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Shining a light on IC: how to demonstrate your value

IC pros are notoriously modest when it comes to self-promotion, but is it time we started championing our achievements and expressing our value a little more boldly? 

Recent research reveals a lack of understanding about the value that IC adds and how our expertise impacts others.

CIPR Inside’s annual conference is on 1st November and the theme is ‘Making it Count’. The event will focus on their latest study into what CEOs and senior stakeholders think of internal communication and the issue of perception: what exactly is internal communication? You can find out more about the conference here.

We’ll be running a workshop at the event and helping to define the difference we make and the value that internal comms brings every day – making it clear and making it count. 

So how do we make the IC name shine?

One way to highlight our achievements is to look at how award winners do it. 

Picture the scene: you’re dressed to the nines, champagne in hand, enjoying this edge of the seat moment… and ‘hoorah’! You’re announced as the winning team and the audience goes wild…! 

Of course, not all comms teams are up for awards all that often (although arguably they should be) but we believe a lot can be learnt from the steps involved in putting award entries together. The process can help to focus the mind and bring clarity to the work of the unsung heroes of comms.

Here are six lessons from the world of awards that will help to highlight the shining lights behind the camera and the positive action that we bring to our organisations. 

Lesson 1: If you want to win an Oscar you need to appeal to the Academy

You’re talking to the top here, so tailor your approach accordingly. You’ll hopefully have spent time cultivating your trusted adviser status. You’ll know your CEO as an individual, understand what matters most to them, and know how to influence their thinking. 

There’s one surefire way to overcome misconceptions – and that’s to communicate. Talk to them the best way you know how, keep it brief, match your agenda with theirs, and try to share more of those key moments that define IC. 

Lesson 2: Shortlist your successes 

It seems that across the industry we don't have a consistent understanding of how we add value. It's no surprise then that our senior stakeholders don't either.

Writing award applications is effectively a review of our achievements. It gives us the opportunity to think about what we do with a considered and purposeful approach. So imagine yourself as an award worthy function and bring some clarity to what you do by creating your own elevator pitch. 

Work on some winning words that describe your role at its very best, assume you have just 60 seconds to get the message across and keep it informative, memorable, and succinct.

Lesson 3: Share praise from the critics

As writer, director and producer of comms, you’re entitled to shout about how great you and your team are. But while you need to blow your own trumpet occasionally, nothing’s more compelling than words of praise from someone else. So, whether it’s from colleagues, direct reports or senior stakeholders, you should be asking for frequent feedback. These people are your audience, and you’ve provided them with a (hopefully) grade A service. 

Ask others for genuine and honest testimonials, record them and then find creative ways to share them with those who need convincing.

Lesson 4: Learn from the winners

Newsflash: no-one said you had to have all of the answers to comms issues all of the time. Yes, you’ll have a mighty fine idea, but sometimes you’ll have to look and think beyond your organisation’s box. And that requires research. You’re an IC artist, and sometimes you have to channel your inner Picasso and go with his thought of ‘Good artists copy; great artists steal’. 

Take the time to learn from those who seem to have it sorted, because it could go a long way with the big bosses. 

Lesson 5: Be passionate, put on a performance

Getting your comms together is a true performance; you have to know how it's going to look or sound before someone yells 'Action!' And if there's anything people love in a communication it's a touch of oomph. When you get it right, and that heady mix of enthusiasm, dedication and care is there for all to see, that's when you'll know you've put in the performance of a lifetime. And if that passionate display makes itself known to the higher ups, that can only be a good thing, right?

We know from experience that some communications are dry and formulaic, so when you get a chance to show off that fire in your IC belly - that moment when a stream of passion needs to flow like a river - go for it!

Lesson 6: Honour the evidence

We’ve judged a few awards in our time and there’s one key section that’s often neglected - and that’s measurement. Stakeholders require information and insight to be convinced.  

Demonstrate with data (and a compelling story or two) how you’ve made a difference to overcome a challenge and achieve an objective, making the organisation – and therefore the CEO – succeed.  

Final thoughts

As IC pros, having confidence in our expertise is critical but it’s not a comfortable feeling to talk ourselves up. However, it’s vital if we’re to ensure our senior stakeholders and CEOs understand the true value of IC. Because once they get it, everyone else will follow suit. And that makes for one happy, roses throwing, ‘Bravo!’ shouting business.

So, don’t be shy, start thinking about how you can shine a light on the work you do and enjoy the confidence boost it’ll provide. 

If you think you could use some help in getting your senior management team to celebrate your IC function’s successes La La Land-style, get in touch today. We’ll work with you on getting your name up in lights well before the credits start rolling. And we’ll promise to get your names right too.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

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