The function of internal communication during the COVID-19 health crisis: Transformation or transubstantiation?


  • Joan Cuenca-Fontbona Blanquerna – Universitat Ramon Llull
  • Marc Compte-Pujol Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
  • Mariana Sueldo ISM University of Management and Economics


To find out whether the role of internal communication was transformed or transubstantiated as a result of the situation caused by the COVID-19 health crisis, a series of structured interviews with communication managers were held from the most severe period of lockdown (April 2020) until the end of the fifth wave (June 2021), with the aim of examining whether the function of internal communication in organizations had been affected by this health crisis and if so, to what extent. Internal communication as a managerial function underwent adaptation and adjustments, for which organizations had no ad hoc existing manuals or guidelines to follow in stricto sensu, because the nearest precedent comparable to the current situation occurred over a century ago and within a completely different economic context. The pandemic has led to a marked digitization of internal communication channels, the dissemination of contents focused on health, well-being and safety of employees, alignment with the team, transparency, sustainability and diversity, with the express aim of providing emotional support and forging an image of security. It has also become an accelerating factor from a strategic perspective. Furthermore, new gaps have emerged, such as the need for employee self-management, along with managerial challenges posed by ambiguity, privacy, data accuracy and security and worklife balance in the teleworking context. All these concerns imply and require the direct involvement of internal communication to tackle them and find solutions. Yet what has changed is the various ways the internal communication function displays itself, but not the substance of the discipline. Thus, continuity in the strategic management of this function is crucial for its further development as an essential contribution for facing current and upcoming challenges.


corporate communication, internal communication, COVID-19, health crisis, pandemic, public relations


ACED-TOLEDANO, C. and MIQUEL-SEGARRA, S. (2021). “La comunicación interna de las empresas españolas en clave estratégica”. Revista Mediterránea de Comunicación / Mediterranean Journal of Communication, 12 (2), 245-261.

ACED, C., AROCAS, M. and MIQUEL, S. (2021). Manual de Comunicación Interna. Madrid: Dircom.

ÁLVAREZ-NOBELL, A. and LESTA, L. (2011). “Medición de los aportes de la gestión estratégica de CI a los objetivos de la organización”. Palabra clave, 14 (1), 11-30.

AQUINO, T. (2001). El ser y la esencia [AQUINAS, T., On being and essence]. Madrid: BAC.

ASCAI and FEIEA (2018). On the Wings of Corporate Strategy Current status and trends in internal communication in European companies. ASCAI and FEIEA. Retrieved from

BERCERUELO, B. (2020). Empleados comprometidos, empresas eficaces. Madrid: Estudio de Comunicación.

CASTRO-MARTÍNEZ, A. and DÍAZ-MORILLA, P. (2020). “Comunicación interna y gestión de bienestar y felicidad en la empresa española”. El profesional de la información, 29 (3), e290324.

COOMBS, W. T. (2015). “The value of communication during a crisis: Insights from strategic communication research”. Business horizons, 58 (2), 141-148.

COOMBS, W. T. (2020). “Conceptualizing crisis communication”. In: HEATH, R. L. and O’HAIR, H. D. (Eds.). Handbook of risk and crisis communication. London: Routledge, 99-118.

COWAN, D. (2017). Strategic Internal Communication. How to build employee engagement and performance. 2ª ed. London (UK): Kogan Page.

CUENCA, J. and VERAZZI, L. (2018). Guía Fundamental de la Comunicación Interna. Barcelona: UOC.

CUENCA, J. and VERAZZI, L. (2020). Comunicación Interna Total. Barcelona: Colección ircom-UOC.

CUENCA-FONTBONA, J., COMPTE-PUJOL, M. and ZELER, I. (2022). “La estrategia aplicada a las relaciones públicas en el medio digital: El caso español”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 80, 163-182.

CUTLIP, S. M., CENTER, A. H. and BROOM, G. M. (2006). Effective public relations (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

DAHLMAN, S. and HEIDE, M. (2021). Strategic Internal Communication. London and NY: Routledge.

DENZIN, N. K. and LINCOLN, Y. S. (2005). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (3ª ed.). London: Sage.

