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Public Relations Review 43 (2017) 863871

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Full Length Article

Internal communication and organisational culture: The MARK

management interplay in the view of the Portuguese
communication consultant

Snia Pedro Sebastioa, , Giovana Zulatob, Alice Donat Trindadea
Instituto de Ciencias Sociais e Politicas, University of Lisbon, CAPP/FCT, Portugal
Instituto de Ciencias Sociais e Politicas, University of Lisbon, Portugal


Keywords: This study seeks to contribute to the extension of the internal communication theoretical eld,
Internal communication and relate it to the professional practice of communication consultancies in Portugal. It aims at
Organisational culture the understanding of internal communication and organisational culture from the standpoint of
Strategy communication professionals, distinguishing it from other, most frequent studies, usually focused
on the internal public (workforce) of the organisation.
Communication consultancy
Communication professionals were interviewed and asked about their perceptions on the use
In-depth interviews
and further development of organisational culture towards denition of internal communication
plans and how they manage this interplay. They were urged to think about it, to reveal their
practices and to demonstrate the dierent ways to relate the proposed concepts, taking into
account the communication routines of their clients and the ones from the consultancy.

1. Introduction

Contrary to what happens in management consulting, where we have a detailed and empirically grounded knowledge of the
history, economics and sociology of this type of service, studies on communication consultancy are still incipient. Very little is known
about the consulting work oered and performed by communication professionals in the eld of strategic communication, despite the
importance of these services in organisational decisions (Frandsen, Johansen, & Pang, 2013).
The growing pressure on CEOs to communicate with key stakeholders, both directly and through the media, also opened up
opportunities for people working within the organisation, extending the role of former public relations departments towards an
emerging group of communication consultants, rst in the United States, then in Europe (United Kingdom and the Netherlands)
(Engwall & Kipping, 2013, p. 88). The importance of management consulting is undeniable in the current context, and many of these
companies have grown so much that they have exceeded the size of their clients. The need for companies to legitimize their com-
munication decisions should also grow, so it is very likely that management and communication consultancy develop in increasingly
integrated manner and that, in the future, communication consultancy may become part of management consultancy
(Engwall & Kipping, 2013, pp.95).
In systemic consulting work, the consultant is an observer, who supports the client through various forms of learning, while in
classical consulting, this work is much more directive. Regardless of the approach, the end result is increased business eciency, so
the task of professional consultants is to optimize the clients' ability to act, support them in nding alternative, upgraded courses of

Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (S.P. Sebastio), (G. Zulato), (A.D. Trindade).
Received 20 November 2015; Received in revised form 21 February 2017
Available online 27 June 2017
0363-8111/ 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
S.P. Sebastio et al. Public Relations Review 43 (2017) 863871

action and help them implement solutions to their problems (Rttger & Preusse, 2013, pp. 99100).
Functions performed by consultants, and the position they hold in organisations dier greatly depending on context, but dis-
tortion often happens, the consultancy market is, in fact, characterized by a lack of controls governing entry (open access to the
profession, no protected professional designations) and the absence of standardized training (Rttger & Preusse, 2013, p. 101).
Consultants are hired on the assumption that they will correct decits of human resources in communication and press departments,
and bring expertise (Rttger & Preusse, 2013, p. 109). As external observers, the consultants are capable of recognizing their cus-
tomers problems and observation blind spots and, in doing so, they are capable of reaching a better understanding of problems, thus
providing more opportunities to advise and assist the client in achieving unbiased reection capacity (Rttger & Preusse, 2013, p.
113). In addition to their knowledge, recognition of an expert status is essential for communication consultants role perception.
Therefore, communication professionals need to prove their expertise and organisational role in order to be recognized and respected
as internal communication consultants (Zerfass & Franke, 2013, p.123).
We positioned our approach in professional roles studies, as Dozier considers professional roles abstractions of behaviour
patterns of individuals in organisations (Dozier, 1992, p. 327) and we intend to contribute to the understanding of communication
consultancy practice. As external to organisations, consultants need to acknowledge organisational culture, in order to produce
diagnosis and propose communication strategies. This need is even more acute in matters regarding internal communication. So this
studys main purpose is to examine how the internal communication consultants consider organisational culture in working out
proposals for their customers and how the interconnection between internal communication and organisational culture inuences
their work and the choices of strategies to be applied. As such, qualitative method was used and in-depth interviews were conducted
with Portuguese communication consultants, all of whom self-declared experts in internal communication services.
This article is divided into four main points. Initially, the concept of organisational communication and the importance of or-
ganisational culture are presented. Then, state of the art trends on internal communication, organisational culture and commu-
nication professionals in the context of communication studies are explored. Point three introduces the research methods, and nally
results are presented. This section is divided in two main sub-sections: the viewpoint of the communication consultants on their work
in internal communication; and the interconnection between internal communication and organisational culture in external con-
sultancy service provision.

