Anda di halaman 1dari 18

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

Promoting active communication behaviours through internal

communication Alessandra Mazzei
Article information:
To cite this document:
Alessandra Mazzei, (2010),"Promoting active communication behaviours through internal
communication", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 15 Iss 3 pp. 221 - 234
Permanent link to this document:

Downloaded on: 28 October 2014, At: 11:39 (PT)

References: this document contains references to 48 other documents.
To copy this document:
The fulltext of this document has been downloaded 5847 times since 2010*
Users who downloaded this article also downloaded:
Mary Welch, Paul R. Jackson, (2007),"Rethinking internal communication: a stakeholder approach",
Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 12 Iss 2 pp. 177-198
Dr Michael Goodman, Alessandra Mazzei, (2014),"Internal communication for employee enablement:
Strategies in American and Italian companies", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol.
19 Iss 1 pp. 82-95
Hanna K. Kalla, (2005),"Integrated internal communications: a multidisciplinary perspective", Corporate
Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 10 Iss 4 pp. 302-314

Access to this document was granted through an Emerald subscription provided by 607121 []
For Authors
If you would like to write for this, or any other Emerald publication, then please use our Emerald for
Authors service information about how to choose which publication to write for and submission
guidelines are available for all. Please visit for more information.
About Emerald
Emerald is a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society. The company
manages a portfolio of more than 290 journals and over 2,350 books and book series volumes, as well
as providing an extensive range of online products and additional customer resources and services.
Emerald is both COUNTER 4 and TRANSFER compliant. The organization is a partner of the
Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and also works with Portico and the LOCKSS initiative for
digital archive preservation.

*Related content and download information correct at time of download.

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

Promoting active communication communications
behaviours through internal

Alessandra Mazzei
Institute of Economics and Marketing, IULM University of Milan, Received March 2009
Milan, Italy Revised April 2009,
September 2009,
December 2009
Accepted January 2010
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to propose a definition of internal communication based on
intangible resources rather than organizational boundaries.
Design/methodology/approach The paper reviews the resource-based theory of the company, the
constructivist theory of communication and the situational theory of publics. It then proposes a
resource model (RM) of internal communication based on interactive processes aimed at
creating two catalytic resources for organizing: knowledge and allegiance. The field research
explores whether this model captures the concept of internal communication prevailing in business,
based on interviews with ten internal communication managers in Italian companies.
Findings The companies in this paper display a strong awareness of how intangible resources,
such as knowledge and employee attitudes, contribute to the companys success. Consequently,
they seek to promote active communication behaviours among employees. The RM depicts many
characteristics of the way managers currently perceive internal communication.
Research limitations/implications Because of the qualitative nature of the research, the results do not
have universal validity.
Practical implications The paper suggests that the main function of internal communication
departments is no longer to transmit messages but to promote active communication behaviours at
all organizational levels.
Originality/value The paper suggests a definition of internal communication that would help to
generate the intangible resources that fuel organizations: knowledge and allegiance. It supports a new
focus on active communication behaviours of employees.
Keywords Communication, Corporate communications, Employee relations, Knowledge creation,
Italy Paper type Research paper

1. Introduction communic
Internal communication is generally defined as the communication flow among people ation (see
within the boundaries of an organization. Many scholars emphasize that effective internal Welch and
communication is a prerequisite for a positive external corporate image or reputation Jackson
(Tench and Yeomans, 2006; Argenti and Forman, 2002; Kitchen, 1997; Sholes, 1997;
Goldhaber, 1993; Grunig and Hunt, 1984). Other authors note the role of internal
communication as a relationship management and commitment-building function (Cutlip et
al., 2006; Jo and Shim, 2005; Ledinghan and Bruning, 2000; Grunig, 1992). Many scholars
draw attention to a lack of satisfactory theoretical models to describe and interpret internal
(2007) for a review). New theoretical perspectives have been applied to internal

Corporate Communications: An
International Journal Vol. 15
No. 3, 2010 pp. 221-234

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

DOI 10.1108/13563281011068096

CCIJ including stakeholder theory (Welch and Jackson, 2007) and a multidisciplinary approach
(Kalla, 2005a).
15,3 Scholars often distinguish internal from external communication by referring to
organizational boundaries. They implicitly or explicitly consider the organization as a system
continuously interacting with its external environment (Cutlip et al., 2006; Tench and Yeomans,
2006; Argenti and Forman, 2002; Kitchen, 1997; Sholes, 1997; Goldhaber, 1993; Grunig and
222 Hunt, 1984). But organizational boundaries are an inaccurate criterion to use in defining internal
communication for a number of reasons. For example, all employees are members of the
external public and receive messages from dozens of sources and media channels.
Organizations must be careful to communicate news internally before employees learn
about it from the general media, as in the case of a merger or acquisition. The timing of
certain news announcements from the organization is critical and employees should never

be blindsided. It is almost impossible to isolate internal from external communication

