At a recent IC networking event, the following questions were raised for debate:
- Where should IC sit within an organisation?
- Should it still be called IC or is it time to ‘rebrand’ the function?
These are not new questions but it’s probably true that IC is currently experiencing something of an identity crisis as the adoption of social media channels within organisations increasingly blurs the lines between internal and external communications. In fact, as companies learn how to effectively assimilate social media into their communications infrastructure, it’s likely that many of the traditional IC activities may become redundant so, is time running out for IC altogether?
The response given to Q2 on the night that appeared to resonate with many in the group was that maybe we could shift perceptions of the function if our nomenclature focused less on what we do – communications – and more on why we are doing it – performance improvement. Of course, this rebrand will only be effective if it rings true otherwise it will achieve the same disbelieving derision as the job title inflation of a Toilet Cleaner to Public Hygiene Manager !
As I was researching what had been published in response to these two questions already, I came across some interesting thought pieces. One, by Communicate Magazine from February 2011, in their @Loggerheads format of an email debate explores the arguments of having IC within HR vs within a more independent Corporate Comms function. As the two proponents considered the debate in more detail, they appeared to reach consensus: “…perhaps it matters less where the hard lines are on the organisation chart, and more how effectively we can work together.”
The other item I found captured the arguments about IC’s role and the challenges it is facing to stay relevant so succinctly that, with the authors’ permission, I am reproducing the Executive Summary below but urge you to read Lane4’s White Paper entitled “Internal Communication – Is it giving your organisation the performance edge?” for yourself:
Internal Communications (IC) is increasingly being recognised as a discipline which is central to the success of many organisations. Yet a number of key tensions are preventing it from maximising its impact. Perhaps the most contentious of these is ‘where should internal communications sit?’
This question opened an evening of lively debate among a selection of invited business leaders, HR Directors and leading communications professionals at a recent Lane4 round table dinner. In this report we share some illuminating insights from the discussions ignited by this topic. We describe what we believe are the fundamental roles of IC in businesses today:
• Strategic Advisor
• Tactical Advisor
• Leadership Communications Coach and
• Change Enabler.
To maximise their impact in each of these areas fully, IC professionals need to set themselves up for success. For instance, they must enhance their credibility and scope of influence by building close relationships across the organisation, and provide robust performance data to prove their worth. We identify seven critical success factors:
• Broad and deep connectivity
• Impartiality and challenge
• Strong commercial awareness
• Supporting authentic leadership communication
• Robust measurement
• Transparency and empowerment
Instead of focusing on where IC sits, what really counts is how it can enable people and performance. IC needs the commercial awareness to warrant its role in the strategic decision-making process, representing the employee voice at the top table. Harmonisation between internal and external communications is also a necessity, due to heightened levels of connectivity and empowerment provided by social media.
Essentially, we see communications as the lifeblood of an organisation. For an organisation to thrive, communications must flow. Leaders play a crucial role in the healthy stream of communication within their organisations. By empowering and enabling effective leadership communication, IC can move towards a position of helping managers to communicate rather than managing communication.
Lane4 was co-founded in 1995 by Olympic Gold Medallist swimmer Adrian Moorhouse MBE and leading sport psychologist Professor Graham Jones. Since then it has developed into an organisation with international delivery capability and a network of associates based across the world.
The company derives its name from the lane in which Adrian Moorhouse, now Managing Director, won Gold at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. The fourth lane is the one allocated to the fastest recorded time in the heats and therefore most likely to produce champions.