The main differences between external and internal communication

Businesses can either flop or flourish based on the effectiveness of communication. Communication in business tends to fall under the categories of internal or external communication. Although these two audiences are similar, they have unique traits and require different approaches to manage and enhance communication strategies effectively. Here, we cover the differences between internal and external communications with examples.

June 22, 2023

Definition

Internal communication

Communication with customers, suppliers, investors, and consumers outside the organization make up most external communication and are the big difference between internal and external communication. Various channels and platforms are used by organizations to interact with their target customers as a result of this concept. These companies use social media posts, press releases, and emails to reach their target customers effectively.

The exchange of information outside the organization differs from that of internal communication. A daily communication process takes place between organizations and the outside world. It is, therefore, crucial that every business has a department of external communication.

Internal communication and external communication can both be formal and informal. You would generally be formal when communicating with the outside. This is because you want to give the best impression and maintain the professional image of your company. You also want to give clear and concise information with clarity, such as on your products and services. Doing this formally is the best route.

Learn more about the definition of internal communication

External communication

Talking to customers, suppliers, investors, and others outside the organization can be described as external communication. There is an almost infinite number of media formats, narratives, and communication types depending on your industry, company size, and positioning in the market. E-mails, newsletters, social media, and press releases are some examples of the ways external stakeholders can be reached.

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Differences between internal and external communication

Now let’s look at the similarities and differences between internal can external comms in terms of actual content, objectives, media channels used, level of transparency, tone of voice, focus, length of content, and how frequently the messages are sent.

Infographic > Differences between internal and external communications
1

Content

The type of content contained in internal and external coms is very different. Internal communication focuses on sharing internal updates, business strategies, and employee-related info which is often needed daily. Ultimately, external comms focus on marketing messaging, PR, customer support, and building a brand reputation with external audiences.

2

Objectives

Internal comms aims to inform, engage, and align employees to help them arrive at a single destination - a place of growth. Perhaps that destination is a revenue increase. The single overarching goal is important to make all departments, irrespective of what they do and how different they might seem, all connected and part of something bigger. Internal comms is a good way of selling the ‘brand’ internally; if employees don’t believe in the brand, how can the employees help customers believe in it?

Clear messaging should ensure employees understand the organization's mission, vision, and objectives, hopefully motivating them. By keeping employees informed about essential stuff like changes to policy, and organizational developments, they are more likely to feel valued.

External communication aims are similar as it informs, engages, and help promote the brand, so there is one clear value proposition to attract customers, build brand reputation, and maintain positive relationships with external stakeholders.

The internal branding used to motivate customers shouldn’t be that different from the external branding used to stimulate sales.

3

Channels

The channels used between internal and external comms are similar, for example, email, SMS, and WhatsApp. Internal communication sometimes uses internal Facebook or other social media sharing platforms for internal content.

On the other hand, external communication channels include websites, social media platforms, traditional media outlets, and other channels. The aim is to build a brand reputation, attract customers, and maintain and strengthen relationships with external stakeholders.

4

Confidentiality and transparency

In summary, internal comms are confidential, and external comms are transparent. It is uncommon for employees to share sensitive information inside the company, such as strategies, financial details, or upcoming projects.

External communication aims to build credibility and trust, and openness with stakeholders. Internal seeks to do the same, but from within the company itself.

5

Vocabulary

Most businesses use acronyms, industry-specific jargon, abbreviations, and phrases. This is because those inside the organization will understand the words used. This is all perfectly normal.

However, when communicating with the outside, using press releases, tv ads, radio ads, website content, etc., it's best to remove jargon and go for simple, intuitive words and phrases. Express ideas clearly, concisely, and in a way that any audience easily understands. Remember, you want it to be easily understood.

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6

Content length

If you are paying employees, it’s fair to expect they will pay attention, so internal comms tend to be longer. It’s fair to send a 200 words email to employees once in a while and expect it to be read. An organization can create a collective memory by recording processes, systems, and ceremonies. Making relevant information available to employees whenever they need it. Additionally, internal communication allows for future reference and learning from past experiences by documenting decisions, project updates, and changes.