2. Organisational culture and communication

Culture can be envisaged as a coherent system of assumptions and values which distinguish one group from another and orient its
choices. Culture tends to be an inalterable and tenacious phenomenon and the more deeply-rooted and diuse its values, the more
unchangeable culture will be. As set by Denison (1990, p. 2), organisational culture is the underlying values, beliefs, and principles
that serve as a foundation for an organisation's management system as well as the set of management practices and behaviours that
both exemplify and reinforce those basic principles.
Organisational culture is created by the dominant coalition, perpetuated by the organisations functional systems and aected by
social values and the organisation's macro environment. Therefore, organisational culture is tied to structure and strategy, as well as,
to the leader. Being an interdisciplinary subject, organisational culture has been studied in several disciplines, namely: organisational
studies (e.g. Denison, 1990; Hatch, 1997; Hofstede, 2001; Hatch & Shultz, 2008); leadership studies (e.g. Schein, 2004;
Kouzes & Posner, 1987/2007; DAprix, 2011); management (e.g. Peters & Waterman, 1982; Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991) and change
management (e. g. Gagliardi, 1986; McCalman & Potter, 2015); organisational behaviour (e.g. Bauer & Erdogan, 2012;
Robbins & Judge, 2005/1977) and human resources (e.g. Armstrong & Taylor, 1977/2014; Ashkanasy, Wilderom & Peterson, 2011;
Chalofsky, Rocco, & Morris, 2014); communication and public relations, specially tied to excellence theory (Grunig, 1992), power
theories (Spicer, 1997; Plowman, 1998; Berger, 2005), organisational communication overviews (e.g. Miller, 1994/2012
Vella & Melewar, 2008; Mumby, 2013) and public relations approaches (e.g. LEtang, 2008; Moss & DeSanto, 2011).
As for organisational communication, it is a discipline that has demonstrated scientic relevance since the end of the twentieth
century, proved by an increase of publications on the subject, coupled with swelling involvement of worldwide communication
consultancies (e.g. Vercic, Vercic, & Sriramesh, 2012; Zerfass et al., 2013; European Communication Monitor, 2013) and top man-
agement (e.g. Zerfass, Schwalbach, Bentele & Sherzada, 2014). Also in Portugal, several studies have added to growing scholarship
dealing with the strategic role of communication when integrated as a management tool, and conducted in integrated comprehensive
and professional manner (e.g. Sebastio, 2012; Ruo & Kunsch, 2014).
Most of the approaches to organisational communication tend to identify two scopes: internal and external, derived from the main
strategic public it targets, respectively: workforce and shareholders; consumers and community. But one must highlight that there are
common traits and elements, so messages have to be coherent, involving multi-dimensional and concurrent engagement across multi-
stakeholder and value networks. If we want organisational communication, or one of its scopes, to be strategic and provider of social,
economic and legal acceptance, the approach must be consistently handled as a whole, and considering the elements of organisational
and context cultures. Still, for the purpose of this article, the main concern is internal communication, i.e., communication prepared
and established within the workforce of the organisation. The operational concept used for the present study is, as such, narrowed
down to the geographical stand of the strategic public of internal communication itself, thus only considering communicative in-
terplay of the whole sta and management of a given company.

