The Gatehouse Blog

Strategy and planning – Helen Deverell, CIPR Inside

This year’s State of the Sector found that even though planning practices have improved, most internal communicators are still very much focused on the short term, with two in five stating that there is no long-term vision. What are your thoughts?

Personally, I find it quite disheartening that so few practitioners are investing time in developing a long-term internal communication strategy. It’s critical that we demonstrate our strategic approach to communication and the meaningful impact we can have on the organisations we work with. This is how we gain trust and credibility.

However, in reality working in-house can feel very reactive. Internal communicators are often firefighting and managing last-minute requests, often with very limited resources. They’re being pulled in multiple directions, and it’s challenging to find time to think. It becomes a cycle of not having time to do a strategy because you’re too busy, but you can’t say no to things because you can’t back it up with strategy.

Also, we’re living and working in uncertain times so it’s possible that a lot of organisations don’t have clarity on the direction they’re going in. This then makes it difficult for internal communicators to link their thinking to a long-term business strategy.

Lack of clarity around organisation strategy was indeed named as a challenge by around a third of respondents. Does that mean we should give up?

We’re never going to be seen as a strategic function without demonstrating strategic thinking. You can’t have meaningful conversations without being able to measure the results of your actions, and you can’t measure anything without an objective in the first place!

I took part in a panel debate last year, where we discussed whether internal communication even needs a strategy. A few people argued that there isn’t much point because everything is constantly changing, and a strategy would date so quickly. I disagree with that. I don’t think that constant change should be a reason for not having a strategy – this is just the nature of how we work. Internal communication strategies should be a living and breathing document that evolves as the organisation does.

I do believe that poor strategic planning can be linked to a lack of confidence on behalf of internal communicators. I’d really like to see more of them joining professional bodies, investing in qualifications and driving their careers more actively. This would equip them with evidence and skills to have these conversations with leaders around the role we need to play.

“I don’t think that constant change should be a reason for not having a strategy – this is just the nature of how we work. Internal communication strategies should be a living and breathing document that evolves as the organisation does.”

What change would you like to see?

I’d really like to see internal communicators taking more initiative with leaders, telling them about the impact they can have and being very clear about what that involves. I’d love to see a big increase in the number of strategies next year! Generally, I would like to see internal communicators investing more in their development as it will help to build credibility. We’re at a really exciting time for internal communications. We can make a real impact, and it’s time to seize the opportunity to do this!

 

Biography: Helen Deverell

Internal communicators want to make a difference, yet they often fail to develop the strategic vision that will enable them to elevate their discussion with leaders. Helen Deverell from CIPR Inside puts respondents’ feedback in perspective.

@helendeverell