This paper begins with a literature review of the resource-based theory of the company,
the constructive theory of communication and the situational theory of publics. Drawing on
this review, the paper proposes a definition and a model of internal communication that
abandons the concept of organizational boundaries and focuses on intangible resources for
competitive advantage. It then presents qualitative research to determine whether the
resource model (RM) of internal communication can adequately capture the concept as
companies understand it. Finally, the paper offers suggestions for future research and
managerial implications.

2. Literature review
This paper is built on the resource-based theory of the company, the constructive theory of
communication and the situational theory of publics.

The resource-based theory of the company

The resource-based theory of the company states that competitive advantage stems from
firm-specific resources that a company owns and that assure its uniqueness in its sector
(Rumelt, 1984; Barney, 1991). A sustainable competitive advantage requires the ownership
of resources and the ability of a company to access, use, exchange and combine them
(Teece and Pisano, 1994). Some authors suggest that knowledge-based resources are the
less imitable and highlight the processes individuals use to integrate their tacit and
specialized knowledge with that of groups (Grant, 1996). Other researchers have asserted
the social nature of the knowledge generation process in organizations (Nonaka, 1991).
The processes of and sharing of resources, both within and among organizations, and set up the social capital
organizational of a company (Coleman, 1988, 1990). Skills, behaviours and interactions of human
learning and resources form the foundation of intangible resources for competitive advantage (Colbert,
knowledge 2004). Knowledge tends to be embedded in workers competencies and abilities.
generation build on a Knowledge creation and sharing depend upon the social interactions among employees and
network of trust with external communities (Snell et al., 2001).
relationships which Together, these concepts emphasize that knowledge and trust relationships are
foster the exchange fundamental elements of a companys competitive edge. Communication among
specialists, and
colleagues, trust, common objectives and shared values also enable knowledge from the
creation (Kalla, 2005b). environment; and
they search for
Communication as constructivism and enactment management-, job-
and task-related
To describe the generation of knowledge and trust, one can adopt an approach that information (Grunig
considers communication the foundation of organizational structures and processes and Hunt, 1984).
(McPhee, 2001). Many studies claim that communication itself constitutes
organization (Tompkins, 1984). For example, when a manager presents a project Some researchers
through oral or written communication, he essentially defines the team structure and give insights for
initiates further action. In this theoretical framework, communication is equivalent to expanding the active
organization and creates the social context of organizations (Tompkins and Wanca- communication
Thibault, 2001; Putnam et al., 1996). Communication has been defined as constructive behaviours concept.
Ritter (1999)

(Miller, 2006) or constitutive (Penman, 2000; Craig, 1999).

Some scholars assert that, through communication, people enact their organizational developed the notion
environment (Weick, 1977) according to protocols of interaction consistent with the of networking
expectations they share about reciprocal roles (Heath, 1994). Communication and competence. This
relationship processes allow a company, its members, and its stakeholders to become notion refers to the
mutually meaningful and influential. Taylor (1993) asserts that an organization is a text ability of co-workers
produced by means of conversations among many authors. to build and
The constructivist approach says that communication is a social process of relationships with
interaction and/or interpretation that gives sense and meaning to social reality, outside people and
organizational actions, events and organizational roles and processes. This concept of
institutions who can
communication is consistent with the resource-based theory of the company. The
theory of enactment points out that each member of an organization can enact provide knowledge.
processes to negotiate meanings and make the organization operate. Therefore, MacMillan et al.
the responsibility of effective communication does not lie only in the hands of (2000, p. 11) extended
managers. the

The situational theory of publics

The situational theory of publics examines the different attitudes of people toward
communication (Grunig, 1978; Grunig and Hunt, 1984). Publics can passively process
received information or actively seek, interpret and spread information and then
engage in action.
Active or passive communication behaviours stem from the level of awareness
people have about a situation, the perception of obstacles to redressing the
situation and their involvement in the situation. More aware and involved people
tend to be more active, whereas people who believe themselves powerless tend to
exhibit passive communication behaviours.
Field studies that apply this theory to internal publics have found that active
communication behaviours differ from passive ones in many aspects. For example,
involved employees actively engage in interpersonal, horizontal and cross-
functional communication; seek information from multiple sources, from other
CCIJ concept of loyalty to the one of active allegiance. Loyalty implies deciding to stay in a
relationship and avoiding opportunism. Active allegiance implies behaviours such as:
[. . .] referring others to the firm or speaking well of it; contradicting others who seem to be falsely
critical of the business; informing the management of the business if they believe something they
observe is wrong and may harm the business in some way; and, themselves deliberately doing
things to preserve or enhance the good name of the business.
224 Snell et al. (2001) suggested that employees have a psychological contract based on
commitment, collaboration, productivity or compliance with their company. Those with an
intense psychological contract contribute the most to their companys success (Snell et al.,
2001). They are also the most active in terms of communication behaviours.