S.P. Sebastio et al. Public Relations Review 43 (2017) 863871

The intention of studying the relationship between organisational culture and internal communication derives, on the one hand,
from the importance that internal communication has acquired in organisations, by establishing its strategic relevance in employee
relations (e.g. Gillis, 2011; Miller, 2012), resulting from a co-creational approach of sense making through communication (Weick,
1995; Soderberg, 2011). On the other hand, state of art survey conducted on organisational culture has revealed focus on the
relationship between cultural and organisational settings, while little has been studied on the cultural dimension and also on sa-
tisfaction over internal communication (Jensen, Papastefanou & Conradie, 2013). Nevertheless, communication is necessarily de-
veloped within a cultural context, whether macro or mezzo, i.e., societal or organisational.
As such, without understanding symbolic conventions, rituals and group values, message interpretation is compromised
(Hofstede, 2001; Schein, 2004) as well as it sense making (Weick, 1995). It is therefore not possible to design and implement
communication strategies without appraisal and consideration of the surrounding culture, which provides the underpinnings for the
organisation, enabling it to reach its market position and reputation (Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991; Mumby, 2013).
The understanding of organisational culture is even more dicult, in cases in which the communication consultant is someone
who is not knowledgeable of it; someone who is not daily immersed in this culture, engaged in developing everyday functions on the
organisation. In such cases, the professional has to rely on sources such as internal public statements and a short period of direct
observation. This scenario only allows the development of tactical proposals, that is, advice on the use of communication artefacts,
conguring an instrumental approach to internal communication. According to Schein (2004), artefacts are attributes that can be
seen, felt and heard (physical, behavioural and verbal), including facilities, oces, furnishings, visible awards and recognition, dress
code, slogan, mission and other statements, i.e., artefacts are tangible and stand for surface manifestations of organisational culture
(Denison, 1990). In this sense, tacit assumptions and unspoken rules are intangible and prone to be overlooked by the external
observer, as surveys and interviews do not reveal these underlying values (Hall, 1976).

3. Internal communication, organisational culture and communication consultancy studies

As part of organisational culture, internal communication has also been studied by organisational behaviourists (e.g.
Bauer & Erdogan, 2012; Robbins & Judge, 2005/1977) and human resources scholars (e.g. Armstrong & Taylor, 1977/2014;
Ashkanasy, Wilderom & Peterson, 2011; Chalofsky, Rocco, & Morris, 2014). Nevertheless, their approaches focus on communication
process, types, channels, barriers and eectiveness in a somehow informational and operational basis, minimizing satisfaction over
internal communication from employees viewpoint. In this study, relational and collaborative focus (Grunig, 2000) is preferred since
in-house cooperation is mandatory for consultancy work development. As such, literature review will focus on communication and
public relations studies.
Internal communication has been catching the attention of public relations scholars and professionals who consider its strategic
importance for the success of organisations. Welch & Jackson (2007) have tried to redene the concept of internal communication,
stressing the importance of the communication process in organisations to provide a sense of belonging to internal public. The
authors have even proposed an Internal Communication Matrix which could be used to supplement other forms of internal situational
analysis and as an analytical tool which may be applied to strategic analysis, planning and evaluation of internal communication. In
2013, Welch cast light on the fragilities of academic education on internal communication, despite its importance to employee
engagement and organisational eectiveness. To tackle this gap, the author proposed an empirically based specialist framework for
internal communication knowledge, based on data collected in an online survey answered by communication professionals.
The strategic use of communication instruments in the dierent communication processes that are developed inside organisations
have also been studied by White, Vanc, & Staord (2010) who have concluded about the importance of face to face and interpersonal
communication between employees and hierarchy, highlighting the importance of organisational culture in the development of
eective internal communication. Although this importance was inferred by the authors based on information collected through an
online survey answered by the employees of a university alone, it showcases the importance of symbolic interactionism in the internal
communication processes and choice of communication tools.
As for studies conducted to collect data about internal communication consultancy, Vercic, Vercic & Sriramesh (2012) have
concluded, after a Delphi study with European associations of internal communication, that the former was considered an inter-
disciplinary management function which involved human resources management, communication and marketing skills. But this
interdisciplinary viewpoint may blur the strategic use of communication instruments and its eectiveness, since the technical nature
of human resources data and interests, and marketing purposes might diverge the focus from the motivation, satisfaction and en-
gagement of workforce towards the organisation.
A dierent view about internal communication determinations is also corollary of the dierent human resources functions in-
volved. For example, Zerfass, Schwalbach, Bentele & Sherzada (2014) have conducted a large study among CEOs, executive chiefs,
and communication directors, in order to understand their opinions on the advantages and role of internal communication. All groups
agree on the latter, though CEOs and executive chiefs have highlighted its importance on internal motivation of the workforce. As for
the communication professionals, they prefer to use internal communication to create a positive image of the organisation.
Finally, agreement can be found regarding the strategic importance of internal communication in leadership. Both results of the
European Communication Monitor (Zerfass, Vercic, Verhoeven, Moreno, & Tench, 2013) and Men (2014) highlight the transformative
and symmetrical role of internal communication in approaching leaders and employees; employees motivation; and in the workforce

