AB Thinks  →  7th November 2017

The inside story

AB Thinks

As a ‘noob’ at AB, internal communications (IC) is a very fresh world for me.

I’m a journalist of 10 years, but if you’d said ‘IC’ to me a few months ago, I’d have stared blankly at you.

So I decided to throw myself in at the deep end in my first few weeks and attend the recent CIPR Inside Conference to get the inside scoop.

And it was a great day. Varied speakers, loads of discussions about the challenges of the profession and something called an ‘unconference’ – it‰’s a bit like ‘Question Time’, except everyone in the room is both the audience and the panel.

There were a few things that especially struck me about my new world order.

Most obviously: people who spend their lives communicating to diverse groups of people, from the CEO to frontline staff, are just deeply lovely people.

These are also professionals who are eager to be better at their jobs, raring to find new ways to speak to their audiences in as many different formats as possible. And that was inspiring to be around as someone who tells stories for a living.

But the one thing that did really surprise me, however, was how some people working in internal communications had a bit of a crisis of confidence.

Many delegates I met were caught up justifying their role, the value they bring to their organisations and even defining what internal communications actually means.

This all seemed very strange to me. You don’t see people in HR, marketing or finance sitting around talking philosophically about their ‘purpose’.

And I joked that it’s certainly the opposite viewpoint in journalism, where we start with a superiority complex, and then work backwards.

But being serious for a moment, this unanticipated inferiority complex seems at odds with the vital job these expert communicators perform day in, day out.

As the CIPR’s excellent ‘Making it Count’ report revealed, 92 per cent of senior leadership either understand, are on board with or appreciate the importance of internal communications. So perhaps it’s finally time to stop worrying?

They get the link between good internal communication and strong financial performance. And CEOs acknowledge the difficulty of measuring the effectiveness of internal communication as a contributing factor of engagement and culture.

The day finished with a talk from Danielle Chan who shared her story of launching ‘game changer’, an initiative at Community Integrated Care. This was an idea that not only embraced the power of employee voice, but changed the company forever.

As a profession anxious to define itself, that idea seems like a good starting point.