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Are internal communications budgets being slashed?

13/11/2014

In the past, a good internal communications strategy might merely have consisted of a bulletin board, a nice newsletter and a willingness to listen to the concerns of employees when they put them forward.

But modern businesses function differently, with the emergence of flexible working, increasingly multi-generational and multi-national organisations, and other factors all meaning that IC has had to evolve and develop, particularly when it comes to using technology.

Despite this, there has been a downward or static trend in IC budgets, meaning that hiring staff who are capable of fulfilling all the functions of this varied and complex role has become particularly important.

After all, if businesses can only afford to bring in one or two workers to handle their internal comms system, they need to make sure they are the right people; with a lack of cash to spare, any mistake could prove damaging.

Lack of funding

Despite the clear benefits of a strong internal communications policy, it appears that budgets have not expanded to cope with the increased demands being placed on IC professionals.

While some organisations may have cut their budgets during the recessionary period from 2008 onwards, it's more common for firms to have kept their spend on IC static, which could prove problematic if more needs to be invested in this area.

Naturally, online tools mean that talented workers can do more with less, at least if they have the requisite skills - enterprise-specific social networks provide an effective (and secure) alternative to mainstream platforms like Facebook for web-savvy IC staff.

And this kind of technology may make it easier for internal communications workers to do more with less, allowing them to stay in touch with the whole workforce in a relatively convenient and time-optimised fashion.

However, organisations still need to put a robust communications plan in place that encompasses both external and internal comms.

Underlying factors

What are the underlying factors in the lack of investment in IC? It's universally acknowledged that communicating effectively with all strands of an organisation is vital, but is there a reluctance to back up that knowledge with cash?

One reason for the lack of spend could be a lack of buy-in from top-level managers and the boardroom. In many businesses, there has been a clear trend towards cutting back on functions that don't always deliver a quantifiable return on investment, especially when money is tight.

While IC is obviously crucial, it can seem like an easy area in which to save cash. Marketers need to embrace an advocacy role here and convince senior team members that IC remains an important area for spending - this could be easier now that business conditions have improved.

Furthermore, the improving economic situation could prove a double-edged sword - if companies become keen to undertake a major, high-cost project to take advantage of the revival, they might choose to cut spending in other areas such as internal communications.

More with less

Ultimately, it's important that IC workers emphasise the importance of their role.

But it's also vital they remember big budgets aren't the only route to success. It can be tempting to spend on new software or processes when the money is available, but sometimes sticking to tried-and-tested techniques will provide the best results.