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It is clear that the arrival of social media and digital communications has changed the role of the IC professional forever. As I started investigating social networks in the enterprise I quickly saw that we are just at the beginning of an evolution that is going to transform forever the practices of this industry. Indeed, all the indications seem to suggest that the speed of technology will continue to occur faster and faster.

Today, organisations are requiring digital experts who have a background in both internal and external communications. “Internal communicators have had their heads down for too long; they were perhaps too internal facing,” claims Michelle Morgan, the Lead Consultant in Digital Communications at VMA Group.

 One of the best-known Communications recruiters in the UK, Morgan told us that there is more and more demand for internal communicators with journalistic skills. This means communicators who are able to spot a story, whether this is from inside the organisation or from the external market, and quickly come up with robust and accurate copy that aligns to the overarching business strategy and for that content to be compelling.

“Storytelling is also key not just to help create context for the corporate narrative, but as a way of bringing new information and ideas into the business, bringing the best and most interesting stories to your people. And, those can come from any and everywhere. This is the thing: it is about mind-sets. We need to be looking outside our own discipline and organisations for inspiration. That way we can become the catalysts for positive change inside the business.”

Equally, Strategist for Communication and Collaboration at Jive Software Kathryn Everest, believes that:

“there is so much that can be learned from external communications.” Her best advice to internal communicators is to “Think like a marketer. Look at all the new digital trends that are happening outside – from understanding the audience at deep level to measure the impact of communications on engagement. Think how you can bring those insights inside your organisation.

“The days of the old intranet are dying. Internal Communicators need to be relevant in the new era of social business. It is very important for them to really understand and apply those skills exceptionally well. If they can do that, then they will go over,” says Everest.

Similarly, Russell Grossman, the Group Director of Communications at the UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), told us: “In Government we believe that a rounded communicator is someone who has done some of Public Affairs, some Marketing, some Media Relations, some Internal Communications, and so on. People who are only practicing internal communications throughout their career are not maximising their potential.

“At the end of the day there is no real difference between Media Relations and Internal Communications, professionally. Only the audience is different. The basic questions remain the same: Where is your audience? What insights do we have about them? What are the objectives that we are trying to achieve? How do we influence them? What’s the implementation? How do we know that we have done it? Those questions are the same whichever your audience is. That is why I don’t like the term internal communicator – it gives the impression that that person only understands internal communications.”

Also Grossman maintains: “at BIS, everyone has a digital objective in addition to his or her own goals. This differs from role to role. In internal communications it may be to maximise not only your own personal use but also to encourage staff to use the enterprise social networks (ESNs). Or, it may be to encourage people to have the confidence to tweet in a way which is responsible and sound. It would also, certainly, include developing the skills to use new measurement tools and analytics, all of which would help communicators understand their audience better. It may also extend to managing aspects of the intranet.”

I wanted to write a smileguide on the Changing Role of Internal Communications to identify the key trends in the marketplace and what practitioners can do to develop themselves.

To create this white paper I combined my reporting experience with literature research and studies I have been doing in the last three years. The guide explores how to enable co-creation and two-way dialogue inside the digital enterprise to drive business value; the sharing of knowledge; the empowerment of people to innovate the company, and more. Ultimately, it aims at supporting readers in making the connections between theory and action.

A big thank you to Jive Software for sponsoring this work.