OPINION: SUZANNE PECK ON THE IOIC'S NATIONAL CONFERENCE
The question of whether internal communications will be relevant – or even exist – in 20 years led to a thought-provoking session at the IoIC’s national conference. Suzanne Peck, and her colleagues, shouted ‘Yes, it will,’ but backing that up with actions she says, is more important
ill internal communications exist in 20 years’ time? I think this year’s IoIC conference probably broke the IC Twittersphere with one particular session that shared some deliberately provocative statements about what IC is today, and discussed what it should be by 2039.
There were statements like, “If you want to be a writer, you’re living in the past,” “Stop saying ‘yes’ to leaders, you’re betraying your employees,” and, “Digital can’t replace the value of face-to-face communication.” Intense conversations, sharp intakes of breath and frantic tweeting all round.
During the session, the 170 plus IC professionals in the room pretty much agreed that we’re currently being asked to do more with less resource, time and budget and that we’re asked to be an expert in more things than ever before, and in different things each year.
When asked what’s the unique value of IC today, comments included: “We get more insight than everyone else,” “We help decide what’s important for our colleagues to hear about and the channels to use,” “The perspective we have. We hear the strategic stuff, but we’re also joined to the frontline. We have the ability to get to the core of the complex,” “The influence we have as trusted advisers,” “We’re the empathy team, the listening team. People tell us things. We can make amazing things happen.”
How can this uniqueness be built on to ensure that IC is as relevant, if not more relevant, in 20 years’ time?
IoIC CEO Jennifer Sproul put it perfectly in her closing speech at the conference, saying, internal communications has never been in a better position and it feels like this is a key moment for us to emerge as a critical business function that’s adding value against a backdrop of chaotic change. Being considered ‘business critical’ comes down to three key priorities.
First, we should be sharing our expert communications skills, especially with leaders and management. How can we help them recognise great IC, and coach and enable them to be better? We need to see them communicating information that’s relevant and timely, not creating more noise.
For example, we shouldn’t be ghost writing blogs for leaders. Employees really want to read authentic, credible and trustworthy comms that genuinely come from leadership. Check for grammar and spelling of course, but over-editing that masks the voice isn’t our job.
Second, we have a critical role to play in taking the agenda of employee performance and productivity forward at a time when employee engagement is more important than ever. IC professionals are really good at breaking down complex information. We’re skilled at wrapping up, reminding people about – and connecting them to – organisational direction and stories. As good communicators, we can seek out the ways to facilitate and power conversations and collaboration in our organisations.
And finally, there’s a real value in internal communicators being ‘the voice’ of the organisation. Internal communicators are in a unique position. We seamlessly flit between all levels of an organisation and we should be asking questions of those we meet about what people want from IC, how can it help them do their jobs better, what can be improved?
Listening to people and using the skills we have to digest, share what’s relevant and to shape and influence is a special gift. If IC does exist in 20 years’ time – and I’m firmly in the ‘yes, we will’ camp – it’ll be because of the work done over the past 75 years and being built on now to professionalise IC, by people who are in it for the special opportunities it brings and the talented people it needs.
Suzanne Peck is president of the IoIC