"Being an influential insider does not always require being in the boardroom with the top bosses," said Marlene Neill, assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media at Baylor University.

Intelligence-gathering is best done by having a seat at multiple decision tables at different levels in a company - and then sharing that information in varied settings, often informally, according to the study findings.

"Internal communications was once considered a stepchild in public relations, but it is beginning to receive the attention it deserves," Neill said. She conducted 22 hours of in-depth, recorded interviews with 30 senior executives representing multiple departments within four top US companies.

One hurdle communications professionals face at division-leadership level is "a lack of formal power", the study showed.

"We realized that our business leaders were listening to us, but we didn't have that ball all the way punched into the end zone," one corporate communications executive told Neill.

The game-changer was informal coalitions of the sort that stem from talks in break rooms, coffee shops or fitness centers. You have those doors you cannot get behind, those assistants or receptionists that control access - or executives are in meetings a lot of the time.

"People in PR and marketing as well as in other departments catch top executives in the hall, at Starbucks or fitness centers," she said. The study appeared in the journal Public Relations Review.

(Agencies)

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