DIALENGA (2021). Estado de la Comunicación Interna en España 2021. Dialenga. Retrieved from

FITZPATRICK, L. and VALSKOV, K. (2014). Internal Communications: A Manual for Practitioners (PR in Practice). London (UK) / Philadelphia (USA): Kogan Page Limited.

FRANK, A. and BROWNELL, J. (1989). Organizational Communication and Behaviour: Communicating to Improve performance. Orlando: Holt, Rinehart&Winston.

GALLAGHER (2022). State of the Sector 2022: global internal communication and employee engagement insights and trends. Retrieved from

GIBBS, G. (2007). Analyzing Qualitative Data. London: Sage.

GILLHAM, B. (2001). The Research Interview. London: Continuum.

GONZÁLEZ, A., MEDINA, P. and IGLESIAS, M. (2017). “Estrategia para la optimización de la comunicación de riesgo en la crisis del Ébola”. Revista de Comunicación y Salud, 7 (1), 173-186.

HEIDE, M. and SIMONSSON, C. (2019). Internal Crisis Communication: Crisis Awareness, Leadership and Coworkership. London: Routledge.

HORNEY, N., PASMORE, B. and O’SHEA, T. (2010). “Leadership agility: an imperative for a VUCA world”. People & Strategy, 33 (4), 32-38. Retrieved from

HUME, J. and LEONARD, A. (2014). “Exploring the strategic potential of internal communication in international non-governmental organizations”. Public Relations Review, 40 (2), 294-304.

IC KOLLECTIF (2020). COVID-19. Communication Repertoire. Resources for Communication Professionals. Retrieved from

KARANGES, E., JOHNSTON, K., BEATSON, A. and LING, I. (2015). “The influence of internal communication on employee engagement: A pilot study”. Public Relations Review, 41 (1), 129-131.

KIM, Y. (2018). “Enhancing employee communication behaviors for sensemaking and sense-giving in crisis situations. Strategic management approach for effective internal crisis communication”. Journal of Communication Management, 22 (4), 451-475.

KIM, Y., KANG, M., LEE, E. and YANG, S.-U. (2019). “Exploring crisis communication in the internal context of an organization: Examining moderated and mediated effects of employee-organization relationships on crisis outcomes”. Public Relations Review, 45 (3), 101777.

LANDETA, J. (2006). “Current validity of the Delphi method in social sciences”. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 73 (5), 467-482.

LEE, Y. (2022). “How dialogic internal communication fosters employees’ safety behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic”. Public Relations Review, 48 (1), 102156.

LICHTMAN, M. (2006). Qualitative Research in Education. A user’s guide. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

MAZZEI, A. and BUTERA, A. (2021). “Internal Crisis Communication”. In: L. R. MEN and A. TKALAC (Eds.). Current Trends and Issues in Internal Communication: Theory and Practice. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 165-181.

MAZZEI, A., KIM, J-N. and DELLORO, C. (2012). “Strategic Value of Employee Relationships and Communicative Actions: Overcoming Corporate Crisis with Quality Internal Communication”. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 6, 31-44.

MAZZEI, A. and RAVAZZANI, S. (2015). Internal crisis communication strategies to protect trust relationships: A study of Italian companies. International Journal of Business Communication, 52 (3), 319-337.

MEN, L. R. and BOWEN, S. A. (2016). Excellence in Internal Communication Management. Business Express Press. Retrieved from

MEN, L. R. and YUE, C. A. (2017). “Strategic Internal Communication: Transformational Leadership, Communication Channels, and Employee Satisfaction”. Management Communication Quaterly, 28 (2), 264-284.

MENG, J. and BERGER, B. K. (2012). Measuring return on investment (ROI) of organizations’ internal communication efforts. Journal of Communication Management, 16 (4), 332-354.

MIQUEL-SEGARRA, S. and ACED, C. (2018). “El rol de la comunicación interna ante los desafíos de la digitalización”. Communication Papers, 7 (15), 27.

MIQUEL-SEGARRA, S. and ACED, C. (2019). “Objetivos y dificultades en la evaluación de la comunicación interna en las empresas españolas”. Profesional de la Información, 28 (5).

MISHRA, K., BOYNTON, L. and MISHRA, A. (2014). “Driving employee engagement: The expanded role of internal communication”. International Journal of Business Communication, 51 (2), 183-202.

