The Masters in Internal Communication Management is the UK’s only Masters degree to focus on the strategic practice of internal communication. Having just completed its first year in partnership with Solent University, the programme, delivered by the IoIC, plays a key role in the development of the profession, ensuring that practitioners have the knowledge and skills to influence at the highest levels in organisations.
simply communicate caught up with course director Liz Cochrane to find out what the first year in the new partnership has been like.
How would you describe your first year in partnership with Solent University? How has it benefited the course?
“The partnership with Solent has been great! Solent University has a strong ‘theory into practice’ emphasis, which has always been the hallmark of the Masters – helping students think through the real life practical application of theory, meaning that what they are learning adds value to their organisations immediately. The University stresses the importance of taking an analytical and evidence-based approach and we’ve always seen developing this as key to ensuring that practitioners can really command respect and punch their weight at a senior level. Solent also have a strong emphasis on student satisfaction – which means their on-line resources are great, both from the perspective of access to a vast range of publications, really good signposting to what is likely to be more relevant, and also the support materials that they provide.”
What has changed about the course this year?
“We constantly update the content of the programme each year, to make sure it is as relevant as possible to people managing communication at a strategic level. We do this by consulting each cohort as well as working closely with the IoIC and we know that the core content is highly valued and valuable. Changes that we’ve made over this year have included increasing the emphasis on the broader business context – looking forward to upcoming challenges facing all organisations, and how best to anticipate and respond to those. This has included an increased focus on thinking about fostering collaboration, the challenges of the rapidly changing technical landscape, as well as the blurring of boundaries between internal and external communication. At the same time, we know that we have a great reputation for the support that we provide to people as they study – and it’s clear from the feedback this year that this is as strong as ever.”
Tell me a little about this year’s cohort
“We aim for a cohort of around 20 each year. That means people can get to know each other and build their network – and we facilitate that by both putting people into smaller ‘learning groups’ but then also getting them to work in different groups during the workshops, which are highly interactive with loads of group work. So everyone works with and gets to know all others within the cohort. The online discussions between the workshops really help with that.
“The common factor in terms of backgrounds is that everyone has a significant amount of internal communication experience, and will either already be working at a strategic level or be looking to make that step up to start doing so. A typical cohort includes all sectors – corporate, public and third – as well as a good blend of those working in house, for agencies/consultancies and an increasing number of interims. The majority are from the UK, though we also get some from further afield – this year we have one person from France, and another from Egypt. Background wise, the blend reflects the breadth that is typically seen in the profession, from those who started out in PR roles, Marketing, HR, Change Management, Journalism – or entirely unrelated disciplines! There is a blend age wise too, with some high fliers in their mid 20’s through to individuals of 50 plus. The thing that unites people is a passion for internal communication and being able to influence and make a difference at the most senior level.”
Helen Chown, an experienced comms practitioner working at GSK, reflects on her Masters experience:
“It has been a very challenging year and a huge commitment but it has been great! It has given me the space to step back and really look at why I do what I do. That’s incredibly precious. There is no doubt that the hard data and evidence-based theories have given me the confidence to make helpful challenges at work and day to day I could quickly see the impact. The support from my learning group and my tutors has been fantastic and the reassurance and validation from them that some of the communication challenges experienced are common across the industry is definitely an added value… and a big comfort!”
Who most benefits from this Masters?
“We know the Masters is hugely valuable to the people who study with us. It equips people with the knowledge and analytical ability that gives them gravitas needed at a senior level to provide confident communication leadership. It also brings benefits for organisations. We get frequent comments from students from unit one onwards about how they’re enhancing their approach as a result of what they’re learning – and about the positive feedback they are getting from their own organisations and clients as a result.”
Lisa Hawksworth who works for Scarlett Abbott is also in the final stages of this year’s course. She told us:
“Continued professional development is essential if you want to keep contributing to the industry. That’s why I’m really excited about my research piece of work. It’s focused on measurement and it’s an opportunity to conduct totally impartial, academic research that (hopefully) our clients will get real benefit from.”
Why is it different from other communications-related Masters courses?
“This is the only Masters focusing exclusively on internal communication. That means we are able to explore topics in depth looking at, for example, the complexities of organisational environment, culture and relationships, relevant aspects of psychology, developing strategic thinking, the ability to forge leading edge approaches to the internal impact of external challenges and of course to be influencing and coaching at a senior level.
“The structure is also valuable as it’s designed to minimise time out of the office, with four face to face workshops, each just two days long, over the year, combined with individual study and on-line group discussions. We also make sure that each assignment is focused on current communication challenges that people are managing within their organisations, again reinforcing the ‘theory into practice’ approach as well as helping with the challenge of balancing work and study.
“The course content is developed and delivered by senior internal communication professionals who bring a unique mix of practical experience and academic knowledge. Alongside our regular unit leaders, we also include leaders in current thinking as part of the workshops – so for example this year included Hilary Scarlett (neuroscience), Rachel Miller focusing on collaboration and knowledge management, Bill Quirke looking at influencing senior leaders – and of course, Marc Wright on social media!
There are still a few places available on the 2019-2020 course. You can find out more information about the Masters in Internal Communication Management here http://www.ioic.org.uk/masters
And here’s a link to the application process: https://www.ioic.org.uk/frontpage/apply-today
By Alison Boothby