When you have a casual conversation with a friend or one of your employees, you are engaging in informal communication. There is no outline or agenda you are following. When you speak with a reporter or a Chamber of Commerce member, those are external communications. Informal external communication is the sum of both: casual communication without a formal structure, either spoken or written, that takes places with someone not directly related to your business.

Informal Communication Defined

If your business has an office “grapevine,” that is a very stark example of informal communication. Speaking to an employee in the hallway is another. Sending an employee, customer or reporter a card, email or text message is informal written communication. While the office grapevine can often be synonymous with gossip, which can be destructive in an office, informal communication is an essential component of business communication. It builds relationships and can promote teamwork both internally and externally.

External Communication Defined


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External communication is any communication that occurs with someone who is outside of your business. It can be in any form; technology has made external communication simple and commonplace. An external audience for a small business owner often includes media representatives. Some business owners also regularly communicate with legislators about legislation that could affect them. Speaking at a business function is also external communication.

Combined Communication Benefits

Informal external communication can strengthen relationships, which can carry over into a professional environment. It puts a personal touch on relationships with audiences such as the media and customers. For example, if your company sponsors a charity golf tournament and you invite customers and media representatives, that personal interaction can foster a stronger professional relationship. A reporter may feel that he can trust you to give him important facts when something newsworthy happens, and you feel as though you can trust him to accurately report what you say. Stronger relationships can also prevent or defuse future confrontations or conflicts.

Pitfalls to Avoid

One danger of informal external communication is getting too informal. If you’re having a few beers on the golf course, you need to be cognizant of your business reputation and be mindful of what you say. There is no such thing as “off the record” with reporters, especially if they hear something they believe the public should know. It's the same with customers. It’s OK to differentiate yourself from the competition, but overt badmouthing could be perceived as unprofessional -- and perhaps cause legal problems -- ultimately hurting you more than your competitor.