Do you really make a difference?

Yesterday (16 June 2015) Stephen Welch MCIPR, announced the findings of the #11ways research that he, Dana Poole and Michael Ambjorn have been working on. They pose a bold question for everyone to consider in their work, do you really make a difference?


Stephen has shared the key findings from the study with us here, so over to Stephen:


“Leadership who don’t listen to communication experts.”

“Lack of senior leaders who are skilled in communicating.”

“Head of organization dismissive of involving staff.”

“Lack of management buy-in, lack of investment in new channels.”


Sound familiar? These are four of the many challenges communication professionals revealed in the latest #11ways research, conducted by Michael Ambjorn, Dana Poole and I. Our research, covering over 100 organizations with over a million employees reveals some big gaps in the behaviour of high performing organizations vs others.

Those quotes, of course, are representative of organizations with challenges. Organizations not operating at the top of their game. Organizations where communication is not valued, and does contribute to success.

And those quotes are backed up with statistics showing not only the challenges for internal comms, but also the potential they can achieve when they – you – really set out to make a difference.

  • For example, only 58% of average companies align performance and strategy, but 89% of high performing companies do.
  • Perhaps as a consequence, high performing companies are 3x as likely as others to rate their communications as excellent or very good.

In some ways this should not be a surprise. In my opinion the only sensible yardstick against which to measure communications is the extent to which it supports strategy, execution, reputation and value creation.

If the ultimate aims of the comms team are not the same as the company as a whole, WTF is going on?

Stephen Welch, MCIPR

Stephen Welch, MCIPR

But one of the big problems is that only a quarter of communications professionals admit that their overall level of business knowledge or operational understanding is excellent or very good. Even among high performers, this only rises to 43%. If you are among the three-quarters who have a sub-optimal understand of how your business works – the business that pays your salary by the way – is it really a surprise if the business doesn’t value you?

Internal communicators complain of being undervalued, and that leaders don’t invest in them, or listen to them. But investment – and listening – is a two way street. Communicators who don’t invest time to understand their business don’t deserve to have leadership time invested in them. Especially when, according to the survey, 96% of communicators report that their operational managers think they are already good communicators.

But what makes the difference between average and high performance, and how can IC fill the gap? Use “CIPR” as a starting point.

  1. Clearly business know-how is important, as is reviewing all your communication to trace the alignment with goals and strategy.
  2. Invest in new channels or technology, to improve communication, but not for their own sake. High performing companies are about 50% more likely to do this regularly than average ones.
  3. Process stories. Storytelling is all the rage, but the key is systematizing it: high performing companies are 2x more likely to have a process for creating stories, rather than assuming they will bloom spontaneously.
  4. Regularly think about your audience. Do you create emotional connections? Do you think about communication from the audience’s point of view? The best do.

Measurement is of course key too. High performing organizations are much better at measuring their communication performance than others:

  • 88% use survey results, compared only 50% of average organizations.
  • 57% monitor social media, compared to only 34% of others.
  • 40% use reputation benchmarking, as opposed to barely a quarter of others.

And while hardly anyone uses real, hard, business measures such as organizational productivity, sales or profit, 12% of high performers do, compared to 2-5% of others. How can you demonstrate your impact unless you measure it in a way your key stakeholders (ie senior leaders) understand? For example, 34% measure their success in terms of twitter followers or facebook likes. Do you think this is a way to create impact with a financially-focused CEO?

But whatever the measure, focus on outcomes, rather than inputs, this is the lesson from those at the top of the profession: 44% of those who said they were ‘business leaders’ or ‘strategic advisors’ said they measured outcomes, compared to only 31% in more junior roles.

So, to advance your career: use “CIPR” and measure your outcome.

For more information, insights or details, please contact me via linkedin or twitter.

You can read the full report here.


Thank you to Stephen for sharing the results with us, we hope you found it interesting. If you are looking for tips on measurement this is a key theme for us this year as part of our own IMPACT strategy so look out for more from the committee in webinars, events and practical advice.

CIPR Inside's strategy


We have previously published our own measurement matrix to help professionals demonstrate their value in their organisations.

Following a path of continuing professional development also helps to show your commitment to your profession and internal communication practice.


Image credit: Stephen Welch profile picture his own. Featured image sourced through and on tumblr  by getrefe / Julia Caesar

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