Organizations rely on effective communication to increase productivity, improve compliance and advance within their market or sector. External and internal communication represent the different ways that professionals share information within and outside of their companies. If you want to better understand or improve communication for your organization, learning more about external and internal communication can be beneficial. In this article, we explain what internal and external communication are, compare the two, answer common communication questions and provide helpful tips for improving your communication skills.
What is internal communication?
Internal communication is the flow of information through conversing, messaging and other methods between the team members within an organization. This can include company emails, meetings and conversations between two or more staff members. The purpose of internal communication is to ensure the members within the organization understand upcoming goals, standard operations and changes to procedure. Internal communication can include information exchanged between executives and from executives to managers, information exchanged within teams and information communicated between peers.
What is external communication?
External communication is the information those within a company share and exchange with those outside of it. This can include press releases, commercials, public announcements for stocks or holdings and social media posts. The purpose of external communication is to create a public image for customers, business partners and the general population. External communication can include marketing, formal reports to stakeholders, negotiations with suppliers and vendors and information the organization shares with external contractors.
Internal vs. external communication
Internal and external communication usually work together within companies to create channels of information sharing and inform staff members and customers of company policy and branding. These are some differences between internal and external communication:
The frequency of communication refers to how often people share information. Internal communication is vital to the successful operation of a company or organization, and within many businesses, it happens daily. Internal communication generally occurs frequently and organically because of its nature, but leaders can also implement daily meetings or check-ins to facilitate it. External communication often happens less frequently and depends on marketing choices and changes to company success.
Because external communication functions to present an image of the company to consumers and stakeholders, it usually holds a higher level of formality than internal communication. How formal internal communication is can depend on which team members are sharing information. For example, if a marketing manager shares information with an executive, they may be more likely to use formal language. Two marketing specialists communicating with one another may use more informal language.
The channels for exchanging information are another way in which internal and external communication differ. Depending on the company, internal communication can rely on many different methods to function properly. For example, a completely in-person team may rely on daily meetings and close quarters in the office to share information. Teams with remote workers may use video chatting, messaging and emailing to ensure information reaches the appropriate audience.
External communication often uses different methods than internal. There are some methods that the two share, like email, but external communication may use more methods that reach a broader audience. This can include social media posts, public announcements and official reports. For marketing, this may include methods like print advertisement, television commercials or social media advertising efforts.
The purpose of each type of communication differs. Though internal and external communication can work together to ensure all people associated with a company have the right information, their specific objectives are different. Internal communication functions to share specific and more private information among staff members and leaders. Internal communication provides team members with information like payroll updates, changes to safety regulations and alterations to operations. It can also inform team members of company goals, successes and strategies for improvement.
External communication functions to create and present an image of the organization to those outside of it. This can include vendors, investors, contractors and consumers. Because of this, the primary objective of external communication is to format and present the information in a way that reflects positively on the company. When external communication functions correctly, stakeholders feel confident about their investments and consumers have an interest in the products or services, and hold a high opinion of the organization.
FAQ about internal and external communication
If you’re a manager or leader within an organization, learning more about different types of communication can help you better inform your team and represent the business. These are the answers to some common questions about internal and external communication:
How do internal and external communication function together?
Internal and external communication function together to create a two-way flow of information within and from a company. Professionals can use internal and external communication to identify their audience and choose appropriate messaging. Companies often communicate with shareholders differently than it does with customers, changing language choices and approach. This shows the differences between internal and external communication, but companies also understand that it’s important to create a consistent brand and present it during all channels of communication.
What is the flow of communication?
The flow of communication is the system in an organization or company that dictates how information moves. This can include specific instructions for team members about whom to report to when they learn to information, or whom to inform about policy changes or new goals. For example, information flows upward within a company when a team member has an idea or learns something new and reports it to their manager. Information flows downward within the company when a manager or team lead informs a group about a new client, method or procedure.
Are there different types of internal communication?
There are different classifications of internal communication that can differentiate how information flows within a company. These are some of the different types of internal communications:
Vertical: Vertical communication within an organization refers to information that exchanges between managers and team members. Information can flow both up and down within vertical communication.
Horizontal: This type of communication refers to when individuals share information within a department or unit. Horizontal communication usually happens between team members who have about the same placement within the company hierarchy.
Diagonal: Cross-functional communication, or diagonal communication, is a type of information exchange in individuals within different levels of management and in different departments communicate with one another. For example, an accounting manager may communicate with a marketing specialist, or a salesperson may contact the operations manager.
Tips for improving communication skills
These are some helpful tips for improving your communication skills:
Learn to use communication technology. One method for improving your communication skills is learning to be proficient with different types of communication technology. This can include video calling, chatting and messaging and using email as efficiently as possible.
Focus on nonverbal cues and listening. When communicating with someone in-person, learning to use positive nonverbal cues and use active listening are important. Active listening is an engaged way to pay attention to someone in which you offer indications that you’re listening, take notes or commit the information to memory.
Practice using different facial expressions. If you find it difficult to communicate with others, consider evaluating your nonverbal cues and facial expressions. Learning how to smile while speaking with someone can help you appear more friendly and approachable.
Ask colleagues for communication feedback. To learn more about how you communicate and what you can improve, consider asking your friends or colleagues for feedback on your communication style. For specific feedback, you can ask for an evaluation of your nonverbal communication, listening or articulation.