Here comes a new generation of IC professionals. It can seem that internal communication is the ‘Cinderella’ career, overshadowed by the more glamorous PR and marketing. It’s time IC took its place in the limelight and welcomed a new generation of bright young talent.
Hands up who always wanted to be an internal communication professional? Or did you, like most of us, stumble into it almost by accident after starting out in journalism, marketing or HR?
We need to make IC a recognised, preferred profession for young people looking for a career, with the same support as marketing.”
However, as we start to see some recognition of our value and position as a function, there’s a growing opportunity to show a new generation how interesting and rewarding a career in IC is.
Although IC may not be touted by careers advisers at school, the inexorable rise of social media and a more savvy attitude towards communication in general mean graduates and school leavers would find much to enjoy in life as an internal communicator. But are we offering enough work placements and graduate schemes to tempt young talent?
A survey by the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) showed that there are more than 45,000 people working in internal communication in the private sector, and obviously many more performing the role in the public sector.
As a new generation comes into the workplace, IC professionals need to communicate with them in their preferred way and, ideally, we need their contemporaries to work in the profession to help us understand their preferences. The blurring of employee and customer communication, emphasis on employee experience and increased expectations from executives make IC a challenging and interesting field; one that young people are keen to explore.
“We need to make IC a recognised, preferred profession for young people looking for a career with the same support as marketing,” says Nick Andrews, Sequel’s Business Development Director.
But other than IoIC’s relaunched Masters programme, there’s still remarkably little specific training for school leavers, graduates and others wanting to get into the profession. By contrast, many universities offer degrees in marketing, and there are courses in public relations. A PR qualification often includes an element of internal communication but it’s rarely seen as a degree subject in its own right.
“There’s a real gap there,” says Nick. “It needs to be addressed because there’s more interest in the profession as a whole now and we need to tap into that and make sure we get these young people before PR and marketing do!”
It can be a painful process to work out what job you want to do and at FutureNet we’re aiming to make that easier and put IC forward as a career.”
Attracting the best
Emily Wilson is Communications Manager at Bright Innovation and a committee member for the IoIC’s FutureNet, a network which supports people new to IC. She says: “Like many people I came into internal communication completely accidentally. I’d been working with databases, customer relationships and client feedback and I started to work with the internal communications team. Until then I didn’t know much about IC; people don’t know it’s a viable option as a career. They know about PR and marketing because they are external facing and are seen as more glamorous.
“You can have the skills IC professions need, such as writing, empathy with people and liking the mystery of trying to figure things out and put things together, but you might not be aware that IC is a job that uses them or that you can work in such a broad range of industries and companies.”
Emily is keen that the profession retains its heart. “When I discovered IC the thing I noticed was that people already established in the job were very helpful and supportive. We need to protect that and say ‘this is how we work’.”
At the same time, she says, we need to attract the best people. ”It can be a painful process to work out what job you want to do and at FutureNet we’re aiming to make that easier and put IC forward as a career. IC is getting better known and senior executives appreciate its value. As companies realise the importance of customer experience they also realise that employee experience is just as important, and that internal communicators can help make it happen.”
FutureNet supports IC newbies
The Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) has launched FutureNet, a programme to support young practitioners and others new to internal comms through regular learning and networking events.
Sarah Magee, the IoIC’s Professional Development Manager, says: “We want to increase the number of people working in internal comms – both young people joining the world of work, and others making a career change or moving into internal comms from a similar discipline.
“In order to motivate them to stay in IC and to prepare and protect the future of the profession, it’s important that they feel supported, promoted, developed and enabled.
We hope FutureNet will help develop future ambassadors for our industry.”
Visit www.ioic.org.uk/membership/futurenet for more information
I’d heard of internal communications but it wasn’t until I did work experience that I realised how much there was
Championing young talent
Nick Andrews takes part in the IoIC’s mentoring programme and says supporting and encouraging the next generation of IC professionals is vital. “IC professionals need much more than the ability to write – they need a more rounded kind of knowledge with an understanding of print, digital, coding and measurement. It makes it a varied, interesting and attractive profession. We need to get that message out.”
He adds: “It’s important that we nurture young people and give them a career path.” A good apprentice, he says, is worth their weight in gold, bringing fresh ideas to the team, whether it’s an agency or corporate. It’s clear that work experience and apprenticeships help young people explore the roles within internal communications. Designer Jessie Watts did a week’s work experience at Sequel after two years at college and was offered an apprenticeship. A year later, she became a permanent staff member.
At Sequel, we had a sixth former come in for work experience who had no idea a career in internal comms existed. She went away thinking it was amazing and keen to join the profession”
“I’d recommend an apprenticeship to anyone who doesn’t want to go to university,” she says. “I have friends who went to uni and they still can’t find a job because they need experience.
“I’d heard of internal communication but it wasn’t until I did work experience that I realised how much there was to it. I love the variety of my job; one minute I can be doing a graphic, then I’m working on an animation or designing a magazine.”
Becky Leonard, Sequel’s Communications and Content Manager and IoIC FutureNet committee member, says senior practitioners could offer more work placements. “At Sequel, we had a sixth former come in for work experience who had no idea a career in internal comms existed. She went away thinking it was amazing and keen to join the profession.”
Sequel offers BRICK training for those who are new to IC or already in the profession and want to improve their skills or put the latest tools and trends into practice. Topics, from better writing to getting to grips with Microsoft O365, include both theory and practical skills.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations offers diplomas and certificates in internal communications and accredits Kingston University’s post-graduate Public Relations and Corporate Communications MA course.
Get on board
Making a good first impression helps businesses retain bright young people. Effective onboarding can keep new workers better informed, more motivated and productive from day one. Sequel’s Accelerate internal comms courses onboarding toolkit helps organisations produce a welcoming new employee start pack.