As I reflect on my time as chair of CIPR Inside I am incredibly proud of our achievements, yet I am also conscious that I leave the post with so much still to do.
Both CIPR Inside and the Internal Communications profession face a significant cross-roads. The decisions we make now will have long-lasting ramifications for the perception, power and influence Internal Communications practitioners wield for the next decade. It would be a mistake to assume IC’s recent prominence is an inevitable result of a kind of natural evolution. There is nothing inevitable about internal communications being a key part of the way any organisation operates – just ask the many colleagues who currently find themselves out of work.
It could equally be that these things are cyclical – if you speak to any of the IC practitioners who survived the last recession they will tell you that we entered a kind of Internal Comms “dark ages”. A big part of CIPR Inside’s role is to ensure that this does not happen again.
In many respects we have a receptive audience. The economic crisis has given CEOs and Management Boards a much sharper focus on engaging employees than ever before. This level of scrutiny provides both an opportunity but also a risk for IC practitioners.
More than at any other point I can remember we are being judged on the value we bring to organisations. This is both in supporting the changes organisations have had to make in adapting to the economic conditions, but as the economy improves it is increasingly about what we can provide to support and stimulate growth. What we offer needs to have tangible value, and yet I would argue the answer must be more than simply finding a solution around measurement. It’s also about having the confidence to offer valuable counsel, advice and creative problem-solving.
In my view there is a genuine danger of focussing purely on tactical delivery – something I have witnessed IC practitioners do in a range of organisations. This may make it easier to “measure” but that doesn’t mean IC is more “safe”. Yes delivery is important but you could argue that some of the skills required are easy to replace. In which case, we risk being consolidated into other functions like HR, Corporate Communications and Marketing. Indeed for some organisations this may be absolutely the right decision.
However, I would argue that what we offer is distinct from those other professions. That is the task ahead. We need to shout louder about what we offer, louder about our value, louder about our achievements. CIPR Inside’s agenda over last 18 months has been fairly simple.
As I said at the last AGM our priorities this year have been:
1. Making membership more meaningful and engaging
2. Generating more thought leadership and debate around current issues
3. Getting more of our members involved in the committee itself
On the first priority, we have sought to rally our membership (and the broader IC community) around a core purpose. This has been primarily about professionalising Internal Communications – and I have been proud to witness the great work of the Institute and PR Academy in launching the IC certificate and Diploma.
It has also been about sharing best practice and learnings – something our innovative programme of events and increased digital presence has been instrumental in driving forward. This has also helped our second priority of driving thought leadership and debate. Something the advisory group has also helped us achieve.
The third priority about bringing more members into the committee has been an undoubted highlight. We now have a group of committed and talented colleagues who bring with them a diverse range of skills and experience. I am confident therefore that I am leaving the group in very safe hands.
In my view these priorities remain valid for the next 18 months. But clearly that’s for the chair-elect Sean Trainor and the new committee to decide! I really respect and admire Sean’s passion, determination and energy. I am convinced he will be a big success as chair. I will remain a keen supporter from the sidelines and wish him and the group ongoing success.
On a personal note I would like to thank all of the CIPR Inside committee colleagues who I have worked with over the last few years. They have provided incredible wisdom, dedication and support – especially in my time as chair.
And I would remind those of you still on the committee of the words of Margaret Mead: “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
What you do is important and yet often under-valued. Please stick with it.