S.P. Sebastio et al. Public Relations Review 43 (2017) 863871

Table 1
Interviewed Consultants.

Consultancy Function Code

Guess What Managing Partner A

Cunha Vaz & Associados Senior Manager B
Inforpress Country Manager C
Deputy Manager D
Lift World People Practice Leader E
Porter Novelli General Manager F
MPRelations Interim General Manager G
Imago Llorente & Cuenca Consultant H
YoungNetwork Communication Coordinator I

perception of organisation inclusiveness.

The review did not bring to the fore any study that focuses on the relationship between internal communication and organisa-
tional culture from the viewpoint of communication professionals. Considering this type of professional as the one potentially re-
sponsible for developing internal communication strategies, which ultimately boost corporate earnings, it is necessary to understand
how organisational culture is considered for the benet of communication, that is, how internal communication plans can be adapted
to cultural contexts, dodging standardized models, which usually lead to worn out and ineective solutions.

4. Method

Since the main purpose is to understand how the internal communication consultant considers organisational culture in working
out proposals for clients, a qualitative method technique was used and in-depth interviews were conducted with Portuguese com-
munication consultants, expert in internal communication services. Despite the existence of about 180 communication services
companies in Portugal, very few present themselves as internal communication consultancy providers. Hence, these companies are
mostly micro and small companies, specialized in services like: events, graphical and web design, content production, merchandising,
media relations, social media, career management for celebrities. According to Dirio Econmico (November 11, 2014) about less
than fty can be considered has having integrated services of public relations consultancy.
Attempts have been made to contact the main Portuguese public relations consultancies providing services of internal commu-
nication, but answers were scarce. So, and following previous research (Sebastio, 2013; Sebastio & Azevedo, 2014), this study
considers the consultancies of the Portuguese Association of Consultancies in Communication and Public Relations (APECOM) total
of twenty one members with internal communication services total of eleven. APECOMs main focus is the representation of
company members and the dignity of the profession of communication and public relations consultancy in accordance with the
International Communication Consultancy Organization (ICCO) Stockholm Charter guidelines.
These eleven consultancies were contacted by email, then by phone and a personal interview was conducted with at least one
consultant in each. It was possible to interview nine internal communication experts from eight consultancies (Table 1). The re-
maining consultancies never answered our request, even after several attempts.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted between November 2014 and February 2015. The interview script applied had twenty
questions, divided between the two major themes guiding this research internal communication and organisational culture.
Specically, consultants were inquired about: internal communication services requested by Portuguese companies in comparison
with other countries (most inquired consultancies have an international scope); internal communication services required by clients
and trends observed; service dierentiation in times of crisis and internal communication as agent and solver of these conicts; the
advantages and disadvantages of external consultancy to perform the work of internal communication, regarding internal interaction
with teams and also the valuation of Internal Communication by senior management in organisations. There was also a question that
sought to challenge the consultants to reection on the practice of their work, as they were urged to respond on how they perform the
thorough assessment of the organisation's culture, considering the diversity of clients and short deadlines that consultants usually
The second issue addressed, organisational culture, was introduced with a question about the motivational character of internal
communication. Therefore, the consultant was challenged to identify the characteristics of companies that request this type of work,
as well as traces of their culture which could originate such requests. Other questions included: the techniques used for the diagnosis
of organisational culture; which aspects consultants observed for the initial diagnosis of culture; how they implement perceptions of
organisational culture in the drawing of internal communication strategies for organisations; how consultants fundament the stra-
tegic value of their work for clients; how the communication consultant perceives the relationship between organisational culture and
internal communication and how one can inuence and condition the other.
All the interviews were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim afterwards. The process of analysis of the verbatim was organised
considering two main axes: the viewpoint of the communication consultants on their work in internal communication; and the