3. Research design and method

Analysis of the literature revealed that knowledge is the most valuable resource a company
needs for competitive advantage and it requires trust relationships and active
communication behaviours from people involved in knowledge generation. Based on this
theoretical background, this paper defines internal communication as a set of interactive
processes aimed at generating the catalytic resources that make a company work. These
two resources consist of knowledge to fuel working processes and employee allegiance
that encourages them to apply their knowledge to company processes (Mazzei, 2004,
In bringing together all theoretical insights regarding publics and their communication
behaviours, the active communication behaviours considered in the present study are to
seek, use, disseminate and share information and knowledge purposefully; to search
for informal, horizontal, cross-functional communication; to engage in negotiating for
mutual understanding; to search for information about corporate strategies and values; to
inform managers about problems, whether potential or existing; to disseminate positive
information enhancing the companys reputation; to defend ones own company against
attacks; and to maintain and nurture relations with colleagues, clients and partners.
In this paper, a RM of internal communication has been drawn to contrast with a system
model (SM). The first is based on the system theory of organization and it lies at the
basis of the most widespread literature about internal communication (Cutlip et al., 2006;
Tench and Yeomans, 2006; Argenti and Forman, 2002; Kitchen, 1997; Sholes, 1997;
Goldhaber, 1993; Grunig and Hunt, 1984). While the latter is based on the resource-based
theory of the company. The two models are built delineating the following variables:
internal communication definition criteria, aims, criteria for categorizing employees,
channels, linkage of internal communication with human resource management systems
and elements of the internal communication plan.
Internal communication definition criteria in the SM are mainly organizational
boundaries and distinguish between the internal and external environment (Grunig and
Hunt, 1984). In the RM, they are intangible resources such as motivation, involvement,
trust, loyalty, allegiance and knowledge (Kalla, 2005a).
Internal communication aims in the SM include targeting messages, disseminating
information, delivering communication outputs, educating people to share the companys
objectives and standards and creating the willingness to be a member of the company (Argenti
and Forman, 2002). In
the RM, the aim is to
stimulate allegiance

and promote active communication behaviours such as engaging in mutual

understanding with colleagues (Grunig, 1978; Grunig and Hunt, 1984).
Criteria for categorizing employees in the SM include hierarchy, organizational
roles, age and level of education. In the RM, the main segmentation criteria are
competencies and psychological contracts, and communication audiences include
suppliers, consultants, contractors and industry partners.
Channels and instruments in the SM disseminate information toward employees in
a push manner. In the RM, most important communication channels and instruments
offer information to be used in a pull manner and are based on contents generated by
Linkage of internal communication with human resource management systems in the
SM is weak. Internal communication conveys job-related information such as

contracts, benefits, career paths and reward systems. In the RM, internal communication
is specifically related to the human resource function, to organizational well-being, and to
professional development. Further, it conveys strategic information.
The main elements of the internal communication plan in the SM are the
audiences and instruments used to deliver messages (Sholes, 1997). According to
the focus on intangible resources in the RM, the most important elements of the
internal communication plan are communication aims and processes, such as cultural
accommodation within the firm (Cornelissen et al., 2006). Managers of related
functions are considered essential to promoting active communication behaviours.
The research presented here tries to determine whether the concept of internal
communication prevailing in companies is closer to SM or RM using the given
criteria. If so, it could fill a conceptual gap. The data in this study consist of the
opinions of managers and professionals about the nature and scope of internal
communication in their organizations. The data do not reveal whether the RM has been
Because of the exploratory nature of the study (Yin, 1994), the research used
qualitative analysis to test the RM. Data gathering was based on semi-structured
interviews conducted in 2008 by telephone or e-mail to internal communication
managers of ten companies operating in Italy. The companies were all members of a
professional internal communication network. The researchers were institutional
partners in this network and could easily establish relationships with managers who
were interviewed, assuring the consistency of data gathered by means of telephone and
e-mail interviews.
The presence of an internal communication department and an articulated internal
communication program were the primary criteria used to select companies. All the
companies selected are large organizations (each of them has thousands of employees)
and operate internationally. They are either Italian multinationals or branches of
foreign companies and they operate in different industrial sectors, from manufacturing,
retail and banking to strategic consultancies.
The researchers verified the collected information through examining official
documents, internal communication presentations and plans, company brochures,
publications on corporate social responsibility and diversity management
programs and corporate web sites describing communication and human resource
management topics. In some cases, there were additional contacts with respondents
after the interviews to ask for clarification and further information.
CCIJ The interview topics concerned the variables of the internal communication models
15,3 (Table I). For each topic, the interview contained one or more open questions for a total
number of 9.
The researchers analysed interview transcripts through a qualitative
(or ethnographic) summary (Morgan, 1988). They closely examined each answer and
selected quotations from the interview transcripts to find the best statements related
226 to the research issues. They categorized each answer according to the research coding
scheme presented in Table II. Some answers belong to the SM, others to the RM, while
some answers contained features of both models. Table III gives an example of the
categorization strategy applied to the interview transcripts.

