How can you make internal communication count?

I had this conversation with professional communicators only yesterday. We were discussing how to demonstrate gravitas, the importance of aligning the outputs and outcomes of our work with a company’s purpose and much more.

It’s a regular topic at my monthly Masterclasses, with practitioners frequently asking questions about proving their worth, working more proactively and demonstrating why IC matters.

What do CEOs think about internal comms and where do they get value from our work?

Now there’s a way to find out. At the Making it Count conference next month, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ Inside committee will be revealing the results of their research into CEOs and where they see the value of internal communication.

Committee member Helen Deverell @helendeverell is here to reveal what the CIPR Inside team has discovered and what we can expect to hear at their conference on 1 November.

I’m going to be attending the conference and encourage you to sign up if you haven’t already .The CIPR Inside conference is always worth attending and is a fantastic chance to hear the latest thinking, meet peers and invest in your professional development.

At the end of this article, you’ll find a Q&A of a conversation I had with CIPR Inside Chair Jenni Field today to discover why professional communicators should attend.

Here’s Helen…

How to make internal comms count

I’m excited to be able to give you a sneak peek of what we discovered in our CEO research…

For as long as I’ve worked in the internal communications industry, practitioners have been talking about having a seat at the top table.

Discussions I’ve been a part of have intrinsically linked this seat, or lack thereof, to the perception businesses have of internal communication and the value it adds. Conferences have dedicated sessions to how we get that seat and others have argued that you don’t wait to be offered a seat but bring your own and claim that space.

Against the backdrop of these conversations, we have slowly started to evolve into a strategic function in the eyes of our CEOs and leadership teams, but there’s still a way to go.

So, what do CEOs actually think about the value internal communication can add to their businesses, and do they foresee a day when internal communications join them at the top table?

Earlier this year the CIPR Inside committee conducted research into this by interviewing CEOs and surveying internal communication practitioners. As a member of that committee, I’ve had the opportunity to get involved and, along with Trudy Lewis and our Chair Jenni Field, have been analysing the results.

The full results will be revealed in the keynote at our annual conference in November, and then the rest of the day will be structured around the key themes, with structured sessions followed by an unconference format in the afternoon. However, I’m excited to share a few of the highlights with you here:

Internal communication is more than a function
The general opinion across the CEOs we interviewed is that internal communication permeates into all areas of the business and is much bigger than the team that bears its name. An encouraging view, especially as many of them also ranked it highly in terms of importance to business success.

But what does this mean for our seat at the table if CEOs think internal communication should be part of the way things are done rather than a function in itself?

Culture is key
Many of the CEOs positively linked internal communication with culture, and felt that we directly impacted it. However, when discussing how we can do this, many of the examples given were tactical suggesting there still may be a gap in understanding around the strategic value we can add.

Defining internal communication
When we asked survey respondents how they’d define internal communication they gave a wide variety of definitions, with some using the term internal communication interchangeably with engagement. An interesting outcome that could suggest that if we as an industry aren’t clearly and consistently articulating our reason for being, it might not be surprising that CEOs are unable to as well.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: What is internal communication?

Driving financial performance
Unsurprisingly, the majority of survey respondents believed that internal communication could drive financial performance but CEOs also thought there was link between engaged employees – an output of good internal communication – and the bottom line. Although several made the point that measuring this is an ongoing challenge, it is positive that CEOs do think we play an integral part in financial success.

This is just a sneak peek into what our research uncovered so there’s lots more for us to get our teeth into and discuss at the conference. While some of the results confirm what we’ve suspected for some time, it gives us the solid evidence to address the issues in a way we haven’t been able to before.

But that’s not to say there weren’t a few surprises from both CEOs and IC practitioners.

As a committee, we hope this piece of research is the beginning of an important conversation between internal communicators and CEOs and will help us to shift the industry into a more strategic position in the eyes of the businesses we work for. We hope many of you will come along to the conference to be a part of that discussion

Making it Count takes place on 1 November at the Hilton Wembley. Here’s full info and how to get your ticket.

Post author: Helen Deverell.

Thank you Helen.

Why should you attend the CIPR Inside conference?

I wanted to find out more about Making It Count, so grabbed CIPR Inside Chair Jenni Field for a chat.

Here’s what I asked her…

1. Why should communicators attend the CIPR Inside conference?

It’s the only place to hear about the research we have done with CEOs and leaders to help you understand what they believe is the value of internal comms – everyone coming will get a copy of the report and we will open with an in-depth session on it. We are also combining formats this year as learning from each other can be so powerful so I’d be excited to come and discuss challenges and ideas with other professionals.2

2. What can we hear about at the conference that we can’t read online?

The research is the big bit really but the sessions we have worked on with our partners address the pieces in the research so it’s not something you can really experience online. Delving into culture, channels, creativity, measurement and change all in one day would take hours of research online.

Time is precious so packing this all into a day was important to ensure all delegates get value for money.

3.Can you share some thinking behind the agenda? How did it come together?

I’m a big fan of interactive conferences as I don’t like to be talked at all day. I also find that sometimes it is hard to relate to case studies where budgets or sectors differ.

Working with partners to create sessions means this isn’t an issue as the experience they have works across them all – and running workshops all morning should be fun and engaging. The introduction of the unconference session is important because learning from each other is what we do all the time. Finding those people who have been through your challenge and succeeded will make for a more valuable 20 minutes than hearing about a case study that you can’t relate to.

4.Helen has shared her thoughts on the CEO research, what’s your view on it?

I am so excited about this. It’s the brain child of Trudy Lewis who has been on the Committee for a number of years and we have discussed it in detail in recent years – so seeing it become a reality is amazing.

I was doing a final proofread at the weekend and the quotes and insights from CEOs and IC practitioners is a real page turner.

Can’t wait to see it! – Rachel

5.What are you most looking forward to about the conference?

Seeing some new faces. At Inside we are really keen to get our conference and content back to the foundations of internal comms so creating real content that means something to someone at every level has been important. I’m hoping we will see some new faces – either new to CIPR or new to internal comms.

6.How can we make internal communication count?

You have to come to find out! For me it’s about aligning it to the business strategy and objectives.

You have to ask difficult questions to make sure what you’re doing aligns to the organisation, not just doing what you think is best.

7.What advice would you give comms pros who haven’t signed up but are thinking about it?

Come! This is the 5th CIPR Inside conference I have been to and the third I have managed as Chair.

I don’t know of any other conference that gives you time to immerse yourself in your world of IC and come out with real tools and insights to take back to the office.

I’m happy to chat to anyone who is thinking about it and just not quite sure whether to come.

Thanks Jenni.

You can find Jenni on Twitter @mrsjennifield.

Find out more about CIPR Inside

CIPR Inside is on Twitter @CIPRInside and their website is ciprinside.co.uk. You can book your ticket/s via Eventbrite. I hope to see you there,

Rachel.

First published on the All Things IC blog 11 October 2017

Disclosure: I have received a complimentary ticket to this year’s conference.

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