S.P. Sebastio et al. Public Relations Review 43 (2017) 863871

interconnection between internal communication and organisational culture in the external consultancy service provision. Categories
have been dened considering most given answers, as summarized in Appendix A.
The analysis of the interviews that follows sought to answer the initial question of this research, that is, the understanding of how
organisational culture determines the internal communication plan denition, from the viewpoint of the communication consultant.

5. Results: the view of the communication consultant

The results are presented by encompassing them into two main themes: an outside view, an internal look: 1) consulting and
internal communication work; where the opinions of consultants on the practice of internal communication are broadly presented;
and 2) the relationship between internal communication, organisational culture and consultancy work, as well as the interplay
between those areas including the perceptions of consultants about their clients culture, the understanding of the diagnosis process
and, especially, how they might use it to build internal communication plans.

5.1. The outside view of the internal communication work

Communication consultancy is external to the organisation but it is steered towards the internal public, considering the speci-
cities and sensitivities of the workforce that must be known in order to be involved and, somehow, empowered in the internal
communication process and ux. As such, this consultancy work might, if unwisely held, be envisaged as an intrusion. In fact, it
implies sharing secrets and condential information, thus having to rely on trustworthiness.
It is not consensual that hiring an external communication consultancy is advantageous for the organisation. Firstly, because those
services are recent in Portugal and very few consultancies have the expertise; besides, most organisations have their own departments
of communication, human resources or even marketing that may handle internal communication matters. One should not forget that
from the moment an organisation is created and people are hired to be part of it, communication is set. Maybe not in formal and
strategic ways, but internal communication is the blood in any organisation (Mumby, 2013) and it is part of organisational culture
(e.g. Weick, 1995; D'Aprix, 2011; Gillis, 2011; Miller, 1994/2012).
Problems with internal communication and external consultancy on it arise from its strategic attribute and from management
needs. When the dominant coalition perceives internal communication as a critical aspect of the organisation, the need for an
external view, without an organisational bias, may be an advantage. Nevertheless, Portuguese corporate tissue is characterized by
family businesses, small and medium size, with vertically integrated hierarchies which tend to be apologists of a policy of secrecy,
i.e., with lack of internal transparency, leaving no space for internal communication strategies that rely on the involvement of the
dierent internal publics in an ideally symmetrical basis. Consequently, even when external consultants are hired, the requested
services do not include strategic and integrated planning, but executional and technical tasks (essentially related to organisational
behaviourist and human resources approaches).
So, according to some of the interviewed professionals (5), in Portugal, internal communication is mostly operational, resulting in
the execution of specic tasks, such as: creating and operating an intranet, a newsletter, or another house organ; or in the organi-
sation of recreational events for the work teams. In their words:
In Portugal, internal communication consulting is more operational; it meets the needs that people of human resources or
marketing identify. (A)
I do not know innovative internal communication proposals made by Portuguese Communication Consultancies (). 99% of
proposals are: a newsletter, an event, a team building program. (). So I do not see internal communication specialization in
Communication Consultancies as there is in external communication. (B)
We are often relegated to tasks that do not have much to do with internal communication. Sometimes it is a challenge to hire the
consultant, having a structure in the company who understands what a consultant really does, in order to avoid relegating it to
administrative tasks. (C)
It is, however, the opinion of our respondents that the scenario is slowly changing due to the economic crisis context. The
increasing importance of internal communication tied to the need to create organisational ambassadors among the workforce; also
the need to involve, motivate and add value to the relationship between the organisation and its internal publics (Grunig, 2000;
Welch & Jackson, 2007; Miller, 1994/2012Miller, 1994/2012), reinforces the belief that this area is paramount to the survival and
success of organisations. Despite the quandary whether it should be held by external or in-house communication professionals, some
corporations (mainly multinational and big enterprises) have been using mixed teams (internal and external). Most of the inquired
consultants (8) stated that the external view is critical in the diagnosis or audit to identify the main communication problems and
ineciencies, though the proposals and implementation have to be held in accordance, with the collaboration or exclusively by
internal teams. In a consultants direct speech:
The consultant never works alone or only with the clients Communication Director. The consultants work has to be inclusive,
involving everyone on the job, with no ego setbacks, no favouritism. Consultants must listen to all sides and somehow nd all
ambassadors for the message they want to convey. (D)

