As a tool to enable employee engagement, internal communication is a vital component of organizational success. However, it’s frequently the more high-profile external communicators who receive greater attention, focus and bigger budgets than their internal communications cousins.This article focuses on the key skills needed by the internal comms professional that enable them to “pitch” their programs as well as possible, with as much “impact” as possible to get the support of their senior leaders. This ensures internal comms is appropriately factored into, and budgeted for, as a central component of organizational strategy.
For any professional to create the personal impact they need for their ideas to be bought into, they need to be able to generate a perception of three key values. These are the “magic” Three C’s that all dynamic and influential communicators need to have.
This trinity of qualities must all be satisfied in the eyes of key stakeholders to gain their attention, buy-in and resources.
When representing ideas to senior stakeholders, you need to have demonstrated your ability to do your job well. You need to continue to consistently demonstrate your competence, to ensure it is perceived as a constant. A fatal mistake that people often make is thinking that competence is something they feel they attain by experience and qualifications alone. Wrong. Competence needs constant nurturing.
The perception of your competence can be undermined by a lack of knowledge of a current situation. This often comes from a lack of adequate preparation, resulting in an inability to answer a question or questions key stakeholders would consider “obvious” – ones they would expect you to be able to answer. This leads them to either (a) outwardly question your knowledge or, (b) think it inwardly and quietly decide not to take your advice.
How to ensure you can always appear competent in the eyes of key stakeholders:
- Ensure you have the relevant qualifications and experience and that this is referenced where necessary.
- Keep up to date with industry advances and keep learning to remain an “expert” in your field.
- Prepare thoroughly for stakeholder meetings. Always think through all potential questions that may arise, in addition to the predictable, and have comprehensive answers prepared in advance.
Credibility comes from one thing and one thing only – delivery. The old saying of “doing exactly what it says on the tin” is 100% true here. Of utmost importance is consistently delivering on what you say you are going to do, and people knowing you have achieved the targets you set.
But it’s also important to remember that you can be completely competent, yet lack credibility in the eyes of a key stakeholder because they don’t know who you are, or what you have done. It’s necessary for you to network and find natural opportunities to share your projects and the value they bring.
The term “self-promotion” has got a bad press because of people who go about it in an egotistical way, but it is critically important to build your visibility and enable people to be aware of the value you (and your projects) bring.
How to ensure you have credibility in the eyes of key stakeholders:
- Make sure all projects have measurable goals and that they are tracked, recorded and broadcast, so relevant people are aware of the value they have brought.
- Network internally within your organization. When you attend meetings with senior executives, always ensure you are armed with a great elevator pitch of your relevant achievements if asked what you are working on.
- When looking for engagement in a new project, think about what previous similar, successful projects you can reference that would give you credibility in the current project.
Competence and credibility are a great start, but unless you can also be perceived as confident in high-pressure situations, your competence and credibility will be questioned. Research continually points to public speaking and presentations as being one of the most common phobias. You can be perfectly competent and credible in the eyes of key stakeholders, but if you display nervous behaviors in a presentation, or even a “round table” discussion, your overall “impact” can fall.
The confidence part of the three C’s is often the portion that scuppers the efforts of many professionals. This is not because they don’t know what they are talking about, but because they get (inaccurately) perceived as not knowing what they are talking about and their ideas and proposals not getting the resources they should.
Key stakeholders will often completely overlook the fact that it is the presentation environment that is making you act in a nervous way and assume (wrongly), that you are not confident in what you are saying. It has been a painful reality for many of my clients over the years, which is why I have built up a wide array of tools to boost confidence.
Here are my Top Three:
How to boost your confidence in high-pressure meeting or presentation environments:
- One of the core factors in calming nerves is knowing you are well prepared and rehearsed. Carve out adequate time to prepare properly, so you can generate confidence from knowing your approach.
- Breathe. Seriously! Breathe in deeply in the moments leading up to you speaking. Inhale fully before you start speaking – and also between sentences. It’s a natural reaction to hold our breath and shallow breathe when we are nervous. This speeds up the heart and makes mistakes more likely, as the brain is not getting as much oxygen as it needs to be fully functional.
- In the build-up to a key meeting, watch what psychologists call your “inner voice” – i.e. how we talk about ourselves, to ourselves. We can generate massive nervousness by telling ourselves we are not confident in what we are doing, or we can conversely charge up our confidence by telling ourselves we are confident in what we are doing.
But for this to work, it MUST be preceded by the relevant amount of preparation and planning. Telling ourselves in our head we will be successful without the relevant amount of preparation isn’t confidence, it’s arrogance and that is often followed by massive failure.