Bursting out of the IC bubble?

Tonight was the launch of VMA Group’s (@VMAGroup) Professional Development in Internal Communications Report 2011-2012 in London. What happened? What was discussed and what did the report say? You can search the hashtag #vmaicsurvey via Twitter to see what attendees said.

I was hoping to attend but was unable to make it, so Kim Borrowdale, Director of Borrowdale Consulting Ltd and a former classmate of mine from Kingston University’s post-graduate diploma in Internal Communications Management course, kindly agreed to report on this event for my blog as she was attending.

Kim specialises in brand, internal and change communication. You can find out more about her experience on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @KimBorrowdale. Don’t forget, if you attend an event or training course that you think readers of Diary of an internal communicator would be interested in reading about, do contact me: rach@rachmiller.com with your idea.

Over to you Kim…

Tonight’s event was focused on VMA Group’s Professional Development in Internal Communications Report 2011-2012, you can get a full copy of the report from them directly. A total of 500 people responded to the survey and some of the headline findings that stood out for me tonight at the launch are below:

  • As with the 2010 report, 30% and 38% of respondents believe that senior leaders are key advocates or supportive of IC
  • IC budgets are slightly up on 2010, but for the first time in three years, IC salaries have shown a decline
  • Yammer featured for the first time in the top ten social media used
  • Respondent’s personal perception of the top five skills for development were coaching senior leaders, social media development, influencing, public affairs and external communication
  • Top five skills for development in IC recruits according to hiring managers were influencing, coaching senior leaders, strategy setting and writing (specific corporate messaging and publications/online).

Discussing the findings
Part of the launch was a discussion around the report, including a Q&A session with Katharina Auer (Rio Tinto), Sarah Pellegrini (Rexam), and Andrea Gwilliam (BBC) – a good cross industry perspective prompting questions and comments about swift action and shorter comms planning cycles, social media, how to build influencing skills and communicating the value IC adds to the bottom line.

The overall message I think we can all take away is a reminder to stay focused on remaining relevant and visible in the business environment.

This could manifest itself in a number of ways, ranging from keeping yourself up to date with business trends or attending a negotiation workshop to help with influencing. But the top two things on my mind as I got the bus home from the launch were:

1.    How to be agile and creative – Change is the norm. Having the room to take our time developing arm’s length communication plans with the luxury of firm (ish) milestones and a big budget is less and less likely. Instead of mourning the loss of our beautifully constructed plans, we need be ready to change direction swiftly with creative use of an arsenal of tools. One way to give your creativity a kick start could be to keep a spreadsheet to hand of your delivery ideas, past and present.

2.   How to look beyond the job title – The disconnect concerning external communication between the personal perception (what I believe happens in practice) and the hiring manager view (what they believe they need when drafting a job profile) hit home for me. I believe that these days we cannot live in an IC bubble. Yes, it is our area of expertise but we need to have a working knowledge of secondary selling points in the areas of external communication, social media, etc. Think about your secondary selling points, where you might need to put seek out complementary knowledge and how you can incorporate them into marketing yourself internally. It could be just what you need to influence the top table.

What do you think? Are we overthinking the external comms angle at the detriment of developing our influencing skills? Is it good news that budgets are slightly up, or just good news that the reduced budgets of 2010 haven’t been reduced even more? And most importantly, is 2012 Yammer’s time to shine in your organisation?

Let me know your thoughts. You can comment below or contact me via Twitter @KimBorrowdale. In the meantime, thank you to VMA, the panel and the lovely Mrs Miller for the chance to guest blog.

Post author: Kim Borrowdale

Thank you again for your insights into the launch Kim, there are lots of fascinating stats in there and the thought about looking beyond job titles particularly resonated with me and the conversations I’ve been having with other comms professionals recently about the need to have working knowledge of other areas of communication aside from internal communication.

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