S.P. Sebastio et al. Public Relations Review 43 (2017) 863871

Organisations tend to hire consulting services for internal communication in crisis situations or organisational change
(McCalman & Potter, 2015). Besides these factors, internal communication consultancy is traditionally handled by human resources
consultancies with no expertise in communication but with wide knowledge of workforce motivations (according to 2 respondents).
In sum, the internal communication external consultant oers an unprejudiced view that may be useful to the interest and
emotion management in organisations, as well as to identify communication problems and propose solutions, but: the impossibility of
exclusive dedication to one client (consultancies manage several accounts at the same time) 4 respondents; the scarce time lapses to
research and produce accurate internal diagnosis (to perform surveys, interviews, document analysis, audits, direct observation)
which would provide a better understanding of organisational culture (8 respondents); a possibly dicult approach of internal teams
and individuals, that might require longer adaptation time to develop trusting relationships and information sharing (3 respondents);
lack of clients business understanding; and the mostly executive role of the consultant (5 respondents), are the main diculties in
providing internal communication services, pinpointed by our informants.

5.2. The relationship between internal communication, organisational culture and consultancy work

Organisational culture is, in some way, intangible, if we keep in mind the cultural iceberg model proposed by Hall (1976).
Internal communication may be an instrument that exposes thoughts, values and beliefs, i.e., that sheds light upon cultural settings
and allows a better understanding of the organisation. Organisational culture is something intimate, and an external consultant might
have severe trouble in perceiving it and going beyond the artefact level of culture its visible layer (Schein, 2004).
In the opinion of respondents (9) it is very important to observe organisational behaviour, not just by getting attitudes and
opinions, or declarative information from inquiries. After all, organisational culture is an eective control mechanism for dictating
employee behaviour (Bauer & Erdogan, 2012, p. 728). Reports, documents, websites and external communication, only reveal part
of the essence of the organisation. To ensure deeper analysis, consultants agree that it is necessary to talk to people of all levels in the
hierarchy, from the bottom to the top. Consequently, consultants also recommend in-depth interviews, to check the tone of com-
munication between teams; analyse the environment, the way space is organised, how furniture and meeting rooms are arranged.
Also, recognizing the kind of leadership, studying shapes of organisation charts and functional structures, and checking levels of
formality between people and with external visitors, such as consultancy professionals, can help in making the diagnosis of orga-
nisational culture.
Some companies have very similar cultural traits and their communication is usually done following an adequate, motivational
orientation. The diversity of clients of the interviewed consultancies helps us identify this cultural trait in some companies. For
example: multinational corporations, with global structures and the need to integrate dierent environments; large companies with a
higher number of employees; service sector companies, which rely heavily on the sales force; and creativity businesses that depend on
employees motivation and satisfaction.
The in-depth perception of organisational culture targeting the denition of internal communication strategies will inuence the
work of the consultant. It is not possible to perform internal communication for a specic company before knowing its culture. This
reconnaissance period will take time and depend greatly on the partnership established between the internal professional (inter-
