Understanding what constitutes “good” internal communications is tricky. The very nature of the discipline means our work is destined to remain inside the confines of our organizations, shrouded from view from the rest of the world. Of course we have experiences from previous positions to refer to, and organizations like IABC make it easier to connect with peers, share ideas and standardize competencies. But benchmarking the work you do within your organization against the rest of the industry is always likely to remain somewhat elusive … until now.
In late 2020, IC Thrive launched our Drive Internal Communications Assessment™, an online survey designed to uncover which areas of internal communications an organization is strong in and where it has room for improvement. To lay the foundations for this, we partnered with Simon Frazer University’s Communications department to develop our Drive Internal Communication 7 Principles (see image), defining the key aspects we think every internal communications environment is made up of and allowing us to rate proficiency accordingly.
Over the course of eight months, more than 420 respondents completed our assessment, providing a varied sample from which we can draw conclusions and offer insight. In this article you’ll find a summary of our findings.
So What Did We Learn?
Findings from the assessment can be summarized into three themes:
- Organizations with dedicated internal communicators tend to have more mature environments.
- Content is consistently the strongest principle, while metrics and data analytics and reporting are consistently the weakest.
- The perception of internal communications seems to be more negative among senior leaders when compared to other levels of an organization.
Internal Communicators Make a Difference
It might seem obvious, but the benefit of having dedicated internal communicators within an organization is still doubted by some professionals. The majority of organizations that responded to our assessment didn’t have a communications department. In fact, only around one third did and only 39% spent over half their time on internal comms.
This trend reflects what we see with many of our customers at IC Thrive. The responsibility of internal communications usually falls to HR, marketing or sometimes IT. As a result, the quality of internal comms operations suffers. Helping an organization launch a communications platform or intranet is far easier when they have someone in place who understands how the channels will actually be put to use.
Fighting for influence and justifying our positions comes with the territory for many professional communicators, especially when compared to other more established disciplines. It’s easy to forget that most organizations still don’t achieve the low bar of having a dedicated internal communicator.
Our 7 Principles and How They Rank
Questions on our assessment are categorized by our seven principles, with the combined answers generating a score between 0 and 1 in each, with 1 being excellent. When looking at average principle scores and rankings, metrics and data analytics and reporting are consistently the weakest principles — with average scores of 0.5 and 0.49 respectively — and ranked as the lowest scoring principle in 45% and 49% of organizations. Content, on the other hand, is consistently the strongest, with an average score of 0.62, ranked as the lowest-scoring principle in only 10% of respondents and the highest in over 40%.
A lack of measurement proficiency has plagued internal communicators since the dawn of time. With plenty of great tools on the market to choose from, these days there’s no excuse for it. In a post-COVID world, having tech that provides insight into message effectiveness, responses to actions and audience data is the only way to understand the comms landscape in your organization. If you can track which of your channels is most effective, you can learn where your team members are spending their time and adapt your behavior accordingly.
When filtering the results of our assessment by different levels of seniority, we saw a gradual downward trend in the overall scores as the seniority of the respondent increased, with a sharp decline when you reach the CEO level. This could suggest that many business leaders don’t see the value of internal communications, or perhaps they recognize that their under-resourced communications team (if they even have one) has a long way to go before fulfilling its potential. Either way, demonstrating value and effectiveness to the leadership team should be on the agenda of any communicator.
The way to a CEO’s heart? Show them you’re helping the business deliver on their strategic plan.
To do this you’ll need to examine the outcomes they’re looking to achieve, identify areas of the business you can support and determine which metrics will best showcase your contribution. Easy, right?
It might sound like a tall order, but you’d be surprised how much actually talking to members of a specific team will reveal about their communication challenges. Hopefully it will reveal where your efforts will be best spent.
The internal communication challenges each organization faces are of course unique, and these are just some of the hurdles you may be encountering on a daily basis. By exploring these three areas further — defining the value of a dedicated IC team, sharpening analytical skills and getting the ear of the C-suite — it can be possible for IC underdogs to rise to a position of influence.
Working in the tech, sports, media, finance and education spaces over the last 10 years, Alfie Penfold employs an energetic and fun approach to internal communications. With a focus on building meaningful relationships, putting employees first and helping to connect team members, he seeks to deliver business value through effective and strategic communications. At IC Thrive, he works closely with our multichannel Reach product, making sure our customers are supported while developing and implementing their channel strategy. For a more detailed look at the results reported above, check out our report, Assessing Internal Communications: How IC Underdogs Can Become Leaders of the Pack, which details the challenges those hundreds of communicators face at work, and our advice for tackling some common roadblocks.