Advocating for internal comms—how to demonstrate your value as a communicator
Everybody wants to be valued—it’s simply human nature. And although the pandemic has provided many internal communicators with an opportunity to demonstrate their value to members of the leadership team, it appears there is still a disconnect between the perceived value of IC between the two groups.
In late 2020, we launched our Drive Internal Communications Assessment™, an online survey designed to uncover which areas of internal communications an organization is strong in and where it has room for improvement. The results were so helpful (over 400 people have taken the report!) we realized we just had to share them—that’s why we just released a new report based on the results. Assessing Internal Communications: How IC Underdogs Can Become Leaders of the Pack details the challenges those hundreds of other communicators face at work, and our advice for tackling the common roadblocks.
Please keep reading for a high-level overview of what we learned, and don’t forget to read the full report!
Support from the leadership team makes a world of difference
Let’s start with an interesting finding: the more senior an employee is, the lower they are likely to rate their organization’s internal communication activity. This is particularly evident among members of the C-Suite, who don’t look favourably upon internal comms metrics and strategy in particular.
Historically, members of our industry have had to battle for influence and validation within their organization, as is the case for most fledgling disciplines. Trust and recognition are earned, and the proof is always in the pudding, but having the backing of the leadership team accelerates this process; if the top dogs are seen to value the contributions of the internal communications team, other members of the organization are sure to follow.
So how do you improve the perception of IC among your organization’s leadership? We found two of the key drivers behind the C-suite’s lower rating of internal communications were in the strategy and metrics principles. Naturally, these areas are significant for business leaders—their main role is to determine the strategic direction of the organization, so understanding how each business unit contributes to this is of great concern. And how is this contribution demonstrated? Usually through some form and metrics and reporting. To put it plainly: establish how as a communicator, you can contribute to your organization’s strategic objectives, carry out the activities that do so, and then demonstrate the impact of that activity through metrics and reporting… easy!
Let’s start with strategy. Internal communications are a supporting function. Like HR, internal communicators aren’t directly responsible for the core business activities of an organization, so it’s unlikely their activity will show up in organizational objectives. However, when working effectively, they do contribute to the success of other business units like Sales and Operations, so developing an understanding of how communication activity can elevate the performance of other areas, and demonstrating that contribution, is the way forward.
The best way to understand how you can do this? Talk to people! If an area of your organization has a large part to play in the delivery of a strategic objective, spend time with members of that team at all levels, talk about the challenges they’re facing, and try to establish a way you can help through communications activity. When considering what you can do, the important thing is to keep asking yourself, “How does this help us achieve our goal?” This type of consultative approach helps to move you from an order-taking role (“We need you to send an all-staff email.”) to be a strategic partner (“How can you help us solve this problem?”).
Mastering the art of internal comms metrics
Next up is metrics—an area that has stumped many internal communicators for a long time. In today’s digital workplace, it isn’t easy to gather any meaningful metrics without a digital tool to help you, whether it’s an intranet platform (such as IC Thrive’s own software, Source) or a communications platform (such as IC Thrive’s Reach). Having something that can capture metrics is the first hurdle, but knowing which metrics to focus and report on is the next one.
Metrics generally fall into three categories:
- Inputs – What you do: the number of emails you send, the number of intranet articles you posted, or the number of events you held are all examples. Inputs are easy to measure but aren’t really of much interest outside of your team and effectively providing a way of keeping track of what you do.
- Outputs – The reaction to your activity: your email open rate, article reads, and event attendance are all examples. Outputs are where your digital tools come in handy and provide insight into how effective your approach is at getting your messaging in front of your audience.
- Outcomes – The impact of your activity: things like increased levels of understanding, registration figures for the new tool you promoted, or the benefits that tool offers to your organization. Outcomes are the best way to demonstrate your value to leadership but are the most difficult to measure.
Using these three types of metrics to measure the activity you’ve established will help other business areas deliver against corporate objectives is a sure-fire way to demonstrate your value to the leadership team. Of course, you can’t take all the credit for the success of another department, but by clearly demonstrating how you have helped them, you can prove your worth. Once word gets out that you’ve helped one area of the business, other areas will pay attention and should be keen to get your help as well.
These are just some ways you can help other business areas understand the value of internal communications. For a more in-depth look at internal comms strategy, metrics and our other 7 principles, register for our free online Internal Communications Bootcamp course or check out our Assessing Internal Communications report.