What do CEOs think of internal communication?

What does your CEO think of internal communication? What is the strategic value and effectiveness of internal communication?

A brand new research report is hot off the press showing leaders now value internal communication.

Honestly. It’s a cracking read, I think you’ll like it.

Making it Count was conducted by CIPR Inside, which is the sector group for IC pros via the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

The research delivers an upbeat assessment of the practice, with senior leaders demonstrating a sharp understanding and appreciation of internal communication. If you’re reading this thinking your leader isn’t one of them, use this study to help you.

Studying internal communication? Do check it out as it has some brilliant quotable insights.

Warning: This article is a long read as I’ve packed it with lots of information to help guide you through the research and yesterday’s conference. Grab a cuppa first.

Informed conversations

I welcome this report because it finally allows us to have an informed conversation with senior stakeholders, underpinned by research, opinions and views.

I spoke to a comms practitioner only this morning who was sharing views on how their CEO views comms. I know first-hand the reality for many IC pros is an uphill battle to demonstrate effectiveness in internal comms and show why it is critical to business success. I can help you do that.

I know readers of the All Things IC blog will enjoy the research. Do take a look and give your feedback to CIPR Inside @CIPRInside.

It was revealed yesterday by the CIPR Inside committee at their annual IC conference and highlights perceptions of internal communication among chief executives.

Yesterday’s conference at the Hilton Hotel in Wembley, London, was a mentally stimulating and fascinating day. I’m going to share six things I heard at the end of this article.

But let’s focus on the research for now…

What do CEOs think of internal communication?

Drawing on interviews with 14 CEOs, the Making it Count study lifts the lid on the ability of internal communicators to impact company culture.

The research reveals how internal communicators have become recognised as “the custodians of translating strategy, company values and priorities, enabling others to understand the part they play.”

The opinions of the chief executives are complemented by the views of 89 internal communicators.

It was presented by CIPR Inside Chair Jenni Field alongside committee members and independent comms practitioners Trudy Lewis, Helen Deverell and Lisa Pantelli who conducted the research. It was a team effort including proofreading by Katie Marlow.

Thank you CIPR Inside and the volunteers for your hard work. I like the fact it references other studies, including VMA’s Beyond Communication report and provides a comprehensive look at perception, reality and exceptions in the world of internal communication.

I know readers of the All Things IC blog will find it useful, you can access the whole report online.

Other key findings include:

  • Senior leaders identify a link between good internal communication and strong financial performance
  • CEOs acknowledge the difficulty of measuring the effectiveness of internal communication as a contributing factor of engagement and culture
  • Internal communicators have earned the trust of senior leaders to develop strategic messages
  • There is a need to clearly define internal communication and provide clarity on how it differs from employee engagement
  • Culture has a big impact on the work and function of internal communication and can dictate how its value is perceived.

Does that resonate with you? Does your CEO or senior stakeholders understand the link between good IC and strong financial performance? If not, how are you going to address that?

Moving in the right direction?

Are things moving in the right direction in your organisation? How are you helping your senior people understand the importance and value of internal communication and the difference it can make to achieving success?

If you have a story to share with other in-house practitioners, do please read my guidelines and let me know your idea if you would like to guest blog for All Things IC.


Measurement was such a hot topic at yesterday’s conference. Why is it seen to be so hard? I’m plotting future blog posts on the topic to provide more guidance and advice to help you.

Every All Things IC Masterclass I run has a measurement section and it’s always a vibrant and detailed discussion, with practitioners asking lots of excellent questions.

I was part of an unconference discussion in the afternoon focusing on measurement. I always try to sit on my hands and not jump in and solve problems, but instead listen to what practitioners are saying.

Having spent a decade in-house, I’m mindful of not being the consultant in the room at conferences – you know what I mean! – and I try really hard to bite my tongue and not do that as I know how annoying it can be.

I did get hands on at one point through 🙂

Throughout all the discussions I was thinking: “I know I’ve written about that,” “There’s definitely info on my blog to solve that” and “it doesn’t have to be so hard!”

I guess that’s what writing a blog for eight-and-half years does! Please do rummage through my content, there’s so many resources via the All Things IC blog that I’ve written in my 1100 blog posts to help you succeed. Start at the Free Resources page.

I’m going to channel all those thoughts into new blog posts to help you help yourself when it comes to internal communication measurement. Stay tuned.

View from the Chair

Congratulations to CIPR Inside Chair and my wonderful friend and one of my fellow @theICcrowd co-founders Jenni Field @mrsjennifield on the research and conference.

She says: “The voice of the internal communicator has been growing louder within the communication space, but little research has been done to understand what business leaders think about our practice. This report is the start of a new conversation – a conversation that needs to see us move from discussion between ourselves, to discussions with the leaders of the organisations we serve.

“Examining research conducted by industry experts such as VMA Group and Dr Kevin Ruck, CIPR Inside has been able to create a report that combines insights and opinions about the world of internal communication, allowing us for the first time to have a meaningful conversation about what we should be focusing on to demonstrate our value to our leaders.”

It was lovely to see Dr Kevin Ruck at the conference yesterday for a chat and catch up. We both agreed this research will be helpful to equip practitioners to have future conversations about IC with their stakeholders.

What I heard at the CIPR Inside conference

Yesterday’s annual internal communication conference from CIPR Inside was worth attending. It was a varied agenda, with case studies, unconference sessions and workshops.

