IC Matters › Best Practice

Internal communicators, managers, and the chicken and egg dilemma.

Robin O'SullivanRobin O'Sullivan·

Here at Poppulo we recently completed a large scale ‘IC Persona’ project, to help us better understand our customers, prospects and indeed the whole kaleidoscope that is the IC universe.

The idea is that the user personas we create (by synthesizing our learnings from our interviews with over 40 Internal Communicators from across the globe and spectrum of IC professionals) help guide our product decisions and ensure we keep our communicators and their needs front and center in our efforts to serve this market.

Having the ability to converse with such a wide and diverse group of communicators was a goldmine of information and insight. We laughed, we cried, we reflected, we supported, we compared open rates and we vowed to keep fighting the IC fight.

One of the areas I found particularly interesting, and somewhat surprising, was where a lot of the communicators we spoke to found themselves on the IC measurement matrix. Now, first off, there is no such thing as an IC measurement matrix, but it is kinda catchy so maybe that is something we should develop! But in general terms a surprising proportion of the measurement that we discussed during these calls was done on an ad-hoc, inconsistent basis, for a variety of reasons.

Secondly, the the biggest surprise for me was in the lack of requests for measurement reports from their manager or senior stakeholders, which instinctively seems counter-intuitive. Most managers are focused on their team and performance and will always find time for team meetings, reporting and other Business As Usual items. But in the IC world many seem to have a blind spot on IC measurement. A lot of managers tend to see success at a tactical, rather than strategic, level. Did the event go well? Was there a good open rate on that email that was sent?

So that leaves the communicator in somewhat of a Catch 22 scenario. Do they carry on executing their IC campaigns without measuring either the outputs or the outcomes of their efforts, or do they draw a line in the sand and commit to sinking their valuable time and resources into generating insightful IC reports for a manager that hasn’t requested the report?

And while objectively that may seems like a straightforward question to answer, in reality it is trickier than it sounds to justify either answer in a communications function context.

If we go with Option A, nothing changes; there is no measurement, no tracking to goals, no capturing the impact of what you do on the people you communicate with, no purpose to a lot of the comms being undertaken. We are already overworked and underappreciated, senior managers don’t care about measuring what we do, so why should we? Why should we bring this additional hassle upon ourselves?

If we go with Option B we have to change the way we work, which can be hard. We have to start to think about our measurement, make sure our tools are fit for purpose, set goals for ourselves, think more strategically and keep abreast of the latest technologies that might help us as an IC function (did someone mention Bots?). And we also have to educate our stakeholders on IC measurement. As one of our interviewees put it “If IC could show, via measurement, the impact of our work, and help educate the senior stakeholders on IC’s potential it would be a big step forward.”

The prospect of changing the way you work to focus on providing a measurement capability can be daunting. But the opportunities are vast. No other function in the organization has potentially as much interaction with the employee base, no other function is as important to the concept of corporate culture or employee engagement. The roads to achieving  corporate goals of a vibrant and inclusive culture with engaged and committed employees runs through IC.

I’ve spoken to communicators who have made the change, and it takes time, determination and effort. But they all report back that it was worth it, that they are are more valued in the organization, that they are looked upon as SMEs, that their opinion counts, and that they are involved in C-Level strategic conversations.

So break the unwritten rules by which you are currently operating. Start by providing simple measurement reports to your manager, increasing in sophistication and insight as you become more comfortable with your data. This will take time, it’s not an overnight thing.

Split your reporting into strategic reporting for senior stakeholders (what is IC doing to support our main corporate objectives?), operational or tactical reporting for IC stakeholders and then you go even go crazier and produce a report that maps to the goals of the IC (you have set IC goals for the year haven’t you?) so that you and your team can track progress towards achieving your professional goals as a function.

My belief is that until IC inserts itself into the strategic mix, it won’t be focused on by management as a powerful strategic tool, and managers will focus on other weapons in their arsenal, paying lip service to the notion of elevating IC in their organization. And using measurement and being data- driven is the key to the strategic mix door.

And be aware that, probably, in time managers will take credit for getting you to generate these great reports. But really at that stage hopefully it is a chicken and egg situation and whether the reports came first, or the request for the reports came first won’t matter as IC will be intrinsic to the strategic discussions within the organization.   

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