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Pop culture's influence on internal communication is impactful. A win!

It's no secret that we operate in an open-minded interconnected society that is comprised of engaged, aware and conscious employees. However, in order for internal communication to be effective, we must constantly find new ways of delivering engaging experiences.
© rawpixel via Unsplash.com.

Internal communication is now more upfront. Transformational ideas created through interaction with an internal audience can now be workshopped in order to create an enabling business environment while simultaneously improving business’ innovation.

We can’t ignore the fact that we operate in a space that is heavily influenced by trends. Equally so, much of our current communication practice and content relies on popular culture. Popular culture has an incredible and powerful impact on society as a whole in all its spheres. It's an avenue that the showbiz industry generates its large revenue from, commercialising the “cool”.

We see employees constantly checking "online" what's trending and what's on 'trend' as the consumers. It drives one to tap into it for connection and expression. The pending question now is, can we translate this into the workplace? If so, how?

‘We see you’ and ‘we hear you’


Its influence can bring relevance and adaptation to the business, whilst also transforming internal corporate culture. Contemporary circumstances require a shift in the way internal communication is done through embracing digitalisation of our internal communication channels.

We have to be cognizant of the fact that internal communication in the workplace goes beyond merely sending emails and memos. It is now about engaging and capturing minds. It’s high time we engage in the mammoth task of erasing decades of ‘corporate communication’ perception!

This task comes with incorporating the elements of pop culture, in this instance, pop culture refers to aspects of social life most actively involved in by the public and is informed by mass media and also determined by the interactions between people in their everyday activities: styles of dress, the use of slang, greeting rituals and the foods that people eat are all examples of popular culture. (Barry Brummett explains in Rhetorical Dimensions of Popular Culture).

When we engage with employees, it is important to remember that we are dealing with people first before they are employees. Employees yearn for engagement that says, ‘we see you’ and ‘we hear you’. The moment you communicate with them in a business-to-business manner, you lose them. People want to bring their “whole selves” to work, not just their “work selves” making it imperative to foment a communications revolution inside.

Within the domain of communication research, popular culture constitutes an important object of analysis because media and communication technologies serve as a central catalyst for its success. Especially in western capitalist societies, popular culture is increasingly affecting people as modern mass media is now embedded into people’s lives and routines. In Dominic Strinati’s book, An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture, he states that,
Since popular culture today is so closely bound up with the mass media . . . it is almost impossible to look at one without the other.

Relevance is more attractive than ever before!


According to Holt N. Parker’s EFG scholars of popular culture and cultural studies themselves “have taken a certain perhaps perverse pride in not defining their subject”. Furthermore, when we are analysing the general understanding of culture, John Storey on Cultural Theory and Popular Culture argues: “Defining and systematically putting a finger on the somewhat opaque phenomenon of popular culture may cause some difficulty.”

Working in a diverse environment which has always been reduced to cultural differences and common denominators - it has now become more important than ever before to let all voices within your organisation find a tone or reference of acknowledging in your communication.

Integration is key! It should affect the entire organisation, not just niche departments. When we talk about ‘integration’, it’s no longer a foreign concept. It has now become an integral part of the ‘integration debate’. The growing importance of digital media has added new urgency and pragmatism in the need to understand what integration is and how it is to be delivered.

It’s about interconnectedness, it’s vital that we create effective internal communication that can be applied in all our channels, identify the strata in your employees’ demographics and spot their common passion points. Employees can be incredibly powerful for brands if you know how to harness employee engagement.

Unlocking value


Locally, MTN South Africa exercised an innovative approach when they launched their summer campaign internally. Imagine a pop-up online mobile radio studio in all their workspaces – it’s all about unlocking the value around employees and customers. The employees served as content creators.

This uber-creative employee engagement further demonstrates MTN’s internal communication position that it is “employee first” and their plans are super personalised. This saw an overwhelming response from the employees as it is what they were craving for, a relatable medium.

As such, using technologies like online radio stations and augmented reality (AR) to drive interest and engagement, will create a level of intimacy. By focusing so much on employees, you are guaranteed that they will endorse you, always.
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About Lukhanyo Mpumela-Kwaza

Lukhanyo is a conscious interdisciplinary young brand and communication executive. He works with ideas and translates them into life through words. His everyday business is strategy+planning, making sure #BeTheFirstToKnow applies to employees whilst simultaneously amplifies the "brand" story within.
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