locutor in the company) and the consultant. Trust is fundamental in this regard. Without it, the consultant's work will be impaired
and may even be rejected by internal teams, causing boycotts and poor access to information (3 respondents). In our informants
At rst the teams look at us as another company, an annoying person that will give me more work, and there may be distrust.
Sometimes relationships with the client's employees are dicult, as we conduct the diagnosis, especially in the crisis context we
live in. Employees tend to think that we are there to re people, so the reception is a little suspicious and employees feel afraid and
insecure. (F)
The interactions between members of the organisation allow its culture to spread and mainly that is perpetuated by generations of
employees. Elias (1991) highlights the importance of knowledge transmission through social symbols and, in an organisational
environment, internal communication is also a means of transmission of this knowledge. But it cannot be envisaged only as a means
of transmission, merely executing other actors decisions. The use of language in various media and channels is therefore essential.
For example: internal magazines, documents, records and stories, sharing opinions on social networks, blogs, websites, which will be
source of an on-going consultation when it is necessary to rescue the organisations history. In addition to these concrete forms, there
will be others, more symbolic and subjective, ranging from recognition, identication and perception of the employee with the logo,
colours of the company, ideals, values, and so on.
The respondents were, to some extent, in agreement when stating that organisational culture and internal communication are part
of one another. There is no culture without communication and communication gives organisational culture visibility. A company
that is not aware of its culture tends to devalue its internal communication. Besides, if there is no internal knowledge or awareness of
the organisational culture, the work of the communication consultant will be more dicult due to the need to perceive, at least, the
fundamentals of the organisational culture, relying minimally on declared information from the internal public (2 respondents). As a
consequence, and because Portuguese companies are mostly formal, hierarchical and secretive, there is a tendency to apply common

S.P. Sebastio et al. Public Relations Review 43 (2017) 863871

models, mostly of the operational type, in dierent kinds of companies. This lends to low levels of eectiveness of the internal
communication consultancy work. And this may be a justication for the scarce number of communication consultancies providing
this service in Portugal, since expertise cannot be proven to the market in the absence of a portfolio (Rttger & Preusse, 2013;
Zerfass & Franke, 2013).
The choice of strategies for carrying out internal communication work will be closely linked to the type of organisation. This
perception will occur mainly at the level of organisational culture, as it is not advisable to apply strategies without rst knowing the
culture of the company. As stated by one of the interviewed consultants:
I do not conceive the communication consulting area, even for external communication, without deep knowledge of the orga-
nisation culture. I do not recognize as such any communication consultant who does not have a deep knowledge of its clients. I
know there are many in the Portuguese market. But for me, this is not consultancy, it is execution. (B)
The realities of the consulting companies themselves, which have short deadlines and small teams, hinder a thorough assessment
of the organisational culture. Some consultants (3 respondents) admit that it is possible to make internal communication without
deep knowledge of the company that employs their services, but also recognize that this is not the ideal scenario.

