IC HUB

Guest blog: how to be a real IC pro

February 20, 2017

Sean Williams, owner of Communication AMMO and managing consultant for True Digital Communications, blogs about why measurement is the key to better IC for your business.

We shouldn’t need to say it. As internal communicators, we’re one of the few in an organisation who can take the pulse of the firm. Even in our editorial roles, we talk to people all the time.

We (hopefully) know the business, its goals, challenges, strengths. We understand leadership’s priorities and how communication can help move them forward.

We’re the experts. You might say that in some ways, we need to change how we approach our work. We have to change as professionals.

We need to make decisions based on facts and data, not conjecture and conventional wisdom. That takes research.

I’m not saying it all has to be quantitative, academically bullet-proof (though that doesn’t hurt), but we’re the only ones who can bring employee intelligence forward to the leadership.

We need to find the balance between just executing and doing proper outreach, judging the effectiveness of our messaging, channels, tools and techniques.

Imagine a conversation with your boss like this:

Boss – What’s happening with our employees?

You – We got 400 hits on our strategy story last week!

Boss – So?

You – Uhhhhhh.

Been there? It should be more like this:

Boss – What’s happening with our employees?

You – We got a lot of comments on the strategy story. Most were OK, but a couple of them make me think we need to test some other ways of explaining the strategy to make it more relevant to more people. I followed up with a couple of calls to some people, and I have some ideas about what to do differently.

B – Tell me more!

Sean Williams
Sean Williams

That’s a different dynamic. We need more research up front, more evaluation during our communication activities, and more measurement afterwards to connect with business objectives.

I know internal commsters are totally slammed, but this is about being a serious business person. No other department gets away with ignoring this vital discipline.

The fact is that the ‘traditional’ IC person – the ex-journalist who primarily is a writer/editor, who has little experience within the operations of the business, and/or whose educational background is outside the business world – may be considered an endangered species.

In the US, IC is usually part of HR, PR, or occasionally the legal department. There is little professional education focused on the strategic assets of IC, except for the Corporate Executive Board (which now offers the IC Black Belt programme begun by Melcrum).

There still is too much emphasis on the ‘tools’ of IC – enterprise social networks, intranets, SharePoint and the like – and not enough on the research, measurement and evaluation that tests connections between employee communication effectiveness and business results.

Here are three things that I believe all IC people should focus on right away:

1. Brush up your research skills. We need not become statisticians, but we should gain familiarity with the common measures at the output level – and test the connections to both communication outcomes and to business impact. These can be quantitative and/or qualitative. Take a class, for heaven’s sake. Then do some interviews, convene some focus groups, send out a SurveyMonkey – and use the data to change and improve your plans.

2. Do a time study. Take a hard look at what you and your team are doing day to day. Which activities contribute most significantly to organisational objectives? Which don’t? Stop doing things that don’t add value. Of course, this is a difficult road to drive – but you can refocus on higher value-added activities. The proof will be in the pudding.

3. Ask more questions. We need to understand what is changing, or needs to change, in our organisation. We need to know what we’re trying to accomplish, the objectives and goals of those changes. Ask ‘why?’ What are the reasons behind the decisions we’re making? And, not least, what is the effect on our people? The easy acronym is CORE – it’s what our people want to know about virtually everything.

If we dedicate ourselves to these three tasks, we’ll be well on the way to becoming the IC pros of the future.