A peer from the industry recently changed jobs into an internal communication role, a role different from what she played earlier – Marketing Communications and PR.
We spoke recently at length on the challenges she was encountering in her new role and discussed some basic questions to understand the role of the internal communicator.
I thought it may be relevant to highlight some of the key issues and questions for the benefit of others in this post.
a) What does internal communication do?
b) How is it structured?
c) Where does the internal communication professional get involved?
d) Where does the professional draw the line?
e) How much of involvement should be there?
f) What should the focus be?
After the conversation, I realized that she was facing hurdles with convincing her management about what the role meant and the expected outcomes rather than leveraging her communication team’s combined expertise to do effective communication. So instead of coming in and starting off with a bang, she seemed burdened with ‘selling’ her role, the best approaches to communicate and getting buy-in on the team’s responsibilities. To me, a sheer waste of a senior professional’s time and energy.
What struck me most was the organization’s inability to trust a professional to do what the person was hired to do – to improve communication, add value to the process and build expertise.
I looked up some internal communication job descriptions from around the globe and found a couple spelling out the expectations from this role. The highlighted phrases point to the key deliverables.
“You will have substantial internal communications experience from a large and complex, multi-site environment. You will be competent operating at a leadership level as the role will need to provide strategic advice and support on internal communications to the company’s senior players. In addition, with the team in its infancy you’ll need to love pitching in and crafting communications too.”
“You will specifically be working to deliver and maintain communications programs as part of the tactical implementation of the strategy as well as working on ad hoc IC projects. The key responsibilities of the position will include leading on the planning and execution of specific communication plans for business initiatives requiring a strong element of internal communications, i.e. business re-structuring and business change. You will also look after event management and be a key team member involved in the planning and management of company events and conference.”
Clearly, the expectations are to own communication plans, counsel senior leaders, craft interesting communication, drive change management and operate in a complex scenario.
That also brings me to another important topic – shouldn’t professionals seeking internal communication roles be sure they are joining the right organization by asking the right questions during the interview process?
Though it is difficult to gauge the organization’s culture and its respect for communication from initial conversations, the professional can do a bit of research to figure out the reporting mechanism, how the team functions, who calls the shots, what are some of the recent projects and the role the internal communicator played in the process. That should give sufficient understanding of how much of value the senior leadership puts on internal communication and thereby the level of expectation from the job.
Another suggestion is to seek an opportunity to observe the team at work for a couple of days before joining – if the organization is truly open and transparent, they will accommodate.
Have other suitable questions to help internal communicators get their dream jobs? Look forward to your views here.