Institute of Internal Communication. Our chat made it clear how much they feel our project has to offer to the profession. The series has some excellent guests lined up for future episodes. Next month will feature Matt Eastley, a Content Strategist and Editorial Specialist who has worked for Royal Mail and the BBC, two of our project’s partners.


Archival research and interviews

Underpinning our engagement has been archival work into the history of internal comms. Currently the research is looking at the magazines of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, which began life in 1913 as the Welfare Workers’ Association. We are also excited to have arranged a visit in April to the Unilever archive in Port Sunlight.

Archival sources are a key element of the research. For eras out of living memory they are vital. For recent developments, though, nothing can beat speaking to those involved.

This month, we were pleased to conduct our first research interview. We met with Liz Cochrane, who has a knowledge of education in the internal comms profession that can’t be rivalled. Once a key figure in the Industrial Society, she was instrumental in founding and overseeing the development of the diploma and MSc in internal comms. The discussion revealed much about the role of education in efforts to professionalise internal comms.

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