Industry News

IoIC's FutureNet committee is looking for ways to inspire the next generation of internal communicators.


In March, IoIC held its first committee meeting for FutureNet – a network aimed at internal comms newcomers – and more activities are planned for the coming year.
 
We spoke to three committee members about their perceptions of the sector and their hopes for how FutureNet and senior professionals can help encourage others to consider internal communication as a career of choice.
 
 Sarah McAuley is the internal communications manager for Paragon Banking Group PLC, based in Solihull. She started as a corporate comms executive and realised there was a need for a dedicated IC function in the business, so worked to create an IC focused role   
 
Why did you want to join the FutureNet committee?
FutureNet is something I would have loved to have been a part of when I first started in internal comms. I’m keen to learn from others and support newcomers where I can, so the opportunity to be part of the network really appealed. And I thought this would be a good opportunity to raise the profile of internal comms outside of London.
 
Did you have any expectations for the first committee meeting?
I went with an open mind. It was nice to meet the IoIC team and be in an environment where everyone is in a similar position and has similar questions and thought processes about their careers. It was refreshing to meet new people, and find that we all have a common ground.
 
Did any ideas for the group particularly excite you?
We came up with some nice ideas for professional guidance and career support. We’d like to make guidance available in a variety of formats for more people, to help them work their way through internal comms. We’re also looking to target colleges and graduates, and go to careers fairs, to encourage people to actively come into the profession. To do this, we need to lay out what IC involves and the skills they’ll need, and inspire people, whether that’s through our own development stories or getting prominent people from the sector to speak at events.
 
What can organisations do to encourage more people into internal comms?
It’d be great if more companies offered IC work placements and advertised the benefits of having an IC function. Supporting people’s development through qualifications also helps – I’ve been given this support at Paragon, which has been invaluable. IC is booming in some businesses but still overlooked in others. You can see the difference it makes when more engaged people advocate the company they are working for, for example by sharing positive stories on social media.
 
What tips do you have for people considering a role in comms?
A lot of people, me included, know what they’re good at and what skills they have, but not always where these fit into a role. Think about what you enjoy doing and how you want to make an impact. Internal comms isn’t just about writing. There are so many different creative skills involved, such as filming and editing, creating plans/strategies, event management and project management – and also having a good influence in a business, and exposing yourself to the bigger picture. It’s an evolving field and there’s lots of scope to put your own stamp on a role.
 
Becky Leonard has been communications and content manager at Sequel Group for nine months, working with clients on projects ranging from internal comms audits to print magazines and comms campaigns.
 
How did you get into internal comms?
I did English at university and worked in publishing, and then I moved to the Volkswagen Group, where I ran the intranet for customer service employees. We often worked alongside the internal communication manager, which was a job I’d never come across before.  I told her I was really interested in doing what she did. She replied that I already was working in internal comms by running the intranet. I had strayed into it without realising.
 
Why is it a rewarding career for you?
It might sound a bit cheesy, but for me it’s about making people happy at work. To be happy, they need to feel fulfilled and part of a bigger purpose, which comes from a strong company culture. Effective internal communication is the backbone of that culture.
 
Why did you want to join the FutureNet committee?
Internal comms can be a bit isolating. You can be a lone wolf – it could be just you or one or two other people. I’m lucky I work in an agency where we’re all supporting internal comms, but there isn’t anyone else here at the same stage in their career. It’s important to hear from other people going through the same experiences.
 
Are agency-based and in-house internal communicators working towards the same goals?
There can be differences, but fundamentally it boils down to the same purpose – effective communication supporting productive businesses. It was easy to see that at the FutureNet committee meeting, when we went round the room and listened to the reasons why we were all there. And even though we all have similar goals for the committee, we had lots of different ideas for how to reach them, such as opportunities for shadowing each other at work.
 
What do you hope the network can do for others beyond the committee?
The IoIC is already great for professional development; I’ve benefitted from completing both diplomas and taking part in the mentoring programme. But sometimes you need a safe network of people who you feel are your equal professionally –someone you can turn to for help and say if you’re struggling. Sometimes it may not even be for help; it can simply be reassuring to hear them say that they feel that way too. If you’re lacking in confidence, you might not want to go to someone with 10 or 15 years’ experience.
 
How can internal comms managers encourage more people into the profession?
Senior practitioners could open up more work placements – that would be a great start. At Sequel, we had someone come in for work experience. She had no idea a career in internal comms existed and she went away thinking it was amazing and keen to join the profession.
 
Rachel Bowyer is comms lead for a transformation programme at DS Smith. She joined the company in January 2017 and her role is to support employees through changes and explain why the business needs to work in a joined-up way.
 
What do you find rewarding about internal comms?
I like the variety. Two days are rarely the same. It’s an important role in any organisation and you need to have a good business mind, but you also need creativity and engagement. I like the balance of being able to use both the left and right parts of my brain.
 
Why did you want to join the FutureNet committee?
I wanted to get involved in the networking aspect of FutureNet. Comms-wise I’m often working on my own, so having a community of support is really beneficial. I also want to be able to give something back to others who get involved in the network and are at a similar stage in their careers as me.
 
How have you increased your knowledge about the sector in the past?
In my first comms role for the Financial Ombudsman Service, I was in a team of four and I learned a lot from my colleagues. In my current role, I’m learning from people not necessarily within comms, but with other transferable skills, such as in change or learning and development. I go on courses – I’ve just completed the IoIC Foundation diploma – and also pick up information from Twitter and blogs.
 
What surprised or impressed you about your peers on the FutureNet committee?
I was impressed by the level of experience, because everyone is fairly new to the sector – up to three years in the role – but very switched on and passionate. No one felt like a newbie. It’s good that we have that dual outlook of being quite new ourselves and wanting to improve, but having some experience to support others.
 
A lot of our planning was blue-sky thinking about what we could achieve, and it’s exciting to talk about going to graduate fairs, making contacts and explaining to people that this role exists.
 
Why is FutureNet important?
Internal comms is not an industry everyone knows about, so we have to find ways to tap into our knowledge base. People joining the profession now will have the answer to what workplaces will be like in the next 10 years.

For more information and to join the network, click here for our FutureNet page.
 

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