Internal communications – the future

Next week Communicators in Business (CiB) will formally become the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC). As professional communicators look to the future, I was in touch with Sarah, my mentee, today and recommended she reads a book I came across last year while studying. It’s called Effective Internal Communication (PR in practice) by Lyn Smith and Pamela Mounter and was published by CIPR/Kogan Page in 2005, although my edition was published in 2008. I specifically recommended that she reads the final chapter.

Its title is Internal communications – the future. These eight pages start with Good morning Mr, Mrs, Ms Internal Communicator, this is your early morning wake up call from the big screen in your living room. It is 1 January 2035…everyone can use an avatar or a virtual replacement and so it continues. What struck me when I first read this chapter last year was that it provided a vision of the future which still seemed a long way off.

However reading it again now I can see how far technology has come in a relatively short amount of time and I like the aspirations expressed in the chapter, so thought I would share them here.

Future skills
According to the book, the knowledge and skills internal comms professionals of the future need:

  • The ability to speak and write coherently and attractively
  • Understanding of the mechanics of the function (to deliver top-level advice)
  • Political understanding, cited as the most important skill for the professional communicator
  • A deep understanding of how top managers’ minds work and how this may impact the way the organisation functions
  • Understanding of business information eg financial matters and organisation’s field of operation.

Never mind in 25 years time, to me those ingredients appear essential today. However the key attribute according to Smith and Mounter for the comms professional of the future is ‘an extreme level of adaptability – a willingness to get to grips with the advances that will continue to underpin communication technologies’.

Linking in and switching on
I’ve been watching a discussion on LinkedIn that was started a month ago by Melcrum’s Head of Content James Bennett. He asked how many comms professionals in Melcrum’s Communicators Network and the internal comms community have an iPhone. There are nearly 50 comments on the discussion and the consensus appears to be that we can’t quite imagine life before owning an iPhone or equivalent. Having apps at our fingertips, good enough quality cameras to produce print-worthy photos and videos are enabling internal communicators to be even more adaptable than ever.

The chapter ends with looking at how internal communicators will be regarded in the future: “Education, and continuing education at that, will be critical in ensuring the internal communicator achieves top-level status. An increasingly competitive global market will ensure that effective communication, whether with internal and/or external audiences, is seen as vital to economic survival. Get it right and the future is yours”.

What do you think? Where will internal communications be in 25 years time? What are the skills the communicator of the future needs to have? Would love to know your thoughts.

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