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.

Why I will continue to support CIPR – if elected!

I have been part of the CIPR team for a number of years, supporting Council and the Inside group as they continue to strive for greatness in our profession. I believe in the power of communication and I believe in the integrity of PR.

I have worked in communication for over 10 years and have spent most of my career in-house. I have covered advertising, defence, retail and more recently pharmaceutical industries focussing on both internal and external communication. I believe the two are intrinsically linked but are fundamentally different. I see my role in CIPR as being a voice of the in-house comms professional – ensuring the professional development is right for everyone and that internal communications is recognised as a standalone communications skill.

I believe the members of CIPR deserve to be kept informed, updated and engaged in the work that we do and that they should be connected to each other in a way that fosters collaboration and development. As professionals it is our duty to make sure we are delivering world-class communications and PR for the organisations we serve and we can only do this through using the power of the network we have. As a collective group we will be able to raise the profile of communications and PR and what it can do for business, and we can raise the standards that we operate in. I want us to build a great and respected membership organisation that brings ethics, integrity, respect, diversity and engagement to the fore.

I want to continue to serve our members by sitting on Council, sitting on the Professional Development and Membership Committee (PDMC) and working with the Inside group so that I can be the bridge between those working in house and those setting the standards. I will listen, I will support and I will make the time to ensure that CIPR is serving all our members in what they need to become the best communications and PR professional they can be.

Why internal communicators need a voice with CIPR

Next week the CIPR opens the elections for Council. As Chair of CIPR Inside I currently sit on the Council but things are changing and this now needs to be a position that is voted in. So I need your help, if you’re a CIPR member then please get voting – to help, here is a little bit about why I think you should vote for me!

Who am I and why should you vote for me?

  • I’m an experienced internal communicator championing the role that internal communication plays in adding value to organisations
  • I believe internal communicators should have their voices heard
  • I want to continue to raise the standards of professional development across all disciplines. CPD must be relevant to members, employers and clients
  • I want to make information from CIPR Inside easier to find, trusted and valued
  • I want us to work together to define how we measure and link to business performance. CIPR has already delivered guidance through its work with AMEC and I want to see more work like this, aligned to the internal communications profession, which will support it becoming a reality
  • I want to inspire a generation into the profession

Who I am

I’m Chair of CIPR Inside and have been involved with the group for a number of years as a committee member and Treasurer. I work in London as Head of Internal Communication but have held both Internal Communication and PR roles, both in-house and agency with a mixture of public and private sector.

I’m passionate about internal communication and what it can help businesses achieve, which is why I co-founded The IC Crowd 18 months ago. I value professional development, recently completing the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma.
My link to the CIPR

CIPR Inside is the voice of internal communication within CIPR, a group that makes an impact on our industry and the professionals within it. With a voice on the Council, we can make sure internal communications is part of the conversation about professionalism, development and ethics. We will be there when decisions are made about the future of CIPR and how it adapts to meet our members’ needs.

I’ve been involved with CIPR Inside for a number of years, before becoming Chair in March. We’ve focussed the Committee on specialist subjects and events, and at our conference in October I’m planning to launch a three-year strategy.
What I can do for the industry

I believe there’s a fundamental difference between PR and internal communication, but that doesn’t mean that the two aren’t intrinsically linked. CIPR is the professional body to champion this link. Working together, we can make sure that internal communication stays at the top of the agenda for our senior teams and they understand the power of getting it right.

I want to inspire people to work in communications and engage members to help them navigate their careers. I want to make sure that organisations understand that value, and use CIPR as a mark to find a professional who can deliver what they need.

The voting process

Following a period of nomination, a list of candidates has been released, and between 1 September and 22 September, voting on these seats gets underway. Every member has two votes, a first and second vote.

Changing behaviour for better business

This year the CIPR inside conference is all about changing behaviours. When I took over the role of Chair back in March I knew that being in house gave a me a different view on things from my agency predecessors and I wanted to bring some of my challenges forward.

Over the years my role has changed, not just in the role I’m in now but ever since I started in the world of communications 10 years ago.