QIN, Y.S. and MEN, L.R. (2022). “Exploring the Impact of Internal Communication on Employee Psychological Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Mediating Role of Employee Organizational Trust”. International Journal of Business Communication.

RUCK, K. (2020). Exploring Internal Communication: Towards Informed Employee Voice (4a ed.). London: Routledge.

RUCK, K. and MEN, L.R. (2021). “Guest editorial: Internal communication during the COVID-19 pandemic”. Journal of Communication Management, 25 (3), 185-195.

SANTOSO, N. R., SULISTYANINGTYAS, I. D. and PRATAMA, B. P. (2022). “Transformational Leadership During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Strengthening Employee Engagement Through Internal Communication”. Journal of Communication Inquiry.

SINČIĆ, D., POLOSKI, N. and TKALAC, A. (2020). “Does good internal communication enhance life satisfaction?”. Journal of Communication Management, 24 (4), 363-376.

STRANDBERG, J.M. and VIGSØ, O. (2016). “Internal crisis communication: An employee perspective on narrative, culture, and sensemaking”. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 21 (1), 89-102.

TKALAC, A. (2021). “The impact of employee engagement, organizational support and employer branding on internal communication satisfaction”. Public Relations Review, 47 (1), 102009.

TKALAC, A., SINČIĆ, D. and POLOSKI, N. (2021). “Measuring internal communication satisfaction: validating the internal communication satisfaction questionnaire”. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 26 (3), 589-604.

TKALAC, A. and SPOLJARIC, A. (2020). “Managing internal communication: How the choice of channels affects internal communication satisfaction”. Public Relations Review, 46 (3), 101926.

TKALAC, A., VERČIČ, D. and SRIRAMESH, K. (2012). “Internal communication: Definition, parameters, and the future”. Public Relations Review, 38 (2), 223-230.

THEAKER, A. (2022). El Manual de Comunicación y Relaciones Públicas. Barcelona: Profit.

VERAZZI, L., PADRÓS, L. and VALLMAJOR, C. (2022). Comunicación Interna de Pandemia. Barcelona: Colección Dircom-UOC.

VERČIČ, A. T., ĆORIĆ, D. S. and VOKIĆ, N. P. (2021). “Measuring internal communication satisfaction: validating the internal communication satisfaction questionnaire”. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 26 (3), 589-604.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION – WHO (2005). WHO outbreak communication guidelines. Geneva: WHO. Retrieved from

YAXLEY, H. and RUCK, K. (2015). “Tracking the rise and rise of internal communication”. In: RUCK. K. (Ed.). Exploring Internal Communication (3ª ed.). London: Routledge.

YEOMANS, L. and CARTHEW, W. (2014). “Internal Communication”. In: TENCH, R. and YEOMANS, L. (Eds.). Exploring Public Relations (3ª ed.). Harlow: Pearson Education.

XIFRA, J. (2020). “Comunicación corporativa, relaciones públicas y gestión del riesgo reputacional en tiempos del Covid-19”. El profesional de la información, 29 (2).

ZERFASS, A. and VIERTMANN, C. (2016). “The communication value circle. How communication contributes to business success”. Communication Director, 3.

ZERFASS, A., MORENO, Á., TENCH, R., VERČIČ, D. and VERHOEVEN, P. (2017). European Communication Monitor 2017. How Strategic Communication Deals with the Challenges of Visualisation, Social Bots and Hypermo-dernity: Results of a Survey in 50 Countries. Brussels: EACD/EUPRERA, Quadriga Media Berlin.

ZERFASS, A., VERČIČ, D., VERHOEVEN, P., MORENO, A. and TENCH, R. (2019). European Communication Monitor 2019. Exploring Trust in the Profession, Transparency, Artificial Intelligence and New Content Strategies. Results of a Survey in 46 Countries. Brussels: EACD/EUPRERA, Quadriga Media Berlin.

ZERFASS, A., BUHMANN, A., TENCH, R., VERČIČ, D. and MORENO, A. (2021). European Communication Monitor 2021. CommTech and digital infrastructure, video conferencing, and future roles for communication professionals. Results of a survey in 46 countries. Brussels: EACD/EUPRERA.




Download data is not yet available.