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Re-imagining Internal Communications

One of the canon texts in studying communications is Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983). In it, he looks at the rise of the nation state and national identity, and the role of print communications to enable it.

What has stayed with me over the years was an idea he developed from Hegel, “that newspapers serve modern man as a substitute for morning prayer.” Reading the daily newspaper was a:

…mass ceremony… performed in silent privacy, in the lair of the skull. Yet each communicant is well aware that the ceremony he performs is being replicated simultaneously by thousands (or millions) of others of whose existence he is confident, yet of whose identity he has not the slightest notion.

As the same time, the newspaper reader, observing exact replicas of his own paper being consumed by his subway, barbershop, or residential neighbours, is continually reassured that the imagined world is visibly rooted in everyday life.
(p35-6, 2006 edition)

The decisions about what to prioritize as a story and how to tell those stories formed a ‘conceptual commons’ for a population. It was a vision framed by the access to those stories—literacy, knowledge of the language, distribution—that created a shared view about the world, an imagining of a people and nation.

The contemporary organization is facing many challenges, from disruption, to innovation, to globalization.

At the same time, business communicators have never had such a wealth of tools. The dramatically increased speed of communications that emerged in Europe with print-capitalism parallels what we see today with digital, mobile, and social medias.

As news organizations helped foster a sense of national identity, the internal communication function serves organizational identity. We want to make the corporate newsfeed a compelling place that serves the culture and employees’ desires to identify with it. To do that, we need to act like successful modern news organizations, and have our teams of internal journalists and community personalities find the stories, engage in the conversations, and connect with audiences across regions and functions.

In part two of this series, we will look in detail at what that means.

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