When I consider the challenges I face today they include:

– Leadership buy in

– Making sure the communication has an impact and does what the business needs it to do

– Managing culture change

But these challenges change as the business changes so while the second point is a big one for me at the moment I wasn’t sure if it would be for everyone. That’s where having a great committee comes in and as we thrashed out the skeleton of the conference I realised I wasn’t alone. It really dawned on me when I met with an agency who showed me a great campaign. Their measurement was the number of people who understood the message and felt engaged with it. I found myself asking so what? There must have been business drivers behind the campaign so let’s get that in as the measurement.

And so my thinking and my plan for CIPR inside started to evolve.

As a committee we decided to shake up the traditional format. We want to bring the case studies in but we also want to bring in elements of an unconference and give people a chance to share and talk about their stories.

This year our conference hinges around this. We have a keynote speaker to get our minds working and then four lightning talks from various people across the business. Talking about digital, measurement and more all aligned to how it changes behaviours. The plan is to use this content to spark discussion and give all delegates the chance to go and talk in groups about these topics before lunch.

After plenty of discussion, lunch networking with peers and our sponsors we then go into a few great case studies, some leading research and a panel discussion.

I want this day to be fun, informal and informative. We all face challenges that change from time to time but none that others haven’t faced before. Spending a day out of the office and with people who do the same as you is one of my favourite ways to learn and benchmark my activities.

So will you be joining us on 2 October?

Why aren’t we called Internal PR?

Today I attended my second CIPR Council meeting at CIPR HQ in Russell Square in my role as Chairwoman for CIPR Inside. I haven’t talked much about my role here (I plan to do more of that soon) but today we had some interesting discussion about the PR industry – what is wrong with the image and how we can change it.

After some discussion around some recent high profile cases, the conversation was starting to really consider what the challenges are for PR’s in today’s world. As the blurring of the lines between internal and external is on our agenda I wanted to know if they saw this as something that was on their radar too.

What was interesting was the discussion that followed, and I subsequently took to Twitter, around why we have communication in our departments and titles. Someone also suggested we should just be internal PR rather than internal communications.

Well, you certainly didn’t like that….

This just reinforces the reputation that PR has. The fact a group of people so closely linked to the industry don’t want to be associated with it speaks volumes.

What surprised me in the room was the conversation around management consultants and their role in the PR space. There was a fear that they could step into the shoes of a PR person  because they can “speak the language of the board”. This is not something I think any person in the world of communication should worry about – they should simply develop themselves and adapt to be able to do the same. I don’t see any value in worrying about something that is in your circle of influence (to quote Stephen Covey). Learning the language of business is one thing every internal communicator has to do and I thought the same of my colleagues focussing on the external side.

So when I took to Twitter again to ask what the perceptions were of PR and how we differed. It was lovely to see such succinct reasons for why we shouldn’t be called internal PR and why what we do is so different…

So with the debate no doubt far from over, we closed the discussion  to look at how we can improve PR’s reputation and the overall industry. There were lots of ideas around working with universities to make sure the courses are really fit for purpose as well as just getting on with the job and doing what we do well, ensuring that over time that old reputation will disappear.

With internal comms suffering similar challenges around its purpose, where it adds value and one of my biggest challenges which is the different levels you can have IC operating at in different organisation – we are all in this together to improve the perception of all communication disciplines.

But I can’t see myself ever being in “Internal PR”…

PR and Internal Comms; the debate goes on…

At yesterday’s PR Academy summer drinks, CIPR president elect Stephen Waddington took to the stage to talk about social, digital and all things comms.

Unsurprisingly the debate about whether PR and Internal Comms are the same thing came up again. This debate has been running for a long time and as the lines between the two continue to blur it is no surprise it is a question that is being asked more at the moment.

Editorial management, listening and stakeholder understanding are all things that give PR a USP, according to the discussions last night. And I would have to say that I think is exactly what internal comms is about as well.

Our biggest issue with this debate is that the role of internal communications is so varied across industries and countries that it is impossible to compare the two. PR has a much longer history and therefore has evolved further… Until we can operate to the same level across more companies we will never be able to confirm or deny if it is the same.

Should it be more joined up? Absolutely! More so now than ever before. As social becomes more embedded in our culture people publicly talk about their company and what is happening, they are more informed and informed quicker than ever before. Just last week colleagues, including me, found out about a big change in senior leadership through the press! So let’s be more joined up but let’s also respect each others disciplines.

