IC citizenship is about being supportive and giving something back to the internal communications profession as a whole. It is the very essence of the power of our collective and what makes us unique. Here are a few tips on how to be a good IC Citizen. Join the movement by following @theICcitizen.
Last week I was at an internal communicators networking event in Leeds. As I looked around the room at everyone chatting, sharing experiences and making new connections it reminded me what a supportive and generous profession we are and how lucky I am to be a part of it. In some ways this generosity is what defines our profession and sets us apart from others.
Internal communication is still a relatively new industry that’s not heavily commercialised and where everyone isn’t just trying to make a buck out of everyone else. This possibly explains why most people who work in it are still willing to share so unconditionally. However, I’ve noticed a growing commercial dimension over the last few years with increasing marketisation in our sector mostly focused on internal communications technology, awards, skills and learning.
As the internal communications profession matures and commercialisation inevitably increases, how do we ensure that we remain a supportive community which becomes ever more cohesive? I think that this is about each of us being a good ‘IC Citizen’.
The good IC Citizen
Being a good IC Citizen is about being supportive towards, and giving something back to our profession as a whole. IC citizenship binds us together as a powerful collective to drive the evolution of internal communication towards the strategic management function it needs to become, and away from being the purely tactical, organisational post office.
Here are a few tips on how to be a good IC Citizen. Do let me know @theICcitizen
if you have any suggestions to add to these.
There are a host of opportunities to network with other internal communicators and many of them will cost you nothing other than your time. Networking is a great opportunity to be an IC Citizen by giving something back ‘in the moment’, sharing your knowledge with others who may be less experienced than you. In addition, the more people you know and connections you make in the internal communications community, the more cohesive and coherent we will become as an overall profession. United we stand!
Participate in the debate
To evolve internal communication and fulfil our professional destiny, we need to continuously share and test new ideas. This means challenging existing thinking through constructive debate, research and critical analysis whenever the opportunity to do so presents itself. The more of us that contribute our knowledge and experience to the debate, the quicker we will grow and evolve as a profession.
There are a few easy ways you can do this. Maybe join one of the regular twitter chats such as #commschat or #PowerAndInfluence, speak at an event or write a blog as I do. There are also a host of communication focused websites, organisations, agencies and professional bodies on the lookout for internal communications people to contribute content, experience, opinion and learning.
Don’t be shy. Make them an offer to contribute something, they will most likely say yes.
Offer constructive challenge
It happens to us nearly everyday doesn’t it? Being faced with people who think they can do our internal communications job because they can (mostly) string together a coherent sentence. I think that it is incumbent on every single internal communicator to push back on stakeholders and offer constructive challenge when they make requests for tactical communications which have no meaningful business or communication objective.
It’s our responsibility to educate stakeholders about the true value and power of internal communication when it is practiced properly. They are unlikely to take the initiative and educate themselves. I know that offering constructive challenge can be an uncomfortable experience for some of us, but we all need to develop the confidence to do it. I’m a committed introvert and if I can do it, anybody can.
As a good IC Citizen, think about the internal communicator who will come after you when you eventually decide to move on. By continually giving in to spurious tactical requests, are you just creating and entrenching a problem which someone else in our community will eventually have to address and sort out?
Enter awards (but for the right reasons)
I recently published a blog about the growing number of internal communication awards competitions. It seems that many people enter for the potential recognition. However, to unlock the true value of awards as a contributor to our collective body of knowledge I don’t think the primary motivation should be all about the glory of winning.
If you’ve got internal communications work that is good enough to enter an awards competition, enter because it’s an opportunity to share your knowledge and capability with the rest of the profession.
If you win and are publicly acknowledged as being one of the best in the internal communications industry what will you do as a follow up to personally help raise the standards of practice more generally? Maybe you could speak at an event, write a blog, or even develop some training and invite other internal communicators into your organisation to see how you work.
Whatever happens please don’t just collect the award and run. As a good IC Citizen please think about what you could give back to the profession which has recognised you, and then do it.
One of the most substantive ways I’ve been a good IC Citizen over the years has been through mentoring and coaching other communicators in my teams or elsewhere. I’d say that this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career to see people learn, develop and advance. If I encounter someone with latent potential and ability who just ‘gets’ internal communication but needs a bit of direction, I can’t stop myself from helping them. I have a lot of knowledge and experience to share, and if I don’t do that it will ultimately end up being lost to the profession as a whole.
There are some formal mentoring schemes in existence, such as the one run by the Institute of Internal Communication, but mentoring doesn’t have to be confined to formal schemes. If you’ve got the experience and know an internal communicator in your organisation who would benefit from some coaching or even meet someone like this at a networking event, why not just offer to be their mentor for a bit?
Engage in continuous professional development
Continuous professional development (CPD) doesn’t have to be about rigorous study or the achievement of formal qualifications, and to be good IC Citizens we should all be doing CPD without exception. Just reading a book, blog or article about internal communication and learning something new as a result of this means you are expanding your knowledge and potentially increasing your capability.
Learning and becoming better at what you do through CPD not only improves you as an individual it also means that we become better as a collective of internal communicators. If there is only one tip you take some action on out of this blog, please pick this one. All of us doing some regular learning to keep ourselves up to date and relevant is vital for the health and future of the internal communications profession.
Join a professional body
I didn’t meet many people at the Leeds networking event who were members of a relevant professional body for internal communicators. It disappoints me to say that this is not an unfamiliar experience.
I’m a member of two, and I’d say that joining a professional body is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s not a lot of money to join and it’s a great investment as you’ll instantly get access to a huge network of other internal communicators, events and resources for continuous professional development. If you chose to be a more active member like me and organise events, create resources and drive debate, then the bounty is even greater. It’s a classic example of the more you put in the more you get out.
The more internal communicators who are members of a professional body, the stronger our collective voice as a profession will be. Joining one and getting involved is probably the easiest way you can unlock your potential to become a true IC Citizen.
I hope I’ve inspired you to become an IC Citizen and give your support to advance the internal communications profession. Join the movement by following @theICcitizen and share your contribution.
My blog The great internal communication awards overload explains why I think we need to do more as IC Citizens to unlock the true value of awards and their potential to contribute to our collective body of knowledge.
The Institute of Internal Communication mentoring scheme is open for applications to participate from mentors and mentees twice a year.
The networking event I attended in Leeds is run by Engage Comms a UK based, and IC award winning, integrated marketing agency. They have demonstrated their IC Citizenship to bring practitioners together and give something back to the profession by setting up the Internal Comms Network North. If you are based in the North of England perhaps I’ll see you at their next networking event?
If you are interested in getting involved in the communications and public relations debate why not join the weekly twitter chats offered by CommsChat (20:00 GMT/BST on Mondays) or #PowerAndInfluence (20:00 GMT/BST on Wednesdays). Look out for me @martinflegg.