Skip to main content
Commsy creative stuff straight to your inbox


Blurred lines

< Blog home

Blurred lines

When BBC News boss Fran Unsworth briefed her teams on plans to lose 450 posts at part of an £80m savings push last week (Jan 29), the information broke online almost as quickly as staff were hearing it.

It was probably little surprise that, in a room full of newshounds, information like this was going to prove too juicy not to share instantly.  But the live tweeting of the internal staff briefing highlighted the increasingly blurred line between internal and external comms.

For most of us, social media is the norm and reaches across both our work and personal lives. By November last year, the UK was home to 45 million social media users, with 39 million of those active mobile social media users. We share everything on social media, our big news, our everyday and everything in between. But for comms professionals this raises questions.  Before the social media boom, an organisation’s comms were relatively clear. Internal comms flowed within the business and external comms flowed out  However, with the use of social media, the previously clear distinction between internal and external comms continues to get more blurry.

So, is there a difference between internal and external comms anymore? How can you be sure internal comms remain just that?  It’s not easy. Even Google struggled when an employee briefing on a potential censored search engine for the Chinese market was fed to a New York times journalist to tweet.  When social media is so accessible and part of your everyday why wouldn’t you share news like this? Particularly if you tweet about every other part of your life – meals, work, family, exercise, pets. Why would you leave such big news out of your newsfeed?  And Fran seemed to agree during her briefing to BBC staff, stating “there had to be a move away from traditional broadcasting and towards digital”. You can’t deny they were listening on that front.

It is on the minds of many comms professionals and has caused anxiety when dealing with some tricky change projects.  If senior leaders have in the back of their mind that ‘this message could go externally viral’, you could find that the validity and authenticity of their message gets lost. I’m sure many comms specialists have experienced senior managers ask questions like that of a senior HMV exec when they announced job cuts in 2013 – “How do I shut down Twitter?” So, if the line is now blurred or non-existent, what impact does this have? Has it led to changes in the way you communicate with staff?


Here’s four key things that can help smooth that path:

  1. Trust your people

Trust is the key word in all of this. If staff are trusted and treated well, the chances of finding your internal messages on external newsfeeds dramatically decreases. As communicators this isn’t always in our control, so embrace the change.

There will inevitably be changes to how we communicate, social media isn’t going away and like everything else in life it continues to change and evolve. Greek philosopher Heraclitus is right: “The only constant in life is change”.

  1. Share your skills and make the change work for you

This is where internal and external communicators can really support each other. Both have incredible skills that are still very much required but you need to share that skill through your content and alignment of your planning. This is vital if the line between your comms is blurred. Embrace this. You can’t change it so use it to your advantage.

Working more closely also allows you to really make your content work for you. Repurpose it as much as possible, share external content with internal audiences first and make use of internal content for external audiences. It can save time and is a great process for uniting comms teams and keeping staff in the know.

  1. Continue to make great internal comms

Sometimes internal messages do get shared externally. If they do make sure you learn from it. But whatever you do don’t stop creating great internal content for fear of it being shared as that’s no use to anyone. Our job is to make sure that comms are well produced, are as authentic as possible and that the situation is managed.

  1. Be proactive

If you’re worried about internal messaging being shared wider than your organisation, consider the impact it would have and then be proactive in mitigating any negative outcome.

Reach out to those teams you think might share it first, keep the transparency and use all the communication tools/skill at your disposal.

As for the leaders in your organisation, support and advise them as much as you can to be more authentic, not less. Build your relationships and (that magical word again) trust with them and make sure you include them in your comms plans. That will help to reassure and keep them up-to-date.

As for Fran, has she lost any authenticity from the BBC experience? You decide. 

Katie Jones (@mumseybythesea) is Internal Communications Manager for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
Alive logo