An introduction to Strategic Communication

What is a social intranet? Part II

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Falkheimer and Heide (2011) emphasize that the new information and communication technologies in organizations, for instance intranets, have positive qualities such as to reduce the distance in time and space, but could hardly live up to expectations on the efficiency of human learning, which is complex processes that new media itself cannot solve. The authors emphasize that the introduction of intranets require huge investments but has marginal results. With that realization, intranets can be understood as an expression of isomorphism, i.e. that they mimic how other organizations are acting to achieve legitimacy (Cornelissen, 2011). Then the Intranet is basically about creating a good image of the company in general for stakeholders than to serve as an interactive medium for employees.

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Social intranets seem to reflect a paradox in organizations. Partly it reflects a new communication ideal in having one voice, one message that pervades the vision, image and culture, which among others Hatch and Schultz (2001) argue in the Harvard Business Review. The ideal is also visible in the trend of ”integrated communication” which means that the organization should not send different messages externally and internally (Falkheimer & Heide, 2011). The internal culture of the organization should by using the intranet open up by the employees having access to larger amounts of information relating to the business by governing documents, manuals, etc. are available to all regardless of time and space. It works as a marketing channel that explains what the organization is, why it is important, the core values ​​it has and how employees are its ambassadors.

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On the other hand the intranet reflects the common perception of meaning in which organizations are considered to be in communication processes, rather than the opposite, which is found in the term ”organizational communication” which considers a polyphony of individual voices together constitute the whole organization (Christensen & Cornelissen, 2011). With the intranet, employees can communicate digitally across hierarchical boundaries through chat, comments and email system. The digital community will give all voice and influence. Christensen and Cornelissen (2011) criticize the communication ideal of one unified voice. They see instead how a vague and ambiguous message can promote opportunities for differences to co-exist in an organization, and make it work as a strategy to create identification with the organization of its employees, by allowing different interpretations of the organization’s message. Are the writers influenced by a classical transmission’s approach in their field, or is it even a development of the meaning making perspective? There is a constant tension in the literature between the transmission and meaning making perspective, information and communication, hierarchy and polyphony, and it is possibly the strongest point of strategic communication, but at the same time the weakest point.

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