6. Conclusions

The results of this qualitative research based on the opinion of nine Portuguese consultants pinpoint the perception of barriers put
up by companies against sharing their internal information and establishing mutual trust, as well as some lack of intimacy and
appreciation of the work of the consultant as an expert, able to oer quality work within a limited time span. The consultants greatest
advantage is a fresher vision and awareness of the outside world, of the market; for instance, the in-house internal communicators are
only experts in the limited scope of their company. Additionally, consultants also provide a less biased view of the company, which
can give rise to new strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless, these advantages are clouded by real practice. Consultants tend to point
ngers at clients for their lack of perception of the importance of communication processes and ux; at the lack of time for orga-
nisational culture appraisal or strategic planning.
However, it is also important to highlight the lack of expertise in internal communication by the Portuguese consultant, which
leads to repetitive and ill-adapted proposals. There is a tendency to oer the same type of solutions (one-solution-ts-all), even for
companies with dierent cultures. This practice aects the image of internal communication consultants, since their proposals are not
eective, do not achieve the goals and might be seen as supercial and secondary. This leads to their exclusion from the organi-
sational budget in times of nancial crises and cost adjustments, and to clients pessimistic view of their works importance.
Despite the small size of the inquired sample in view of the identically small scale of this business in the country, consistency and
repetition of the same ideas among the group of enquired consultants, allow concluding that internal communication is in-house
business for companies operating in Portugal. When Portuguese companies hire communication consultants, they ask for piecemeal
services related to an instrumental approach to internal communication (e.g. intranet, team building, events). The study allows us to
conclude that these choices are mainly due to lack of: time, consultants knowledge and measurable results.
This study is limited by the small size of the Portuguese market and lack of cooperation from the main consultancies. The small
number of communications consultants with expertise in internal communication and the role of management and human resources
consultancy that seems to be supplying these services have underlined the need to broaden the study sample basis. Future studies on
the perception of the external consultant about the interplay between internal communication and organisational culture should
include these management and human resources consultants who provide internal communication services, despite their lack of
expertise in a relational approach to communication processes, uxes, message creation and instruments use.
After the reviewing of specialized literature, besides considering this studys partial inability in obtaining answers among con-
sultancies and respondents thoughts, some suggestions can be made regarding internal communication development in Portugal.
First of all: expertise. PR consultancies need to acquire internal communication expertise in academic degrees or professional pro-
grams abroad. In a globalised market it is important to look around, outside borders and to get inspired by good practices and
strategic solutions that the internal market is not able to provide. This will include assessment and evaluation techniques. Second:
stability of service. Portugal is a small market, with few accounts and few consultancies. If a PR Consultancy remains with the same
client and provides it several services, it will end up knowing more about its organisational culture and being able to provide
adequate proposals for internal communication. Third: professional ethics and cooperation. PR Consultancy is a business, but the
Portuguese market of PR and Communication Consultancy lacks a long-term view based on trusting relationships founded on col-
laboration, respect for the market and honesty. Secrecy, antagonism and deception are clear when we are not able to identify
provided services, portfolios, and where even academic studies about the sector are avoided.
Of course there are exceptions, and we thank all the PR Consultants that have been collaborating with us over the past ten years of
research about PR practice in Portugal.

Appendix A. Main Results of the Interviews

Axes/Answers The viewpoint of the communication consultants on their work in The interconnection between internal communication and organisational culture in the
internal communication external consultancy service provision.

Respondents Impossibility The proposals Internal Dicult It is very The external If there is no It is possible to Internal
S.P. Sebastio et al.

of exclusive and communication approach of important to view is critical internal make internal communication
dedication to implementation is mostly internal observe in the diagnosis knowledge or communication consultancy is
one client. have to be held operational, teams and organisational or audit to awareness of without deep traditionally
in accordance, resulting in the individuals behaviour, not identify the the knowledge of handled by
with the execution of that might just by getting main organisational the company human
collaboration, or specic tasks. It require attitudes and communication culture, the that employs resources
exclusively by is not related longer opinions, or problems and work of the their services, consultancies
internal teams. with the clients adaptation declarative ineciencies. communication but also with no
business time to information consultant will recognize that expertise in
strategy. develop from inquiries. be more this is not the communication
trusting dicult. ideal scenario. but with wide
relationships knowledge of
and workforce
information motivations.

Guess What (A) (B) (C) (D) (B) (C) (D) (A) (A) (B) (C) (H) (A) (F) (D) (A) (B) (C) (D) (A) (B) (C) (D) (B) (C) (A) (B) (F) (C) (F)
Cunha (H) (F) (I) (E) (F) (G) (H) (E) (F) (H) (I)

Vaz & Associados (I)
Inforpress (C) e (D)
Lift World (E)
Porter Novelli (F)
MPRelations (G)
Llorente & Cuen-
ca (H)
YoungNetwork (I)
Public Relations Review 43 (2017) 863871
S.P. Sebastio et al. Public Relations Review 43 (2017) 863871


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