4. Findings

Although the study was qualitative and statistical tests were not part of the design, the
researchers included the number of companies belonging to the coding scheme categories to
complete the data analysis (Table IV), as suggested by Morgan (1988).

Internal communication definition criteria

One company gave a definition of internal communication reflecting the SM: Internal
communication in my organization is defined as a purposefully-oriented information exchange
among employees. Two companies defined internal communication based only on intangible
resources: organizational values and culture-sharing, knowledge creation and dissemination
to build a common language; to create an organizational identity.
Most companies gave definitions that fit both models. For example:
Internal communication is a human resource management lever to enable and improve external
communication; a managerial day-by-day function, the life of our organization. We support
managers, but we do not communicate internally.

Variables of the internal communication models and asked questions


Table I.
your company? Can you give some examples?
Channels and instruments Elements of internal communication plan (7) Does your organization have an internal
Internal communication definition criteria communication plan? What are the program elements?
(8) Does your company conduct an internal
InternalLinkage of internal
communication communication with
aims communication audit? How?
human resource management systems (9) Which communication outcomes are evaluated by
Criteria for categorizing employees your company? How?

Variables SM RM Both models

Internal communication definition Organizational boundaries Key intangible resources The answer contains some features
criteria and memberships (knowledge, psychological contract of both models
and its relational intensity)
Internal communication aims Message targeting, dissemination of To promote active communication
information, communication output behaviours
To share corporate values To stimulate commitment, loyalty,
and mission empowerment, allegiance
To create the willingness to stay
and to be part of the organization
Criteria for categorizing employees Hierarchical level Professional competencies
Organizational roles Psychological contract
Channels and instruments Information and content Information and content pull
push activities activities
Employee-generated contents and
Linkage of internal communication No links or weak links to human Relevant for human resource
with human resource management resource management practices management
systems Content: job-related information Organizational well being
(contracts, benefits, career paths, Professional development
reward systems) Content: strategic contents
Elements of internal communication Targets and instruments Aims and processes
plan Involvement of specialists and
managers of other functions
interview transcripts
categorizing the
Coding scheme for
Table II.

CCIJsInternal This definition refers specifically to the boundary between the internal and external
15,3 environment but at the same time highlights the active communication role of managers:
In my organization the term internal communication is not used at all. We simply say
communication. The communication team is expected to assure timeliness and consistent
messages, and increase the sense of belonging and dialogue among organizational units.
internal and
228 This definition refers to a strong integration between external
communication and implicitly refers to organizational boundaries. At the same
it refers to an intangible resource (sense of belonging) and to a communication
behaviour (dialogue).

Internal communication aims

In three companies, communication aims expressed by the respondents were
categorized into the SM. For example:
Our internal communication aims are to facilitate the internal information flow, to avoid
overload, to reach all publics, to increase the sense of belonging; to disseminate information,
to tailor messages to the audiences, to listen to internal communication needs in order to
deliver communication consistent with organizational aims.
Internal communication aims in six companies reflect features of both models, as for
example: To inform the staff of business strategies; to improve the organizational
climate and to facilitate knowledge sharing and to disseminate information at all
levels, to support active collaboration, project-building and common results. In these
cases, organizations attempt both to relay messages to internal publics through
appropriate tools and to promote communication behaviours and allegiance. In one
company, the internal communication aims statement was classified as reflecting the
RM: Enabling employees to exercise their independence, judgment and creativity.

