Internal communications – art or science?

Some posts I’ve been reading in recent days have got me thinking about an age-old question for internal communicators – is what we do art or science?

At the risk of getting splinters in an uncomfortable place, I’m going to say both – but not necessarily in equal measure.

The ‘science’ is important. I strongly believe that what we do has to be grounded in various degrees of process and theory. The models vary, but it’s vital to understand what your organisation is trying to achieve and how internal communications can support that. Who needs to know what, when and how, with a clear sense of why that’s important and the desired outcomes you’re looking for.

Measurement continues to be an essential element of the science side of our world. It’s gained weight with the wealth of metrics relating to digital data and that’s a good thing. But in all truth, any and all measurement is good and this is where theory and established practice helps, be it a particular engagement model, a sound way to structure a survey, or simply taking time to visit and talk to people in a factory, office, call centre or out in the field. You can’t beat front-line feedback.

Best of all, measurement is often how you can influence business leaders, many of whom think in numbers – be that financials, products sold and produced, or customer service levels. Connecting what you do to their metrics, and showing them the difference you make in language they understand, is critical for the credibility of communicators.

So what about the ‘art’ side of our profession? Ignore it at your peril. If your strategies and plans stay in your head or on a page, or have no life or energy, you’re not going to move off first base. I passionately believe that internal communications makes a real difference, and is at its best, when it creates an emotional connection with people.

Recently, I was leading a training session for our commercial teams and it closed with a video that my team had produced to summarise the course content. It made one participant cry and five or six more applauded when it ended. That meant more than the comments and scores on the feedback forms at the end of the course.

Creativity is key – be that ideas, campaigns, words or pictures. The art of internal communications is about making what you want or need to achieve compelling and engaging for the people you need to reach. With that, your theory becomes practice and your measurement will have meaning. The art brings the science to life. Without it, internal communications is, well, lifeless. There, I’ve jumped off the fence…

In truth, the best internal communications leaders, teams and people appreciate why the art and the science are important – and have the skills to deliver both for their organisations. That’s what makes our profession attractive, interesting and effective.

So are you more artist or scientist? Let me know what you think…


2 thoughts on “Internal communications – art or science?

  1. @digitaljonathan

    Artist or scientist? Good question.

    Isn’t the emotional impact of a communication a measurable outcome of sorts? (You mentioned the one crier, the 5 applauders).

    Regardless of which side of the fence we may sit, regardless of the art or science approach, what I want to see are communications that influence the readers action, behaviour, feelings or emotions. I’ll try and measure it too…


    1. Neil Jenkins Post author

      Agree with your question, JP – the reaction is indeed a measurable outcome. The point was more about the art or creativity behind the video that helped generate the reaction. As you rightly go on to say, it’s not really either/or. It’s both.



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