Internal communications professionals overwhelmingly reject the idea that they should be part of their organisation's HR function, arguing that communications should be seen as a separate discipline in its own right.
Almost nine out of 10 (87 per cent) internal comms (IC) professionals quizzed by the British Association of Communicators in Business (CiB) said that their function should sit somewhere other than human resources as a separate discipline.
As the poll also revealed, many IC professionals have a low opinion of their colleagues in HR.
"From my experience, HR teams lack the empathy to instigate and support good internal communications," said one. "Can you imagine it?" asked another.
"Communications is better when it's not associated with any particular function, but rather is viewed independently and objectively by employees," another respondent said.
"It also requires a different skill set, and representatives from communications should be in attendance with HR personnel, not represented by HR."
Another argued: "Communications needs to be a separate unit so that it remains objective in its work and can guide other units on how best to communicate without being dictated to by HR."
Some felt that the rightful place for communications was within the marketing function. "It should be aligned with marketing or strategy," said one. "The skills of an internal communications professional are essentially the same as a marketing professional, only their audience is internal rather than external."
But the strong message from IC professionals is that wherever communications sits, its role is pivotal to the company's success.
As one respondent put it: "We must not forget that internal communication is a core function of the business and, as internal communicators, we must be driven by the tasks under this heading, and not by those within the team it is placed."
As another pointed out, this means that IC needs to be as close to the top as possible.
"The art of IC is giving a voice to management that can be heard and understood by employees. IC as a profession is distinct from human resources, although both have the same audience.
"IC professionals must convey a broader range of policy issues than just those affecting pay and benefits. In my experience IC professionals have a better understanding of organizational behaviour, and consequently, how to inform and motivate than do HR professionals - and I have worked in both departments."
"Organisations are experiencing an unprecedented scale and pace of change. Effective internal communication makes a difference in how business deals with these new opportunities," said CiB chairman Suzanne Peck
"Communications professionals are increasingly being called on to shape or influence the business landscape from the start - in their own right, not as an after thought. Value is placed on us being able to apply creative thinking to not only delivering communications, but also in helping organizations to 'walk the talk' and take advantage of those opportunities."