Variables SM RM Both models

Internal Company A: to Company B: to enable Company C: to spread
Table III. communication facilitate the internal employees to exercise their information at all
Example of the aims information flow independence, judgment and hierarchical levels (SM); to
categorization strategy creativity support active collaboration,
applied to the interview project development, and
transcripts common results (RM)
Variables SM RM Both models Missing answers

Internal communication definition criteria 1 2 6 1

Internal communication aims 3 1 6
Criteria for categorizing employees 6 0 4
Table IV. Channels and instruments 0 1 9
Count of the companies Linkage of internal communication with human
for each variables of the resource management systems 1 4 3 2
two models Elements of internal communication plan 3 5 1 1

Criteria for categorizing employees Internal

All ten companies use segmentation criteria based on organizational variables such as communications
the hierarchical distinction between employees and managers or between white
and blue
collar workers. They also use socio-demographic variables such as the age of co-
or their professional life phase. Organizational and socio-demographic segmentation
variables are used in order to capture different communication needs and expectations
and pertain to the SM. 229
Four companies use variables that underline the psychological contract of
with their employers. For example, a service company devoted internal communication

activities to professional communities. Our role, as internal communication managers,

is to help technicians communicate and develop their own professional communities
with colleagues from our branches all over the world. The segment of professionals is
identified based on the psychological contract between employees and employer,
assumes a specific orientation to action.

Channels and instruments

All the companies interviewed cited various channels for conveying information in a
push manner: house organs, newsletters, internal advertising, company radio,
web TV,
bulletin boards, e-mailing to staff, meetings and external campaigns directed also
staff. These examples refer to the SM of internal communication.
All organizations in this study integrate push channels with pull and interactive ones.
For example, they use online interactive meetings, online forums, employee-generated
intranets, call for ideas open to all employees for special projects, communication networks
with pivotal and gatekeeper roles, internal communication committees formed by
employees, employee lounges and restaurants, library, and internet points, organizational
theatre, unconventional events such as harvest in a vineyard, and a workshop to create a
company perfume. All respondent answers were classified as fitting both models.
Linkage of internal communication with human resource management systems
One company declared that although motivating employees is very important,
internal communication currently focuses on building an effective system able to
convey information, consistentiswith
communication usedtheto SM. Two
explain thecompanies didManagement
Performance not answer,System,
while to disseminate information
three of them refer organizational
to both life. example:
models. For We do not have any diversity management program. Internal communication
supports training for competencies.
n This declaration, fitting the SM, refers also to professional development, a feature of the RM.
t Four companies made statements labelled as RM. For example:
r Internal communication is a human resource management function. Internal communication supports
n managers in their front line communication role. Internal communication is also managed as a variable
a relevant for the organizational climate and it is also training-focused. We implement extensive diversity
l management programs.

Elements of the internal communication plan

Three companies described their internal communication plans in terms that categorized them as
belonging to the SM. For example, one company declared that its


