The rise of internal comms

James Harkness, CIPR Inside Chair, discusses the rise of internal communication, and the growing desire for developing skills  and knowledge.

When I took on the role of chair for CIPR Inside in March, I knew it would be an eventful year. The internal comms sectoral group has grown by 18% in members in the last year, and that’s wonderful.  We’ve introduced webinars for our members, run our informal ask the guru events, held the best attended internal communication conference to date this year, and are currently receiving entries for the #insidestory awards (deadline is 13 December – so don’t miss it )

So does all this activity, increase in membership and engagement reflect an increase in more people doing the role of internal communication? Or does it show a thirst for knowledge and learning to improve skills? I believe it’s a combination of both. And here’s why.

We held a webinar last week about internal communicators moving from tactical work to being strategic advisors in business. You can access the webinar on demand here.

We covered what we consider to be three critical factors in taking your internal comms role from tactical practitioner to strategic advisor.

  1. Clear purpose. How do you measure success? What’s important to your team and your business?
  2. Right capability. Have you and your team got the right skills? Of course it’s about communication, but it’s also about your ability to influence, plan, manage and provide consultancy.
  3. Credibility. Can you prove your worth? Show the outcomes of your work and not just the outputs?

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The participants asked some really interesting questions which many internal communicators face.

How do you stem the flow of tactical requests to be strategic?

Creating toolkits, for example key messages for projects, which can enable staff from other areas to write communications and free up your time to look at the bigger picture.

Be confident to push back while remaining helpful. ‘I can’t do that but I can give you this to help you do to do what you want to do’. By creating a network of communicators, providing training and toolkits you can enable others to help you deliver the strategy.

How do you gain more influence and credibility?

Working more closely with HR, and other communication disciplines and partnering with them can reap benefits. Taking a more integrated approach to communication will also enhance your credibility.

Likewise working with senior sponsors, at board level, enabling you to advise before projects come up and understand the business direction. This can give you time to plan and execute flawlessly.

Listening to leadership’s issues, concerns and ideas, and then discussing how communication can help them deliver their ideas or protect the business from the issues it faces will quickly build your credibility.

1:1 meetings with senior people are incredibly useful. You can get to know the people you need support from and this gives you the opportunity to sell in your ideas.

Equipping senior managers to be good communicators will help you build relationships and earn credibility.

How will you know it’s working? What will it look like and feel like… ?

You will no longer be in the quagmire of stuff! Senior leaders will come to you for advice and counsel. Use your knowledge of measurement and networks to gain 360° feedback to find out how well you are doing. Are you helping others to do their jobs and deliver the business strategy?

I believe that there’s a combination of more ‘communication’ professionals moving into the area of internal comms or taking on aspects of it as part of their roles, as well as a growing recognition that engaged employees can help businesses be more productive and successful. Many organisations are switching on to the value that internal communication can bring. Practitioners are leveraging this opportunity to be there, be a part of it and become the strategic advisors. To do this they are investing in their careers and building their knowledge. Taking advantage of our events and programmes to do this and demonstrate their strategic understanding through the #insidestory awards.


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