Opening the doors to business leaders

Jenni Field

Over the past few years there have been many articles written and many conferences held to discuss how we, as communicators, can get a seat on the board. Exploring what we need to do to raise the importance of internal communication and show business leaders how we can be a strategic partner.

Over the past 18 months I have been setting up an internal communications function and I have learnt that getting a seat on the board is the last thing on the list….

Businesses need to understand the how, not the why
When I started this role I spent time talking to people about what internal communication was all about and what I was going to do. And like a lot of other communicators I researched and then went back to explain what I was going to do and why. What I missed was the how. Everyone understood what I was there to do, how I was there to help but I failed to highlight what I needed to do to implement all these changes.

If you were setting up a training function, people would expect you to spend time understanding the business, developing courses and training programmes for the business. Businesses understand this function, and many others and know what to expect, but in internal communication, people still don’t really know what you have to do to get started.

With this gap in the business, you can be stretched to deliver a lot and still have to create a tool kit to use. Making sure people understand this process would mean people would understand exactly what internal communication is all about.

Being a strategic partner is not as easy as we think
It is easy, as established communicators, to think strategically. To align your communications to those priorities and messages the business needs. What isn’t easy is ensuring you get involved at the right time. Asking the business to involve you at an early stage so you can ask those questions that would be annoying at final stages is not always an easy ask – can anyone share how they went about doing this?

I suppose being a strategic partner is also about being able to advise the senior leaders on how to deliver messages – something that can often be a challenge when processes and cultures have been in place for some time.

Can we open the doors to business leaders?
I would love to attend a conference or a briefing where internal communicators and business leaders discuss internal communication – talking to my peers and sharing best practice is great, but I’m talking to the converted. Surely the benefit of getting together with CEOs, CFOs and CMOs would move internal communications, as a function, to that strategic level in the business we seem to constantly strive for.

Would love to hear about any events like this – if anyone knows of any in the UK?

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