I was disappointed to read a number of recent articles suggesting that leaders clamp down on potentially damaging gossip because of the impact it has on their brand. They would do well to remember the impact Radio Caroline had during a not so distant period of austerity, when pirate djs became the voice of choice for a whole generation.
Whatever the rhetoric of the internal marketing zealots may imply, whether the senior leaders realise it or not, organisations have little choice other than to rely upon their people to give something of themselves if they’re to connect with the organisation, their peers and customers alike. Brand advocacy can only be voluntary, it can’t be controlled or prescribed. Given people’s natural skepticism of anything with a whiff of institutional authority about it, advocacy is tricky to achieve at the best of times, doubly so when economic conditions turn sour.
If you’re in any doubt about the potential power of brand within the internal market, spend some time with brand leaders like Google, ebay and Apple and see how much they prize internal communication. Feel the power of a strong brand allied with, not aligned to, a powerful and clear culture. The “communication, culture + performance” cocktail is an elusive blend however, as many organisations have found out to their cost.
Having worked across sectors in the internal communication and engagement fields for some time, it’s frustrating to still hear the language of alignment and the conviction that some form of corporate internal media or gossip police force is the way forward. It’s very much in the mould of the culture which dominated institutionalised post war media and which led to the pirate radio phenomenon.
It’s my firm conviction that corporate engagement isn’t something that can be conscripted. Iinternal media which is out of touch with the true culture of the organisation may well dominate the internal airwaves but sadly few people really listen in. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of tough market conditions is that the language of corporate command and control increases as does the tendency to focus on “push” communication as managers struggle to cope.
Call the alternative, unofficial channels "gossip" if you will, but it’s not a bad idea to listen in and learn.
Pirate radio anyone?