Written by Joanne McCarthy, originally published on the Newsweaver blog on October 13, 2016.
One of the most striking results from Newsweaver’s recent Inside IC survey was that four out of ten internal communicators find it difficult to get support from senior leadership.
It’s a disconcerting statistic: if 40% of IC professionals aren’t getting support from senior management, it will inevitably be very difficult to justify spending time and resources on internal communications campaigns. What’s even more demoralizing is that without the support and respect of senior leadership, the role and worth of the IC function is devalued and dismissed.
Of course, seasoned IC practitioners (and an increasing number of others) know how instrumental good internal communications are to the entire organization. They appreciate the link between IC and employee engagement; between IC and staff morale; between IC and the overall productivity and growth of a company. But how do we communicate that to those senior managers that do not see IC’s value?
The issue came up again during our webinar on the interim survey results, which featured guest host David Grossman, and industry thought leaders Angela Sinickas, Sam Marshall and Steve Crescenzo.
Following the webinar, the panel answered questions from listeners. One such question asked for advice on influencing senior leaders who themselves are disengaged/indifferent towards becoming IC champions.
The responses were insightful and practical.
Speaking in response to the question, David Grossman said: “Chances are you’re not helping them solve their biggest challenges and/or performance issues, which is why you’re getting that reaction. If you were, they’d be paying attention.
“Find out what their biggest performance issues are where communications can have a positive impact, and work with them on that,” he continued.
International management consultant Angela Sinickas agreed with him. She offered the following practical advice:
“At least once a year, sit down with each leader to identify what their KPIs for the year are. Also ask them for their evaluation of how they have been able to use communications in the past year.
“Go back to your office and strategize ways that communication can help them achieve one of the KPIs faster, better, cheaper. Schedule a second meeting to ‘pitch’ how you can help them succeed. Often you find a champion when he/she is in a crisis situation and you can be their savior. Then they tell all their peers about your value.”
The panel responses were interesting. Rather than lay the blame at the feet of senior management, and bemoaning the fact that they don’t appreciate or support the IC function, or indeed suggesting that you dump a load of stats about the value of IC on their desk, they recommend putting the onus back on the IC practitioners. Showing senior leadership how you can help them by listening to their communications woes, and finding a way to fix them.
The panel also agreed that communications professionals need more and better understanding of how businesses run.
According to David Grossman: “I completely agree. We need to understand our business as well as senior leaders do.”
Angela Sinickas added: “Absolutely. Senior leaders say that as well.”
If IC professionals are to get that much-coveted seat at the top table, they need to earn it. If they want to see their yearly budgets increase, they need to show their worth. There are a lot of ways to do that: some easier than others. But understanding how the business runs and doing something to help make a positive change, no matter how small, is a very good start.