How to hire the ideal strategic comms pro for your needs
Updated: Sep 21, 2020
The nature of what internal communications looks like is changing, so how can you ensure that you define your IC roles to attract the right IC expert for your needs?
THE IMPORTANCE OF AN IC EXPERT
The IC manager is an ambiguous role that, it seems, can range from the fairly tactical to more senior and strategic. Whereas previously the focus would primarily be the administration of communications, there is now need for IC in general to become more consultative, commercial and provide coaching skills in order to support leadership to better engage their workforce.
While there is still a requirement for the traditional tactical skills such as content creation, copy writing and editing, event delivery and channel management, organisations are now recognising that these alone will not deliver the impact they want in order to create behaviour change and improve performance. An experienced and skilled IC manager is essential to achieving these critical engagement outcomes, but how do you create a role that will attract the right level of candidate, whilst working within your available budget and the needs and structure of your organisation?
There are a few options available, but first it’s important to examine the definition of an IC Manager and understand how this will increase the likelihood of meeting your priority needs.
DEFINING THE IC MANAGER
The Internal Communications Manager role is both the most prolific and the most ambiguous in IC. The key question for this role is: to what ratio do you want this person to deliver tactically and strategically? The balance of this will guide you on how skilled, experienced and senior an IC management professional you are seeking. The size of your organisation, and the communications challenge also need to be factored in and you should be realistic about these; if you really need someone to advise and work with leadership, to understand the communication landscape, support or lead strategically important change projects, or manage a large team with many junior members, this role will not also have the capacity to deliver the minutiae of the communications plan.
Too often this role can be seen as a ‘catch-all’ for organisations without a sufficient communications function. Whilst it’s certainly possible to hire someone with good experience and knowledge to cover the full range of IC responsibilities, it is unlikely you will realise the full value from them. Experience has shown that the tactical gets prioritised (since it is seen as most urgent, if not the most important), and therefore the really valuable work falls by the wayside. Therefore, the emphasis for this role should be on the strategic side of IC, with tactical responsibilities at the more advanced level. In order to support this, the IC function will need at least another role to manage the bulk of administrative tasks. This can be provided through a more junior IC professional, preferably an IC Executive.
With any of these roles, don't let industry experience be a significant factor in identifying an ideal candidate. Learning about the business context should be a fundamental skill for any IC professional, and therefore sector becomes irrelevant. The priority skills to seek out should be the IC skills currently required by your business.
STRATEGIC EXPERTISE SOLUTIONS
So, you know the role you want to recruit but what if your budget is tight? There are some possible solutions:
Maintain the strategic emphasis of the IC Manager role by looking at other roles in your organisation that could take on the administrative communications responsibilities e.g. PAs, HR Administrators.
Hire a specialist on a contract basis to focus on the delivery of your most important areas, projects or outcomes. This may mean you have to be ruthless in what you leave out, but your organisation will get the expertise it needs most, whether that be a an improved level of communications delivery, or some senior level change support. If you are aligned to your biggest priorities, you will soon see value in this focused resource and it may create the business case for further investment.
Hire at a more junior level with a view to develop them into the role. Combine this by engaging with an external practitioner or consultant to provide senior level strategic advice and support as required. This can work out more cost effective than having someone of this calibre in situ full-time, whilst still allowing the junior role to learn from their experience and also providing a fresh and objective perspective to your strategic challenges.
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