There are various types of external comms, like advertising to customers, communicating with journalists and suppliers, and making sure shareholders and investors stay on board. The amount of information relevant to each of these groups is very different. A YouTube ad or TV Ad tends to be no longer than a couple of minutes. While annual reports aimed at shareholders might be 50 pages long.

7

Communication frequency

Like the point above, paid employees would be expected to receive regular updates; it’s part of their job. An average employee might get a handful of daily emails about organizational or project changes.

Communication with external stakeholders is scheduled, targeting key moments and events most relevant to them. This process may include a marketing campaign, press release, or investor update. It is important not to overwhelm the external audience; otherwise, messages get lost in the noise.

8

How success is measured

It’s important to know if your approach to comms is working. There are several ways to measure the success of internal comms, the most commonly used are employee surveys and anonymous drop boxes.

External comms are much easier to measure, normally measured in terms of unprompted brand awareness, market share, and sales.

9

Crisis Communication

Internal communication provides employees clarity, assurance, and guidance in times of crisis or significant organizational change.

External communication requires a different approach to addressing external stakeholders in such a situation, focusing on transparent and empathic communication.

Learn more about crisis communications

Why internal and external communication needs to work together

While they have distinct purposes and audiences, internal and external comms must work harmoniously to build long-term relationships.

An internal alignment creates a foundation of trust and unity, which extends to external stakeholders. Internal communication fosters a positive work culture, encourages engagement, and empowers employee brand advocacy. An aligned and engaged workforce naturally projects a strong brand image.

Increasing brand recognition, attracting new customers, and maintaining positive relationships with external stakeholders support internal efforts. External messages must align with the organization's values and culture to establish trust and credibility externally.

Brand advocacy

Internal audiences must be as engaged as external audiences. As representatives for your business, you want your employees engaged and motivated to go out and communicate the brand's key messages. The more effectively you communicate your corporate public relations strategy internally, the more effectively you can communicate with your customers and potential customers.

Feedback loop

Internal communication has the potential to gather valuable feedback from people. This can be used to rethink the message, regroup the troops, and improve customer satisfaction and external communication.

As representatives of the organization, employees often have insights, suggestions, and concerns from the frontline that can enhance external communication messaging. This allows for continuous improvement. It is important to remember this.

Crisis management

Comms planning is most critical when things go wrong. In a crisis, letting internal teams know what is going on and also giving customer confidence that you’re still operating is not just essential. There is a time pressure.

Keeping employees up-to-date with accurate information is a key focus of internal comms, while staying transparent and addressing stakeholder concerns is the responsibility of external communication. Communication strategies can be optimized and overall performance enhanced if organizations recognize the interdependence of internal and external communication.

Learn more about crisis management

Employee satisfaction

Team spirits will improve when people feel valued. Examples of the types of comms that create a sense of value are shout-outs when projects are delivered, announcements when teams achieve objectives, presentations from people that get promoted.

Customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction, sometimes called csat is the core of building a brand. When internal comms is used to explain customer pain points to relevant teams, it is a great tool for helping employees get into the shoes of the customer. After all, a customer first wins loyalty.

When customer satisfaction results in new product features, new pricing, etc, external comms can be used to show off what has been developed with the customer in mind.

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Conclusion

In summary, a good way to think about how these two comms work together, external comms build relationships with stakeholders and the public. In contrast, internal comms build relationships between management and employees.

For branding, messaging consistency, crisis management, and uniformity, internal and external comms strategies need to work together. It goes without saying that how well this happens plays a big role in how efficiently the company runs. Some prefer to keep comms to crucial updates. Agreeing on the what, where, why, and who is important, and ensures smooth operations and effective teamwork.

Consistency in what is reported and when allows everyone to stay updated with company news and updates, provide feedback, and collaborate on projects. Agreeing which meetings are mandatory, when emails are sent, and when they are not, and what happens when someone is hired, leaves, or has a promotion facilitates clear and consistent communication; internal communication strengthens the company's culture and creates a sense of unity among employees. If you wish to hear more about internal communications services, then reach out to learn more.

June 22, 2023
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