The essence of what we do is the same and the skills required to do the jobs are also very similar. But I am here to take everyone on the same journey. To make sure that people understand why we do what we do and help them be part of it.

I have always believed we communicate to inform and/or to change behaviour and this probably is the same for PR. I don’t think one is more important than the other but the subtle differences in audience needs and business objectives has to be respected on both sides… Internal Comms should not be the poor relation to PR nor should it be seen as not as important… All stakeholders require our attention, and those working to put money in the till and drive growth deserve the same, if not more attention than those people you want to sell too.

Diary of a diploma: Day three

Despite snow, wind and rain everyone made it to class on Saturday 23 March for discussions around planning, branding, employee voice, persuasion and internal social media.

We were joined by Juliet Earp who talked us through her case study with HSBC and Tom Crawford from The Brain Miner who discussed engaging with brands and also the importance of our own personal brands in business.

I have really struggled to keep up with the reading this time. I think as work gets busier you use any downtime you get to just relax and and get some head space, using that time to read and learn just hasn’t been feasible. Still, this is why I chose the face to face course. After 4 hours in class the bug is back and I’m really starting to get excited about my paper now.

Planning

We started the day looking at planning and discussed the CIPR Inside Measurement Matrix and the RADAR model designed by Kevin Ruck: Research, Assess, Decide, Act, Review. A simple but effective model that demonstrates what we should be doing as we work through our comms challenges. Measurement is high on my agenda for next year so this is really relevant for me at the moment. As I start to explore what to measure and how to map this to stakeholders the tools we are talking about throughout the diploma are really helping.

Employee Voice

Employee Voice is a real buzzword at the moment. For me, it should be part of the conversation and dialogue that internal comms facilitates so it was great to hear how HSBC are integrating it into the business.  Once a quarter they have asked managers to swap a normal team meeting for an ‘exchange’. This is where the manager or team leader says nothing, there is no agenda and the people are allowed to talk about issues, challenges or give feedback on everything. I love this idea and will be looking at how we can use a similar method in our business.

Branding

From channel champs to brand builders was the topic before and after lunch. Tom used to work at EON so he took us through his challenge and how he overcame it. It was great to hear from someone talking about communicating with people who are are offline and hard to reach – there were some great ideas:

  • Using audio and video for team briefs and senior leader profiling
  • Sending magic tree car air fresheners to the guys in the vans with the phone number to listen to the audio cascades
  • Using a more intelligent conference call system where everyone can dial in and ask the CEO or the board a question. Managed through a moderator and with people being able to speak managed throughout the call this seemed so simple yet so effective
  • Use of storytelling to engage people with the strategy
  • A strong team of one internal comms person per thousand employees – something I think every department struggles with
  • Changing meeting rooms to be customer spaces. For EON this was different rooms in a house, with products in use throughout the room

As the role of the internal communicator changes our personal brand in the business needs to be considered. I’m often guilty of letting frustrations air in public and being impatient with the speed at which we can affect change.

“A brand is what people say about you after you’ve left the room” – Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon

So it is time to think about my own brand and what I stand for. Not just what my career says about me but what is important in my life – something we probably don’t share enough. Tom also gave an example of where the internal comms team should have their own ambition/mission to give them a sense of branding:

“Through sustaining pride and belief in this organisation we will ensure colleagues feel inspired to do their best work and advocate for our brand, right when we need it most.”

As we start to look at what our personal brand says, and the brand of the department we also need to consider the roles that we play in our businesses:

  • The court jester – telling the truth and being a bit different to the norm
  • The Gok Wan – offering advice on what clothes, appearance etc. are appropriate and when a suit just isn’t ok
  • The Mystic Meg – looking outside the business and determining the effect that will have on our business and our people
  • The spin doctor – the role that will never go away but is not our main focus
  • The psychologist – understanding people

Internal social media and persuasion

We ended the day with a quick look at internal social media, persuasion and ethics. We looked at the four types of digital culture: Closet communicators, co-creators, controlled communicators and constrained communicators. Great to start looking at some theory around such a hot topic.

So as persuasion and ethics ended the day it became clear that being a credible communicator is the way forward. Showing expertise, trustworthiness and goodwill are all traits we should be demonstrating, everyday.

So as day three closed, the plans for the project start to take shape even more and it’s time to seriously hit the books and write this literature review!