This study proposes a definition of internal communication as a set of interactive processes to
internal communication generate knowledge and allegiance, definitively abandoning a systemic perspective that refers to
plan explicates organizational boundaries. The exploratory qualitative research was intended to understand to what
instruments, events and extent the SM and the RM capture the vision about internal communication of interviewed
specific campaigns. managers as it emerges from findings.
Among the interviewed Findings show that the definition of internal communication given by the respondents in almost
companies, five fit the all cases leans toward the RM. Most companies define internal communication by referring to
RM. One companys intangible resources, such as knowledge, or communication behaviours, such as dialogue. Only one
internal communication company refers to boundaries without mentioning any intangible resources.
plan is based on It appears that respondents are aware that competitive advantage stems from intangible
communication aims resources (Rumelt, 1984; Barney, 1991) and that communication plays a key role in developing
and organizational such resources (Coleman, 1988, 1990; Tucker et al., 1996; Kalla, 2005b). This finding supports the
values. It then identifies theoretical framework of the RM of internal communication.
instruments and The aims of internal communication in most cases contain features of both models. Many
activities that match companies expressed an aim of creating a climate for active communication behaviours such as
the companys knowledge sharing, collaboration and creativity. This finding is consistent with previous
communication values, research that suggests encouraging communication contacts among all members of the organization
i.e. interactivity, (Brnn et al., 2004) and asserts that communication is central for all organizational processes
dynamism and trans- (Shockley-Zalabak et al., 2002). This supports the RM hypothesis that, because knowledge and
nationality. Another allegiance are generated through social interactions, the aim of internal communication is
company had promoting active communication and allegiance.
decentralized programs
inspired by the strategic Most interviewed companies categorize their employees according to socio-demographic and
business plan and by organizational variables in order to capture different information needs, as the SM requires. Only a
communication limited number of companies categorize their employees based on the psychological contract as
priorities including suggested by the RM, possibly because segmentation techniques based on behavioural and
simplicity, clarity and professional criteria are lacking. Previous studies in the public relations field suggest categorizing
efficiency. publics using their level of involvement and their knowledge about a topic (Grunig and Hunt, 1984;
Hallahan, 2001), providing a basis for categorizing employees.
All interviewed companies use communication channels and instruments that give employees the
5. Discussion and opportunity to express themselves. This is consistent with the RM because interactive communication
conclusions tools encourage employees active communication behaviours. Technology is rapidly changing
communication habits inside and outside organizations because so many people, especially the younger
ones, are proficient
signals (de Michelis, 2001) as required by knowledge communication (Lurati and Eppler,
in 2006). Internal
According to the findings reported in this paper, there is a connection between internal communications
communication and human resource management systems, consistent with the RM. This link
tech contributes to organizational well-being, a collaborative environment and organizational
nol change and in turn promotes further allegiance between the company and its employees.
to Human resource management systems would benefit from the support of communication
co programs (Freitag and Pitcherit-Duthler, 2004; Jo and Shim, 2005). 231
mm A few companies focus their internal communication plans on instruments and publics to
uni be reached, reflecting an SM approach. According to the RM, most internal communication
cate plans have explicit aims and processes and are inspired by quality factors and company
(Pre values. This demonstrates that the interviewed companies based some managerial practices on
nsk intangible resources and communication behaviours, according to the RM.
y, One of the major managerial implications of the present study is that internal
200 communication is no longer merely a message-targeting function (examples would include
1). publishing a house organ or managing the annual meeting). On the contrary, the internal
her, communication department has a key role in encouraging active employee behaviours in
new addition to delivering messages. For internal communication managers, this new role of
tech internal communication department implies they must clarify which communication
nol behaviours to activate, which groups of employees are supposed to be active or passive, and
ogi what managerial actions are more likely to promote active communication behaviours.
es Developing techniques for employee categorization based on the psychological contract is
cou important in order to identify the communication attitudes of employees.
ld Another key managerial issue is to identify the most important active communication
diss behaviours in a specific organization. This issue might entail a work-flow analysis involving
emi employees and encouraging them to initiate communication behaviours that improve
nate organizational processes.
myr Scholars of internal communication and managers have to create activation strategies to
iad transform inactive publics to active publics (Hallahan, 2001). Inactivity derives from the lack
of of awareness, sensitivity and ability and also from a sense of constraint. Therefore, internal
co communication departments have to manage these issues by enhancing motivation, and
mm implementing training and coaching programs to improve the communication competencies of
uni all employees and increase organizational trust. In planning activation strategies, it is
cati necessary to forge a link between internal communication and human resource management
on systems. This could mean co-locating the internal communication unit in the human
resource department or building a common task force.
Given the qualitative nature of the research, the companies studied do not represent the
universe of companies and other organizations in Italy. Further, this study did not explore the
actual diffusion of the RM among Italian companies.
A quantitative survey of statistically consistent data would measure the diffusion of the
theoretical RM in Italy and in other countries. Other research would be useful to verify whether
companies adhering to the RM are really able to develop employees
allegiance and promote active communication behaviours. Such research should involve employees
and could be qualitative or quantitative. And finally, it would be interesting to conduct case
studies to investigate the internal communication and human resource management practices
most suitable for allegiance development, knowledge creation and active communication.
To conclude, the picture that emerges from the interviews reflects a model of internal
communication that differs from SM, which is widespread in the literature. Most companies show
features of both the SM as well as the RM. This means that the SM does not entirely capture the
concept of internal communication prevailing in companies. The RM depicts many characteristics
of the way managers currently perceive internal communication. Therefore, the RM could provide
a way to fill the gap between theory and practice that was at the origin of this research.
A renewal of the language could be very useful to allow progress in internal communication theory.
The expression internal communication could be revisited. The term internal, which refers to the
organizational boundaries, could be replaced with creative, collaborative or organizational. The
term communication, which implies targeting messages, could be changed in relationships,
behaviour or interaction. This exploratory research hopes to contribute to the advancement of
internal communication concept and to provide the groundwork for future empirical research.

