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Belinda Gannaway

Heading for the Iceberg – Why Internal Communications Matter More Than Ever

The challenges facing organisations at the moment give internal communications professionals a critical role. As author and CIPR keynote speaker Max McKeown suggested last week, internal communicators could be key to preventing, minimising and predicting the ‘what the fuck moments’.

Why? Because they have the ability to start meaningful conversations and to get voices heard.  And, as  David MacLeod of the Engage for Success Task Force and Nita Clarke of the IPA explained, when you have free-flowing conversations there’s no need for whistleblowers. Everyone, everyday sees it as their job to raise objections and voice concerns about the course the organisation is on.

The problem is that right now there aren’t enough of these people with the right power. So the alarm bells of impending doom are not ringing soon or loud enough. As a result, too many Titanics are heading straight for the iceberg.

So how should IC professionals start to facilitate these conversations and ensure the right people are listened to?

Get out of broadcast mode. The best external marketers and communicators have long since realised that shouting louder does nothing to engage their audience. How many IC professionals have cottoned on and are starting two-way conversations? And how many still see themselves as little more than the CEO’s or HR’s loudhailer?

Be brave. Organisations need to change and change fast to adapt to the velocity and turmoil in their markets.  Communication is a key part of that change. Proper two-way conversations one-on-one, up, down and across the organisation deliver real and lasting change.

Be clever and get buy-in. IC needs data, intelligence and the right language to influence upwards. Buy-in from business leaders is essential if communication is not just something worthy of a couple of paragraphs at the bottom of a change programme, but helps to set the direction for the organisation.

When Lisa Betteridge of HarknessKennett and Anna O’Connor, Customer Services Manager at Network Rail, spoke last week about a unique railway alliance,  it was clear just how important communication was to its success.

Not all senior managers will be be 100% comfortable with the idea of  having conversations with the people delivering the service on the frontline, but once they are there, many find they love it. But you won’t get them there if you can’t demonstrate why it’s important.

Understand the tools. A fascinating insight from the conference was how many IC professionals still have little understanding of the value of enterprise collaboration platforms and how scared they are of social in general. Yet, according to a toe dipping survey by blogger and author Rachel Miller, 54% of people within the organisation expect IC to know about social and 33% expect them to know all about it. And that requires knowledge not just of the risks of social – where too many are obsessing – but of the value of harnessing it.


IC professionals are increasingly in demand. It’s a role with growing prominence in many organisations. And that offers the chance to change course before it’s too late.



This post was filed under Digital transformation, Internal comms Comments are currently closed.


  1. Rachel Miller

    Great article Belinda, thank you for the mention. I found it interesting to hear in the sessions and in the networking time how people are feeling about ways to put employees first. General consensus I picked up on was that internal comms pros want to ‘do the right thing’ but many have gaps in knowing how to analyse the culture of their organisations.

    Definitely time to be brave, to equip ourselves with knowledge of our companies and to demonstrate effective listening.
    Glad you enjoyed the conference too, Rachel

    Posted 13th November 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  2. Thanks for your comments Rachel – and for sharing suggestions on further reading. Love the idea of exploring new ways to help IC understand the culture of their organisation – and what to do with that insight.

    Posted 16th November 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

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  1. [...] can also read reports of the event via Kim Roberts, Kevin Ruck, Belinda Gannaway and Gloria Lombardi or see the live-blog and YouTube [...]