Content Creation: Internal Communications Versus Marketing
What’s the difference and why does it matter?
I see a lot of organizations advertising job roles for content managers for internal communications and content creators for marketing. Is it a difference in semantics or an unwitting slip-up?
Those who write job descriptions for the IC positions may take for granted that the content “manager” is also often creating the material (e.g., employee interviews, event recaps, product stories, and so on) that’s being managed.
- Employee newsletters and intranet articles don’t write themselves.
There are many differences between the responsibilities for internal communications and marketing. No need to get into that now. My focus here is on the content creation aspect of both roles.
There is a fundamental difference in content creation between internal communications and marketing.
Sometimes job descriptions of IC and marketing roles sound the same, especially if the firm is small and needs someone who can seamlessly cross internal and external boundaries.
Take a look at two of the many responsibilities for this actual job listing:
- Proactively writes, produces, and edits a variety of digital and traditional media that conveys [Company’s] value proposition in beneficial and relevant ways to multiple target audiences.
- Writes and/or produces all manner of content including short and longer-form stories, interviews/Qs&As, emails, e-newsletters, video scripts, PowerPoint presentations, and web copy.
Do you think the above job posting was for a professional in internal comms or marketing?
What about this one? (Answers below.*)
- Drafts, reviews, and edits message content, identifies target audiences, and suggests appropriate delivery channels.
- Manages, writes, edits, and develops communication deliverables. Ensures the overall consistency, branding and tone aligns with network strategies and initiatives.
- Both Internal Comms and Marketing are charged with telling the company’s story.
When it comes to storytelling — whether it’s writing, video production, social media curation, etc. — the area between internal comms and marketing is gray.
- Both internal comms and marketing create content to persuade an audience on the strength of a company, brand, and products.
- One audience is primarily internal (employees) and one audience is primarily external (customer and employee prospects). I use the word “primarily” because the content for each of those groups flows across party lines. A story written for the corporate blog is, of course, accessible by employees, and material produced for employees can easily be deployed externally. (Read: How Internal Comms Can Support PR Strategies.)
So What’s the Difference?
For internal communications, storytelling is supposed to support a business goal.
Sometimes that goal is to increase sales, but just as often it’s not directly about profit-making. For example, storytelling can support diversity and inclusion initiatives, philanthropic efforts, or cybersecurity awareness.
For marketing, storytelling’s ultimate goal is to sell a product or service. According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” (my emphasis)
Why Does This Matter?
In the grand scheme of our work in internal communications, it’s not that big of a deal whether someone acknowledges that IC managers/editors/contributors are also content creators. We can get over that fact, if we think about it at all.
In marketing, there is clearly a need to differentiate the role because marketing teams (and agencies) often divide their team into specific roles.
- This person does social media. That person creates graphics. This person writes stories (content).
- That’s starkly different from how internal comms teams operate, where one person is expected to simultaneously satisfy various roles.
Ultimately it comes down to purpose…as in, the meaning we find in our work.
Internal comms folks who genuinely love their job do so because they find meaning in helping their colleagues achieve something great, overcome a physical or psychological barrier, connect with each other, and ultimately build belief in the company they work for. They are people-driven.
- There’s a certain nobility in the role. (Please, I don’t think this is god’s work.)
Not to say that content creators in the marketing department don’t find meaning in their work. But the ultimate goal of content marketing is not to build a belief in a higher cause; it’s to sell something for a profit. They are profit-driven.
Internal comms storytellers want their company to be profitable, sure, but making a buck is the last thing on their mind when they sit down to interview an exceptional employee for “a piece of content.” That’s the difference between creating content for internal communications and creating content for marketing.
- Answers: The first example is from a job posting for a “Marketing Content Manager” for a university. The second example is for an “Internal Communications Strategist” for a hospital.