Argenti, P. and Forman, J. (2002), The Power of Corporate Communication, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.
Barney, J.B. (1991), Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage, Journal of Management, Vol.
17 No. 1, pp. 99-120.
Brnn, P.S., Roberts, H. and Breunig, K.J. (2004), Intangible assets, communication and relationships,
Proceeding of the 11th Annual Public Relaitons Research Symposium, Beld, pp. 2-4.
Colbert, B.A. (2004), The complex resource-based view: implications for theory and practice in strategic
human resource management, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 341-58.
Coleman, J.S. (1988), Social capital in the creation of human capital, American Journal of Sociology, Vol.
94, pp. 95-120.
Coleman, J.S. (1990), Foundation of Social Theory, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Cornelissen, J., van Bekkum, T. and van Ruler, B. (2006), Corporate communications: a practice-based
theoretical conceptualization, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 114-33.
Craig, R.T. (1999), Communication theory as a field, Communication Theory, Vol. 9, pp. 119-61.
Cutlip, S., Center, A. and Broom, G. (2006), Effective Public Relations, Pearson International Edition,
Upper Saddle River, NJ.
de Michelis, G. (2001), Cooperation and knowledge creation, in Nonaka, I. and Nishiguchi, T. (Eds),
Knowledge Emergence: Social, Technical and Evolutionary Dimensions of Knowledge Creation,
Oxford University, New York, NY, pp. 124-46.
Freitag, A.R. and Picherit-Duthler, G. (2004), Employee benefits communication: proposing a PR-HR
cooperative approach, Public Relations Review, Vol. 30, pp. 475-82.
Goldhaber, G. (1993), Organizational Communication, Brown & Benchman, Madison, WI.

Grant, R.M. (1996), Toward a knowledge-based theory of the firm, Strategic Management Journal, Internal
Vol. 17, Winter, pp. 109-22 (special issue).
Grunig, J.E. (1978), Describing publics in public relations: the case of a suburban hospital,
Journalism Quarterly, Vol. 55, pp. 109-18.
Grunig, J.E. (Ed.) (1992), Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management,
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale.
Grunig, J.E. and Hunt, T. (1984), Managing Public Relations, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College, 233
Orlando, FL.
Hallahan, K. (2001), The dynamics of issues activation and response: an issues processes model,
Journal of Public Relations Research, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 27-59.
Heath, R.L. (1994), Management of Corporate Communication, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,
Jo, S. and Shim, S.W. (2005), Paradigm shift of employee communication: the effect of management communication
on trusting relationships, Public Relations Review, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 277-80.
Kalla, H.K. (2005a), Integrated internal communications: a multidisciplinary perspective,
Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 302-14.
Kalla, H.K. (2005b), Knowledge sharing through social capital: strategic role of communication,
Conference on Corporate Communication 2005 Proceedings, CCI at Baruch
College/CUNY, New York, NY.
Kitchen, P.J. (1997), Public Relations: Principles and Practice, International Thomson Business
Press, London.
Ledinghan, J.A. and Bruning, S.D. (Eds) (2000), Public Relations as Relationship Management: A
Relational Approach to the Study and Practice of Public Relations, Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, Mahwah, NJ.
Lurati, F. and Eppler, M.J. (2006), Communication and management: researching corporate
communication and knowledge communication in organizational settings, Studies in
Communication Sciences, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 75-98.
McPhee, R.D. (2001), Organizational structures and configurations, in Jablin, F.M. and Putnam, L.L.
(Eds), The New Handbook of Organizational Communication, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp.
MacMillan, K., Money, K. and Downing, S. (2000), Successful business relationships, Journal of
General Management, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 69-83.
Mazzei, A. (2004), La comunicazione interna della pubblica amministrazione. Dinamiche di una nuova
frontiera, in Rolando, S. (Ed.), I grandi temi della comunicazione di pubblica utilita` 1,
FrancoAngeli, Milan.
Mazzei, A. (2007), La comunicazione interna per il capitale intellettuale e sociale dellimpresa, paper
presented at the 6th International Congress Marketing Trends, ESCP-EAP & Universita Ca
Foscari of Venice, Paris, January 26-27.
Miller, K. (2006), Constructive, in Shepherd, G.J., St John, J. and Striphas, T. (Eds), Communication as [. .
.] Perspectives on Theory, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 31-7.
Morgan, D.L. (1988), Focus Group as Qualitative Research, Sage, Newbury Park.
Nonaka, I. (1991), The knowledge-creating company, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 69 No. 6, pp.
Penman, R. (2000), Reconstructing Communication: Looking to a Future, Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, Mahwah.
Prensky, M. (2001), Digital natives, digital immigrants, On the Horizon, Vol. 9 No. 5, pp. 1-6.
CCIJ Putnam, L.L., Philips, N. and Chapman, P. (1996), Metaphors of communication and organization, in Clegg,
S.R., Hardy, C. and Nord, W.R. (Eds), Handbook of Organization Studies, Sage, Thousand Oaks,
15,3 CA, pp. 375-408.
Ritter, T. (1999), The networking company: antecedents for coping with relationships and networks
effectively, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 467-79.
Rumelt, R.P. (1984), Toward a strategic theory of the firm, in Lamb, R. (Ed.), Competitive Strategic
Management, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, pp. 556-70.
Shockley-Zalabak, P., Morley, D.D. and Cesaria, R. (2002), Organizational influence processes: perceptions
of values, communication and effectiveness, Studies in Communication Sciences, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp.
Sholes, E. (Ed.) (1997), Gower Handbook of Internal Communication, Gower, Aldershot.
Snell, S.A., Shadur, M. and Wright, P.M. (2001), Human resources strategy: the era of our ways, in Hitt,

