AB Thinks  →  16th June 2021

Farewell to an internal comms pioneer

AB Thinks

Tony Buckley, 1932-2021

Internal communication has lost a true pioneer of the profession with the sad passing of Tony Buckley, aged 87.

Working in London in the early 1960s, Tony saw a post-war nation full of organisations failing to connect with their employees. “Many senior managers deemed it was sufficient to make an announcement on a noticeboard or with a memo. That was not engagement – it was certainly not conversation.

“I felt faceless corporate announcements were detrimental to the morale of the employees.”

In 1964, Tony decided to “build a bridge” between leaders and employees by establishing arguably the world’s first internal communication agency.

He named the agency AB after his initials – Anthony Buckley.  His first clients were Safeway, Kodak, Cunard and London’s Metropolitan Police Service. Of those early days, Tony said: “Educating clients about employee engagement was undoubtedly one of our biggest challenges. Pitching for internal communication meant helping clients understand the value of engage­ment.”

Tony’s legacy lives on. AB remains a leading voice in its field. It is one of the most-rewarded agencies in the UK, with more than 40 accolades from the Institute of Internal Communication and Chartered Institute of Public Relations in the last four years alone.

Today, the agency serves the global internal communication needs of some of the best-known organisations around the world, including Amazon, the LEGO Group, Kimberly-Clark, Network Rail, Highways England and KPMG.

Tony was passionate about sharing internal comms best practice across borders – something he spoke about on a recent episode of The Internal Comms Podcast. He helped establish the UK chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) in 1979. A few years later, he became the first regional director of IABC’s newly formed Europe Middle East region.

But perhaps his greatest achievement was helping to professionalise internal communication and encouraging employers to see it as more than one-way broadcasts and announcements.

In From Cascade to Conversation by AB’s current owner and managing director, Katie Macaulay, Tony says: “Without engagement there is no real communication. It must be reciprocal. No management team is an island. Its workforce can always add something positive. That was the moment of realisation for many clients, and it was always very rewarding for us as internal communicators to watch it happen.”

Tony was always delighted when clients realised the commercial benefits of great internal comms. “Get it right and ideas cross-pollinate from one part of the company to another, leading to financial savings and operational efficiencies. It was not just about people at the coalface feeling valued. There can be real commercial power in the ideas of everyone on the payroll.”

Katie says: “Tony believed passionately in the value of professional internal communication. He was full of integrity and cared deeply about his employees, clients, and their audiences. He also had a great sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye. We will all miss him terribly and are proud to continue his legacy.”