It felt like a lot was packed into one day, but having spent too many days of my career sitting in conferences that didn’t inspire me, I relished the opportunity to move around, have more conversations and learn from the people around me.

I think there were about 150 practitioners in the room and the format and venue created an environment for us to participate and network. It was useful to have so many breaks and chances to change rooms.

Six things I made a note of to share with you:

I was making notes throughout the day and thought I’d share what struck me from the conversations yesterday at the CIPR Inside conference. See #makeitcount on Twitter to read more Tweets from comms pros who were in the room.

Thank you to everyone who has added to my future blog post list:

1. Internal communication and employee engagement are used interchangeably and incorrectly.

I’m going to blog about this (such a growing list!).

Why is this the case? I’m baffled that this is the case but do see it happen. I’d also add employee experience to that.

The Making it Count CIPR Inside Research Report research states:

What’s your experience? Do you see them used interchangeably?

2. There are three approaches when it comes to negotiation

Thanks to Jason Ing for his enlightening talk about negotiation tactics. I always like hearing from related disciplines at IC conferences, thank you for your session Jason.

He was sharing ideas about negotiating and compromise. These are two areas IC pros have to be proficient in. (This is why I was arm wrestling Tim Rutter, Head of Comms at Tata Steel in the pic above as it was an exercise Jason set us).

I liked this slide he shared regarding three possible approaches to negotiation. What’s your tactic?

3. Practitioners need to learn more about change

I attended the change comms session hosted by H&H Comms and had various conversations with comms pros about change – from introducing new technology, to restructures and redundancies.

It struck me looking at the reactions and note-taking from practitioners in the room that many hadn’t seen the change comms models being shared on the screen.  Another post for my list…

I’m running my next Change Comms Masterclass on 30 January 2018 in London and would love you to join me. It’s a face-to-face training course and your investment is £499+VAT. CIPR and IoIC members can save 20% and earn CPD by attending.

Nonprofit organisations can also save 20%. See my Masterclasses website to find out more about the discounts and to save your place. My Masterclasses provide you with a chance to learn comms theory, meet peers and have a safe space to get some answer to queries you’re grappling with.

What we do is incredibly visible, so do come and get help.

4. We’ve gone backwards in our understanding of technology

One of the unconference sessions I went to was about internal social media. I was surprised it see it on the list and nearly didn’t go to it. I ended up chairing the session and was surprised by the content.

It reminded me of discussions at the second The IC Crowd #thebigyak unconference back in 2014. Questions practitioners were asking were focused on social media policies, permission to Tweet and talking about different platforms.

I’ve been reflecting on those conversations and think it’s because we’re finally seeing organisations adopting social media as the norm. Or at least realising it’s not a nice-to-have, but could be a need-to-have if it has a clear purpose and business need.

Finally! Are we there?

There were lots of questions about Office365 I was able to answer and offer advice on. I’m rolling it out with a number of my clients at the moment. It reminded me I still want to write a joint blog post with my husband Jon who is a fantastic IT consultant (I’m obviously biased!).

He specialises in Office365 and helps his clients navigate through the choices, creating systems and sites that transform the way they work. I’m constantly impressed by him and love how he works. We keep combining forces to advise each other’s clients, so they have a Comms and IT approach. (Yes we have very geeky conversations at home!).

Internal social media is a topic I’ve researched for nearly a decade, I’d noticed the creep in stats of people searching my old articles. Would you like me to write something specific? Do let me know by commenting below or Tweeting me @AllthingsIC.

These blog posts will help you if you’re just starting out on that path:

5. Comms jobs are alive and well

Throughout the course of the day, five IC practitioners told me they are looking for new roles and I promised to keep my ears open for them. People also told me they have found jobs via my website, which was music to my ears.

Congratulations if that includes you and best of luck to the IC pros who told me they’ve used my website to help them prepare for upcoming interviews.

There seems to be a lot of roles around at the moment and people who are looking to move. If you’re hunting for a new role, do keep an eye on my All Things IC jobs page and @AllthingsICjobs on Twitter. You can also advertise vacancies for just £99+VAT per role per week.

If you’re looking for career advice, check out these articles:

6. You need to work on your senior exec relationships

A key theme across the day was the fact our leaders are only human. We know this, but yesterday reinforced that through lots of sessions.

I went to Alive With Ideas!’ session on empathy with leadership. It was stunning, as I would expect from Alan Oram and the team. They are seriously smart.

They’ve blogged about the session so you can discover what you missed if you weren’t in the room.

Further reading: How to connect and empathise with your senior execs.

Alan @alanhasideas says: “A key finding from the Making It Count research shows CEOs are open to dialogue with us and we need to act on this opportunity and continue to create ways to encourage regular, direct conversations.

“Clearly, the closer the connections with our Senior Execs, the better our relationships will be and when we have a fuller, deeper understanding of how they think and feel, that is when we will truly be able to demonstrate our value to our leaders.”

The final thought I’m going to leave you with is from ace comms pro Danielle Chan from Community Integrated Care who shared their Gamechangers initiative. I’ve asked Danielle to share her case study via the All Things IC blog, stay tuned for more info in due course:

Well done again CIPR Inside for an enjoyable day.

Post author: Rachel Miller

Disclosure: I was given a complimentary ticket.

Sign up to learn about internal communication

Want to learn more about internal communication? I’d love you to join me at my upcoming All Things IC Masterclasses. Search the Masterclasses website to discover full information about my one-day courses in London.

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First published on the All Things IC blog 2 November 2017. Updated 2018.



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