M.A., Freeman, R.E. and Harrison, J.S. (Eds), Handbook of Strategic Management, Blackwell,
Oxford, pp. 627-49.
Taylor, J.R. (1993), Rethinking the Theory of Organizational Communication: How to Read an
Organization, Ablex, Norwood.
Teece, D.J. and Pisano, G. (1994), The dynamic capabilities of firms: an introduction, Industrial and
Corporate Change, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 537-56.
Tench, R. and Yeomans, L. (2006), Exploring Public Relations, Prentice-Hall, Harlow.
Tompkins, P.K. (1984), The functions of communication in organizations, in Arnold, C. and Bowers, J.
(Eds), Handbook of Rhetorical and Communication Theory, Allyn & Bacon, New York, NY, pp.
Tompkins, P.K. and Wanca-Thibault, M. (2001), Organizational communication: prelude and prospects, in
Jablin, F.M. and Putnam, L.L. (Eds), The New Handbook of Organizational Communication, Sage,
Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. xvii-xxxi.
Tucker, M.L., Mayer, G.D. and Westerman, J.M. (1996), Organizational communication: development of
internal strategic competitive advantage, Journal of Business Communication, Vol. 33 No. 1, pp.
Weick, K.E. (1977), Enactment process in organizations, in Stow, B.M. and Salancik, G.R. (Eds), New Directions
in Organizational Behaviour, St Clair Press, Chicago, IL, pp. 267-301.
Welch, M. and Jackson, P.R. (2007), Rethinking internal communication: a stakeholder
approach, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 177-98.
Yin, K.R. (1994), Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

About the author

Alessandra Mazzei is an Associate Professor of Corporate Communication and Public Relations at IULM
University of Milan. She is currently a part of the Faculty of the Doctoral School in Corporate Communication
and the Faculty of the Master degree in Political, Social and Institutional Communication at IULM University.
She is the Coordinator of the Internal Communication Laboratory at IULM University. Her research interests
and publications focus on internal communication, communication audit, relationship management, corporate
reputation management, marketing and communication of credence goods. Alessandra Mazzei can be
contacted at:

To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail:

Or visit our web site for further details:
This article has been cited by:

1. Pradnya Chitrao. 2014. Internal communication satisfaction as an employee motivation tool in the retail
sector in Pune. The European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences 10:10.15405/ejsbs.2013.9.issue-3,
1541-1552. [CrossRef]
2. Mats Heide, Charlotte Simonsson. 2014. Developing internal crisis communication. Corporate Communications: An
International Journal 19:2, 128-146. [Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF]
3. Dr Michael Goodman, Gianluca Togna. 2014. Does internal communication to generate trust always increase
commitment?. Corporate Communications: An International Journal 19:1, 64-81. [Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF]

4. Ali Rezaeian, Maryam Tehrani, Nyma Lotfi Foroushani. 2013. A trustbased study of CS influence on OCB in

Iranian Water Resources Management Company. Journal of Communication Management 17:3, 216-238. [Abstract]
[Full Text] [PDF]
5. Michael B. Goodman, Neha Sharma, T.J. Kamalanabhan. 2012. Internal corporate communication and its impact
on internal branding. Corporate Communications: An International Journal 17:3, 300-322. [Abstract] [Full
Text] [PDF]

6. Alessandra Mazzei, Jeong-Nam Kim, Carolina Dell'Oro. 2012. Strategic Value of Employee Relationships and

Communicative Actions: Overcoming Corporate Crisis with Quality Internal Communication. International Journal of

Strategic Communication 6:1, 31-44. [CrossRef]