Five takeaways from this year’s Strategic Internal Communications conference

As a profession where we know the importance of feedback, measurement and engagement, it’s hardly surprising that the question on everybody’s lips following this year’s PRWeek Strategic Internal Communications conference was, “what are your key takeaways?,” and that’s not the Friday fish and chips or a cheeky curry kind, either!

This is the view of Ayla Iskender @Ayla_Iskender, who was at the conference last week and has written for the All Things IC blog to share what struck her.

I enjoyed speaking about line managers at the event and answering questions from Internal Communication practitioners in the room. Would you like me to write about my talk? Do let me know in the comments below or find me on Twitter @AllthingsIC.

Thank you PRWeek for inviting me to be the media partner again this year. I met lots of Comms pros on Thursday who told me they had used my code to save on their tickets, which is great. Thank you to everyone who stopped me to say hello, share their insights, ask me questions and give me feedback on my talk.

PRWeek’s Strategic IC Conference, Hilton, Canary Wharf, London.

I’ll hand you over to Ayla, who is Communications Executive at Apollo Fire Detectors…

Five takeaways from this year’s PRWeek Strategic Internal Communications conference you need to be doing right now

With industry-leading guest speakers sharing their knowledge on a wide variety of topics, no doubt those who attended would’ve come away with their own thoughts of what they can take back to their organisation.

Yet there were consistent themes throughout all the presentations, starting from the very first on day one, with a talk from Helen Willetts and Tom Engel from BT, who are Directors of Internal and External Communications, respectively, to the final presentation by Áine Murphy, Head of Internal Communications and Engagement at Scope, sharing her experience on employee brand.

Here’s a summary of those takeaway themes.

1) Take time out to think

We’re living in a 24/7 digital age where we’re constantly on the go, being pulled in different directions to manage different priorities. Having two days out for personal development doesn’t sound like it would make much of a difference; yet hearing case studies and real examples of where tools and campaigns worked, can’t be quantified. I – and my fellow attendees – were reminded to take stock every now and then, take it back to basics and be true to yourself.

2) Make some new friends

I lost count how many times this was mentioned throughout the two days; spend time speaking to those in HR, Marketing, IT and beyond and make friends with them.

The quality of partnerships you have with those in other departments will ultimately result in amazing content that not only helps you with internal campaigns; it also reiterates what your organisation stands for. If collaboration or excellence is one of your organisation’s values, developing those relationships will demonstrate to your wider workforce and potential new candidates that your organisation does live their values. You might be able to pinch some of their budget too, to really help deliver effective campaigns throughout the business.

3) Focus on inside out

Make your employees feel valued and respected, by letting them know of organisational news and updates first, before sharing the news externally. It sounds so obvious and simple, right?

Well the fact that this was a topic of conversation throughout the two days, makes it clear that as IC professionals, we have a lot of work to – referring back to making friends – to ensure this happens.

4) The future is now, and so is AI

It’s hard to believe that some organisations haven’t yet even made the digital transformation journey, when artificial intelligence (AI) has advanced to the point where businesses are using technology to judge their employee’s emotions upon entering and leaving work. We’re aware of what brands are doing to incorporate AI in their external communications (chat bots for example), but what are we doing to encourage an AI powered workforce? Make sure you check out the speaker’s Twitter handle (@PRKezza) for more on AI in communications.

5) Internal communication is everyone’s responsibility

This last point is a nod to Rachel Miller at All Things IC for her presentation on How to help your line managers be better communicators (and the speaker I took the most notes on!). We’ve all had line managers that haven’t been the best for many different reasons; well helping managers in our organisation be able to communicate with their team, not at their team is where we, as a profession, can make the difference.

And to that note, internal communication is too important to be one person’s sole responsibility, it’s everyone’s responsibility. The outcome of effective line manager communications can result in a happier and more valued workforce, but also lends itself to organically creating employee ambassadors empowering your organisation’s brand.

One of the last topics was on mental health and the role as communicators we have to drive the agenda. Having experienced poor mental health myself, and led on multiple campaigns during my time at B&Q, this topic is particularly close to my heart. It was a great panel discussion featuring those who have contributed to ensuring mental health and overall workplace wellbeing is top of mind for their respective leadership teams.

It wasn’t long until I raised a hand for the microphone, when tumbleweed fell across the audience when no-one wanted to share their own experiences of delivering an effective workplace wellbeing campaign.

Afterwards, several people came up to me to ask for some tips; my own advice for anyone who is looking to introduce real change in the workplace wellbeing domain, make sure you keep it simple and real; if it’s not authentic, it won’t resonate.

And work with your HR team too (or whoever owns employee health) to deliver it – remember everyone is responsibility for internal communication.

In conclusion
My first time at an internal communications conference, the imposter syndrome in me wondered whether I had enough experience to even be at such an event, which in hindsight now I realise is absolutely ludicrous.

It wasn’t just a conference, it was two days of training and time out of day-to-day life for all levels of experience in the IC world, through hearing case studies and practical advice, having the opportunity to have the headspace to think outside the box and benchmarking campaigns against what other brands have done.

Not forgetting making new best friends through networking; now it’s time to go back and make more.

Follow the thread and join in on the conversation using #PRWinternal.

Post author: Ayla Iskender.

Thank you very much Ayla.

Come and train with me in 2020 at the All Things IC Hub

The All Things IC Hub will be officially opening its doors in Ealing, West London, in January 2020, which coincides with the company’s seventh birthday. It will be the new home for my Masterclasses, client work and consultation calls.

I’ve frozen my prices until the end of January 2020. So book today to benefit from this year’s prices next year. You can find dates of upcoming Masterclasses on my website and below.

Your investment is £599 +VAT for a Masterclass and these are the upcoming sessions to choose from:

How to choose
The Internal Communication Masterclass is for you if you’ve been in role for up to five years. If you’re brand new to the world of IC, this is the one for you.

If you’ve been working in IC for a while or are in charge of a team, the Strategic Internal Communication Masterclass is for you.

Will 2020 be the year you work as a Consultant? If you’re curious about being a Comms Consultant and want to explore the idea, sign up to my Exploration Masterclass. If you’re already working as a Consultant and want to build momentum in your business, my Momentum Masterclass is for you.

Change is the only constant in businesses nowadays and the All Things IC Change Communication Masterclass will set you up for success. Not only will you examine Change Comms theory, but you’ll learn how to translate it into reality too.

If you are the most senior IC practitioner in your company, the Comms Director Mastermind is for you. This is an intimate and confidential session where you can ask your peers and I for help with issues you are grappling with.


Bespoke training courses
Don’t forget I can also run these sessions just for your company or host you individually for a VIP Day, or as a Team.

If you need advice and guidance on a 1-2-1 basis, there are a range of consultation phone calloptions or remote support to choose from.

Thank you to everyone who chose to work with me in 2019, it has been such a joy to see you increase your understanding of internal communication and grow in confidence.

Thank you for stopping by, I look forward to discovering how I can support you in 2020 and beyond.


First published on the All Things IC blog 8 December 2019.

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