The words Influential Internal Communication on a purple background
Influential Internal Communication
Jenni Field

Underwhelming and lacking pragmatism, but not bad as an introduction to the importance of internal communication.

Introductory notes

I quit this book a couple of chapters before the end. While it had many redeeming qualities, it was hard work and didn't feel worth reading.

My main criticism of this book is that it's packed with fluffy corporate euphemism. Why say "financials have been impacted" when you can just say the money is running out? Terms like "alignment", "listening sessions", "reaching out" are all here in spades, too. It grates after a while, and makes the book longer that it needs to be.

What's more, the "Field Model" doesn't really feel like a model. It feels like a collection of tools in a toolbox, but not a system or a process with structure. Even then, those three tools are simply 1) figure out the problem, 2) understand why it's happening, 3) fix it. There's little else.

This is a shame. For example, it focuses on the importance of finding a root cause in "Fix", but doesn't suggest a methodology for finding that root cause in a systematic way. Something like Five Whys might have been useful.

However, what it's very good at highlighting is the importance, nuance, and difficulty of successful internal communication. So while this is a useful read, it doesn't feel very applicable in a working scenario.

Principles and Understanding

'Internal communication includes everything that gets said and shared inside an organization. As a function, its role is to curate, enable and advise on best practice for organizations to communicate effectively, efficiently and in an engaging way.' (Page 9)

Foundations of good communications

  1. Focus on the audience: know them, and know what it is they want to know
  2. Have a clear goal: what are you trying to achieve?
  3. Set the right tone: avoid jargon, get the right level of formality, make sure it gels well with the prevailing culture (or the culture you're looking to build)
  4. Simplicity is powerful: don't overcomplicate things, just get to the point
  5. Structure your writing: what makes sense to the audience? Make sure there's no surprises. Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.
  6. Adapt to the medium: don't write a 3000 word essay for a Slack update, or film a TikTok for an investor update. Obvious, but important.
'Internal communication is something every organization has. Whether there is someone managing it, looking at it strategically, or there is just a rumour mill doing the work for you, it exists.' (Page 29)

What internal communication isn't

Internal communication isn't employee engagement. To clarify, this is what employee engagement looks like:

  • Strong strategic narrative
  • Engaging leaders and managers
  • Employee voice
  • Value of integrity upheld in the organisation

Organisations and leadership

'An organization is not a real thing. They are myths. The tangible, literal aspects of an organization are the assets (buildings, cars, etc) and the people. But the 'organization' is something we have created.' (Page 59)

There are six core components to all orgs:

  • Top management (leadership)
  • Middle management
  • Core operations (including processes)
  • Technostructure (systems and IT)
  • Support staff
  • Ideology (beliefs, values, vision/mission)

The size of the org is irrelevant: it will always have the above elements. But, when it comes to how you deliver any kind of internal communications, we need to consider more elements:

  • Are you working globally, or locally? Or both?
  • Do you have folks working all hours, or are they following a 9-5 pattern?
  • Is everyone remote, or is there some amount of co-location?
  • Does the company have a strong sense of brand and purpose? Does everyone share it in the same way?

Rather than looking at an org chart, ask how people actually interact? What's really happening?

'The data shows that the channel and content is actually irrelevant if the manager is not a good communicator - so if there is one that will help communication inside your organization, it's investment in line managers and their communication skills. Small tweaks can make a huge difference to efficiency and productivity in the workplace.' (Page 66)

Your purpose is paramount. What is it? Say it out loud, regularly, and connect it to the "how" of it all.


People have a built-in desire for information. They crave it, whether it's good or bad. It's better to have the news, even if it's bad, than no news at all.

They also value fairness. Are people treated fairly? Do people feel they are? This must be addressed first.

There's also a strong need for community and social connection. We need to know someone cares about us.

Ambiguity is a serious problem. Even though some will protest, we really can't be comfortable with it. We must know. We therefore have to remove it wherever possible.

Curiosity and novelty is important, too. How do you keep people interested without distracting them too much at the same time?

There are three elements to motivation:

  1. Extrinsic: reward, e.g. salary and bonuses
  2. Intrinsic: autonomy, mastery, and purpose
  3. Amotivation: learned helplessness, "what's the point"

Trust takes time to build but can be destroyed in moments.

  • You need a big idea that people can rally around
  • Employees need to hear things first, not customers or shareholders
  • CEOs need to stand up and speak out

Fear is enormously damaging.

  • Updates mean nothing without context, e.g. the numbers might look bad, but how do they compare? If we've got better bad numbers than the rest, then this creates a positive outlook, or at least a less negative one.
  • Context allows us to assess risk properly, otherwise how can we know what something actually means?
'Context is everything and in organizations the story that accompanies the information has to be combined with the risks so it reduces the worry and fear. We remember stories 30 per cent better than just facts. Add an image to that story that evokes an emotional response and you have got the brain totally engaged' (Page 100)

The "Field Model"

There are three parts to the model:

  1. Understand: knowing that there is a problem, what it looks like, and how it affects the company
  2. Diagnose: understanding the cause to that problem, the underlying reason that is making it happen
  3. Fix: what needs to change to solve the underlying problem, alleviating the symptom-level issues that come up. Communication runs through everything that could possibly change.
'Communication is the fundamental component, the golden thread, that runs through everything. It is representative of culture, it is the articulation of the strategy and it's what we need to function as a group or community. So yes, communication covers it all.' (Page 122)


People leaving en masse or going off sick, post-M&A alignment mess, external messaging not chiming internally, two or more teams not getting on well, growth leaving things "not feeling quite right."

This stage needs plenty of listening and probing questions to get to the heart of what the problem actually is.


In this stage, Field recommends a variety of methods for diagnosis. This again depends on the size of the organisation, but is mostly about data and some form mix of listening interviews, group sessions, or focus groups.


There are four areas that Field outlines as key things that generally need fixing:

  1. Leadership behaviours: integrity (say>do), working as a team, line management behaviours
  2. Blockers or toxic people: generally speaking this means firing bad apples who cause problems
  3. Culture: poor culture usually means poor communication
  4. Strategy: people either aren't clear on what the strategy is, or there isn't a clear strategy at all
More of this, but in your inbox.

I write a newsletter about the internet. It's called Internet Connection. There's a few hundred of us that fall down the rabbit hole every other week. Want to come along for the ride? Drop your email below.

Let me read it first