The Gatehouse Blog

Communication competencies – a great new framework

This week I finally got around to having a proper look at the work Liam FitzPatrick and Sue Dewhurst of Competent Communicators have done around competencies for internal communicators.

I worked with Liam and Sue and a handful of other people a few years back on developing the InterComm matrix, the predecessor to the new framework (here’s an article I wrote on it for, so I was really keen to see what they’d done to build on that foundation.

The good news is that the new framework is a rock solid piece of work and a very worthy successor. Where the original InterComm matrix was the product of a handful of experienced (but arguably biased!) practitioners, the new framework is based upon a robust piece of research – responses to more than 700 questionnaires, focus groups on both sides of the Atlantic and dozens of interviews.

Knowing Liam and Sue, I have no doubt this work was carried out with real integrity and that the findings are, therefore, about as close to scientific as you can get.

The new framework differs from the InterComm matrix in other ways too. Our original approach was based around four arbitrary career levels which assumed a natural progression from level one (new starter) up to level four (experienced professional). The real world is, of course, very different to that. People enter our profession at various levels –and it’s not unusual for someone to move sideways into a senior role from another function altogether.

What’s more, not everyone wants to be a highly paid director of communications. Many practitioners are keen to carve out a niche for themselves as ‘tactical’ specialists, be it writer, intranet guru or events supremo. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and Liam and Sues framework reflects this.

This is a great tool for planning your own or your team’s development, for benchmarking, for building role profiles and descriptions and for recruitment. 

At the heart of the framework are 12 core competencies for communicators (I’ve added the words in brackets):

  1. Building effective relationships 
  2. Business focus (understanding the business and using communication to solve business problems)
  3. Consulting and coaching (being an advisor)
  4. Cross functional awareness (understanding and working with other disciplines)
  5. Developing other communicators
  6. Innovation and creativity
  7. Listening (inc conducting research and gathering feedback)
  8. Making it happen (turning plans into actions)
  9. Planning
  10. Specialist (sector and subject-specific experience)
  11. Vision and Standards (consistently high professional standards)
  12. Craft (practical abilities – e.g. writing and design)

This isn’t the place to go into them in great detail, but if you’re interested you can download a white paper here and also a free article on the framework from SCM magazine. If you’re really keen, you should invest in the Melcrum report that accompanies this research (you can get a £100 discount if you go along to an event Liam is running for IABC later this month – see the Talking IC calendar above).

To carry out a quick self assessment, select which of the 12 competencies you need in order to perform in your role at an outstanding level. You obviously don’t need to be advanced on all of these, but you do need to excel at those that are most relevant to your role and organization.


Once you’ve identified these, decide how much time you should be spending in each area – high, medium or low.  This should then tell you whether your job is focused more towards tactics and delivery, or towards consulting and coaching.  Assuming you know where you want to get to, you can then identify your development gaps and put in place a plan to plug them.

The model is much more than a simple development planning tool though – if you want to progress in internal comms, I recommend you take a much closer look….