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May 28, 2010
Good PR Begins Internally

Good public relations starts with good internal relationships. Organizational communication needs to be effective enough that factors that may hamper an organization's progress or blight its external relations actually come to light. Employees need to be encouraged to contribute what they know. That's the essence of good organizational communication.

We note the importance of organizational communication because the Harvard Business Review is beginning a series of blog posts on "why employees don't speak up" that's based on a June HBR article, "Debunking Four Myths About Employee Silence." 

The insights are based on a decade's worth of research on "organizational silence" and are well worth the attention of PR professionals. 

In one instance, "Executives in an R&D company would have been dismayed to know that, in the words of members of the company's research team, five years of work had been spent pursuing a product that 90% of those working on (it) 'had no faith in' and 'would have bet won't work.'" 

"The prevailing belief among managers is that having an open door policy or a suggestion box is enough to encourage employees' input,"  the authors write. "But, our research shows these aren't enough, because they're passive; they require employees to initiate the conversation."

Try instead "knocking on their doors or inviting them for a coffee – and work doggedly to convince them it really is okay to speak freely – if you want to hear 'voice'."

This really shouldn't be news, but it apparently is in many organizational settings. PR people need to be alert to the possibility that managers don't know important things about their organization's aims -- that, actually, they may not work out, for reasons employees know about but don't volunteer. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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