Culture and Internal Communications

Internal communications (IC), to me, has been one of my favorite stints in the corporate world. 

I must admit, I never, in a million years, would have thought I would end up in the corporate world. You see, I was journalist with Forbes India for almost five years. Those years are deeply cherished for the best team I’ve ever worked with, the highest learning, and honestly, friendships that have proven to be lifelong. 

But that wasn’t going to last. A rude awakening happened in 2013 when my editor was sacked unceremoniously. I still remember my mentor telling me, “The day IG gets sacked, the culture will change”. That line terrified me, but it also determined my next step. I wasn’t going to sit by and wait to see what happened. 

Mind you, I was terribly young, and my first organisation was Forbes India. While it was an international organisation, the culture was completely driven by Indrajit Gupta, an editor whose reputation among being a great editor is that of grooming young talent. So, I was starry-eyed, still had my rose-tinted glasses on, even after almost five years because it was a fantastic team. 

I still remember how he got wind of certain things attempting to change the culture, and he spent almost one-and-a-half hours talking to me about how ‘we’re not a politicking place’, and how he openly said during our edit meetings that he’d give greater weightage to writers who worked in teams rather than solo figures. The culture, even as I write about it, was a class apart. 

So, when things blew up in 2013, as much as I could have stayed back, got a great hike, which I was offered by the new editor, I chose to quit journalism, my first love. I quit because I’m a Bangalore-based kid, who had done about five internships before working, and with five years of experience also had a sense of the various newsrooms in the city. 

I left because of one main thing: culture. 

Now, with over 12 years of experience, the latter in the corporate world, culture is something I value. It drives me to be the best communications professional for an organisation. In truth, communications conveys culture, and culture defines communications. In the corporate world, that’s become my calling. 

In these years, I learned things that made me treasure the principles of journalism that when applied in internal communications, sets your ear on-the-ground, and really makes you tick…that is, if you love storytelling.  

Here are my favourite journo traits that work best in the corporate world:

Have sources:

Every organisation has mover and shakers, but as an internal communications person, look out for people who’re influencers. They don’t have to have great titles or fancy designations. But they’re people who “know what’s happening even before it becomes news”.

Every EA should be your best friend:

Like journalism, where you need the right people help you get the right interviews and quotes at the right time, ensure you have good relationships with the EAs in your organisation. While the leaders are the faces, the EAs can make things happen! 

Listen, listen, listen: 

Each organisation is different, but every single organisation will have one place to gather employee sentiment. Yes, traditional IC folks will say this is what the survey said, but look out for conversations of employees in cafeterias, the bus back home, or even by the water cooler or the pantry. Chances are you may get you next big IC campaign idea through one of these conversations.

Read, read, read: 

 This is something I’ll say, but honestly, haven’t seen much in practice. If you’re in IC, you should understand the business of your organisation. What are the pulls and pressures of the business, how can you help through storytelling? I remember, with great pride, being asked to help a client’s internal communications for a tech roll out – that’s what internal communications can do – directly help business, if you’re proactive. 


Any piece of communications is only relevant based on its timeliness. For example, the recent cases of Indians affected by the corona virus had kept many IC folks on their toes watching for ways to keep their employees informed on time. One European organisation created such a wonderful PDF that went viral in Bangalore. Due to regulations, I’m not allowed to share it here, but as an ex-journalist, I thought, “Wow, this is great communications: timely, helps such a wide audience.” It showed too because their communications went viral for a good cause: it helped give information in a fun format, and curbed the spread of fear. 

Be the fly on the wall:

I remember an editor telling me this, “never become the story”. I don’t know why, but that line burns in my writing veins. It holds true for the corporate world. While all of us have personalities, and are recognised for it, always remember the employee is your shareholder, he/she is the person you write for, and they are always more important than you. When you think like that, internal communications moves from someone sending emails to being purpose-driven. 


All the above principles help because whenever you draft internal coms, you will know if employees will love it, hate it, or be lukewarm towards what you are sending them. Being aware of your environment, the business environment, the local geo-political environment, will help make you a better communicator. 

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nilofer DSouza
A former business journalist with Forbes India, Nilofer D'Souza, has, over the years, worked with leaders across IT, healthcare, and retail in the corporate sector. For over a decade, having won various awards, she's learned to deep dive into an organization's culture and drive effective communications.

1 Comment on "Culture and Internal Communications"

  1. Kaushi Bidappa | March 20, 2020 at 7:49 PM | Reply

    An article that teaches you how to ‘dot the i’s and cross the t’s ‘ of IC and to your point on Culture, I am sure Peter Drucker meant well when he said ‘ Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast’.

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