Best Practice

Making the business case for Internal Communications when budgets are squeezed

With all corners of a business feeling under scrutiny like the heat and glare of the searing, mid-day summer sun it’s no wonder that heads of IC departments are feeling under pressure to prove their worth.

What value do they add to the business? Are their services a necessity or a nice-to-have?

While you could argue that Internal Communication has and continues to show its value as the ramifications of global lockdown easing unfold, wise folk won’t rest on their laurels.

So how can IC make or strengthen the employee communication business case to their leadership executives, or indeed a key stakeholder, like IT, to secure continued, or even enhanced, funding and support?

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Here are five essential elements to your business case (and it doesn’t involve preparing an arduous report that likely won’t be read anyway!).

1. Take your Comms hat OFF

This might seem counterintuitive, but taking off your comms hat enables you to look at the corporate world without constraints, through a broad lens, to see more of what is really going on and from different perspectives.

If you can talk business first and then explain how communications can support the business to help solve its problems and meet its goals you’ll be talking in a language that is both influential and value-adding from a leadership perspective.

Talk business first and comms second.

2. Understand your leaders on a personal level

True influence and impact not only comes from understanding the business and speaking in business terms, but by understanding the leaders on a personal level. And what matters most to them.

People make decisions on an emotional level so being someone that leaders know, like and trust are golden tickets to helping form a strong business case.

Intricately know your leaders – their communication style and preferences, how they make decisions and are influenced, what their personal challenges are, their leadership style, their hobbies, and interests.

Then use this intelligence to build conversations and approaches to working with them on a personalized and personal level. Watch their behavior, listen to the words they use, see what lights them up to help you build rapport, trust, and influence in a way that matters and appeals to them, not you.

If you don’t know your leader well, or have direct access to them, then find someone who does!

3. Provide insights that add value

When making a decision, we form opinions and choose actions via mental processes which are influenced by our biases, logic, emotions, and memories.

If you already have a trusted relationship with senior leaders then they’ll be more emotionally connected and favorably biased towards you.

It, therefore, stands that if you have shared metrics and measures demonstrating the value of IC with them too, then the level of influence you have over their decision-making will be even stronger.

Use insight from your data to help find the keys to solving business challenges and build your credibility and recommendations not just based on your level of expertise, but by the objective data that you have gathered to support your case.

4. Align all comms efforts with business outcomes

Any business case needs to align with the business goals and desired outcomes (the clue is in the name!). While you may want or need additional resources in the Comms team, investment in a mobile news app or budget for the coming year, your case needs to show how it will support the realization of the business’ goals.

Align all communication activities and goals to support those of the business and your business case is being written each and every time you set to work.

5. Revise your elevator pitch and let it become your mantra

When it comes to profiling the work and value of comms effectively, again we need to get our point across in a way that speaks and means business. It’s not about Comms, it’s about the business we support.

An elevator pitch is a valuable tool to convey succinctly and influentially what Comms does. Reframing your elevator pitch to speak to the business value it adds, not only makes it resonate with non-Comms people, i.e. the rest of the working world, but it helps us personally understand and feel a greater sense of purpose in the work that we do.

The simplest way to form an elevator pitch that elevates the value of IC is to answer

  • What’s the business problem you help to solve for your key customers?
  • What’re your stakeholders desired outcomes and how do you help them achieve that?
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Take your comms pitch from the fluffy and tactical to the compelling and impactful.

In a business world where leaders are still trying to understand what IC does, and grasp whether it truly is an essential function, let’s finally explain and demonstrate it in their own language and help them know, see and believe that Internal Communication is not only essential but business-critical.

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