CIPR President Elect – what is your view on internal comms?


Last week I approached the three candidates standing as President Elect to find out a bit more about what they think of internal comms. All three replied instantly so here are the answers from Emma Leech, Gary Taylor and Sarah Hall:

1. What do you think the role of internal comms is inside organisations  today?

Emma: Internal communications plays a critical role within organisations. We work in ever more competitive and rapidly changing environments and ensuring we attract and retain the best talent, unlock potential and ideas, and differentiate on excellent and authentic customer service are obvious wins. Less obvious is the tremendous impact that loyalty, engagement, great change management and advocacy can have across the organisation and – very pragmatically – on the bottom line.

I’m also a Fellow of the Institute of Internal Communications and as someone who has worked in the field and now manages a team in this area, I clearly identify with the importance of working with professionals who can listen to the organisation’s heartbeat and respond to it. From using local intelligence to feed into crisis communications and planning, to identifying and helping to tackle strategic business issues, or simply developing messages and campaign opportunities, internal communications has a key role to play.

Gary: The way organisations are changing, it’s more important than ever to communicate – especially change – with staff members. Your staff are the best people to explain, promote and celebrate the good work you’re doing  – they need to feel informed and part of the decision-making process. An effective internal communications strategy can help achieve this. Sadly, it’s often shunted to one side, seen as less important that the external  communications function or just as the trickle-down of information from the Management Team, at a pace and in a form that suits them, not the staff.

Sarah: Internal comms (IC) is critical for two reasons: there’s an increasing expectation for organisations to be open and transparent; and organisations are striving to become social. The shift to social organisations is a huge opportunity for IC. Figuring out how to move from command and control management, to a more open, networked organisation is a big job and requires a specialist skillset. It’s an issue that will continue play out for IC over the next generation. Although there is much being said about employee advocacy, the notion of employees as advocates won’t sit comfortably with me until the relationship between the organisation and employee is equitable. While this plays out however, the opportunity to use modern platforms such as Facebook at Work, Slack and Yammer as a means of engagement, is a huge opportunity for anyone working within this area.

2. Where do you think CIPR can improve how it supports internal comms  people?

Emma: I think we could start by responding proactively to the Inside Group’s agenda. I’ve been amazed at how vibrant and collegiate the Group is and the support of the recent #thebigyak event is a great example of the energy and fresh thinking the Group has to offer. We could learn a lot from that as an Institute. I would want your ideas on how we could provide better training, develop the Diploma, and support professionals in the field. I think there’s a job to be done in actively promoting the very real and financial benefits of great internal communications that will help raise the profile and value of practitioners. I think it’s also important for the CIPR to help support members better as part of their career journey to ensure that internal communications colleagues don’t hit roadblocks in terms of progression which can be a real issue.

Gary: By creating, encouraging and acting as a platform for greater engagement between internal communications practitioners /specialists. There’s a huge body of untapped knowledge that events such as #thebigyak help to release. But too many practitioners – in all areas, not just internal – are left to work on their own, at the mercy of what  non-practitioners think is ‘right’. We should be there for them with something they can point to, a source of good practice and latest thinking.

Sarah: Internal comms is an important public relations discipline and it rightly continues to grow in stature as understanding grows of what it can achieve.

The CIPR has a powerful opportunity at its fingertips.

  1. To enhance its own internal comms between HQ, board, council, groups and members, using the knowledge and expertise within its membership
  2. To support the growing number of internal comms practitioners and better serve them with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed
  3. To celebrate this expanding body of knowledge and practice

As President-Elect, I’d strive to make the CIPR a best practice model for how IC can transform organisations. I’d look to help IC professionals communicate the value of their work to employers and demonstrate return on investment.

Finally I’d make this burgeoning area of the industry a key aspect of the 70th anniversary celebrations in 2018. It’s an important area of public relations and there are some excellent people within the membership pioneering the way.

3. With all your experience what is your key advice to those working in  internal comms?

Emma: My advice to colleagues is to engage, enjoy, learn and make change happen. When you’re closest to an organisation’s issues, you’re often closest to the solutions. Listening is everything. Using that insight to deliver real strategic value is a major strength. Some of the best campaigns I’ve ever been involved with have been internal communications led – a simple conversation that sparked a big idea, change project, recruitment or fundraising idea. We often make the mistake in PR of believing our own hype – great internal communicators bring challenge to that and a truly authentic organisational perspective. That kind of insight is gold dust in business today – sprinkle it wisely!

Gary: You are the communications professional. You do this every day. Depending on your relative position within the organisation it can feel daunting to have to say to the higher-ups “you’re wrong on this” – but your organisation’s reputation (as well as your own) relies on good, professional communications.

Sarah: Internal comms practitioners have an incredibly exciting opportunity. As the C-Suite looks to public relations professionals to make sense of the changing world around them and manage reputation, the value placed on practitioners is growing. I’d urge all IC practitioners to focus on their continuous professional development (CPD). It’s critical to demonstrating your worth in organisational terms. Finally, collaborate to share best practice (as already happens through fantastic initiatives like The Big Yak) and lobby your industry bodies for support in educating employers and the business community about the incredible work you do.

4 thoughts on “CIPR President Elect – what is your view on internal comms?

  • Reblogged this on CIPR Inside and commented:
    It’s election time at CIPR, and Jenni Field, past chair and current committee secretary is standing for council.She took time out to find out how the presidential candidates view internal communication. Over to Jenni:

  • Interesting divergence od views here. I would summarise these in one word for each answer.
    1. Talent v Staff v Advocates
    2. Listen v Inform v Network
    3. Challenge v Communicafe v Collaborate
    Emmas Talent, Listen and Challenge perspective gets my vote for understanding IC the most.

    The only area of convergence is #thebigyak which is slightly worrying. I have no doubt those that attend the #bigyak have a great time pouring over their goody bags provided by commercial sponsors and find the support group mentality cathartic but is that a model for a professional association? I recall my first CIPR Inside conference over a decade ago when the chair promised an event that wouldnt degrade into the normal “support group ” or the “poor relations” in comms that all IC events seemed to resort to. Does CIPR really want to go back to those days?

    • Hi Sean,

      Just picked up your tweets and seen your reply above. We don’t know each other and I don’t wish to sound rude but I suspect that all three candidates mentioned #bigyak because so many interesting points came through on Twitter just before we were asked to comment for this blog (I was travelling at the time and it was hard to miss it).

      I would also say that from what I have seen of the CIPR Inside Group and judging by the feedback from those attending the event mentioned, I/C professionals are on the front foot, full of energy and great ideas, not afraid to challenge and extremely committed. The event took place on a Saturday. I’d say that equals professional commitment at a level even the nicest of goody bags couldn’t inspire. It doesn’t smack of support group mentality either to me.

      If you’ve not attended another I/C event in ten years, it might be time to sample what the profession is actually doing and where it is going. There is much to be respected and admired and like all areas of our profession, currency is everything.

      • Yes Emma I do need to get out more. I’ve never attended or organised an event for 10 years and I am so out of touch with the IC professionand whats hot at the moment. Good to see you are on the ball though.

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