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The UK’s only Masters degree to focus on the strategic practice of internal communication will be delivered in partnership between the Institute of Internal Communication and Solent University for the first time from September 2018. Here, the course team explains how the Masters can make a real difference to your career – and your organisation.

The Masters in Internal Communication Management is no academic exercise. The qualification has been developed by and for senior internal communication professionals to equip fellow practitioners with the confidence, gravitas and skill to make a real impact at the most senior level. 
Course director Liz Cochrane says: “As a course team, we know the value people place on being able to back up advice with depth of knowledge. But we’re also aware that busy professionals aren’t interested in theory for the sake of it. What matters is being able to apply it. That’s why we’ve got a ‘theory into practice’ emphasis throughout – looking at what different topics mean for students’ own role and organisation.”
Liz leads the first unit, which focuses on the insights that communication psychology and neuroscience bring to the communication role, together with the implications of organisational and national cultures and of leadership communication styles.
“The aim is to start to see the working environment in a different way,” says Liz. “We know from feedback that this can be a real eye-opener, and lead to people making practical changes in their organisation straight away – which means the payback starts from the outset.”

Building for the future
Jenny Davenport leads two units, one of which looks at how to think and act strategically – how internal communication can drive organisations forward.
It considers influences on IC strategy, covering issues such as change, engagement, brand, measurement, legislation, employee value proposition and channels, especially social media and collaborative tools.
Jenny’s other unit focuses on influencing and knowledge management.
“We look at rhetoric, discourse analysis, influencing skills and understanding,” explains Jenny. “What makes people believe and take in information in the hugely crowded world we live in? What cuts through? What makes people have a certain attitude and what influences them?
“Particularly, internal communicators want to be listened to by senior managers and understand how best to support them. A lot of the skills we look at are related to this.”
Gathering evidence

Domna Lazidou leads a unit on how to conduct robust communication research to underpin decision-making.
“We look at the best way of gathering evidence, what you need in order to make a business case, and how to interpret the data to get the most useful information,” she says. “What is good data and what is poor data? How do you measure the effectiveness of your communication and the clarity of your strategy?”
The unit examines how you can accumulate quality knowledge using a range of research, including both quantitative and qualitative approaches.
“We look at best practice in terms of research techniques,” Domna adds. “And then students have the opportunity to conduct a research project into a current organisational issue, resulting in practical recommendations. It’s another great way of providing payback to the organisation, as well as honing research skills – with support and feedback from the course team throughout.”  
Designed for busy professionals
The year-long course is designed for busy professionals, with four highly interactive workshops in Central London, each two days long, together with online discussions and personal study. 
“These are not lectures where you listen to words of wisdom from the front,” says Jenny. ”Students learn a lot from each other.”
Liz adds: “We introduce key thinking and encourage the group to talk about the implications and then follow this through in the online forums, where students share insights from the additional reading they have done. This has the benefit of building a fantastic network, too.”
Assignments also form part of the programme. “Again, theory into practice is the hallmark,” says Liz. “Each assignment gets people to apply what they’ve learned to a live issue in their own organisation – and make recommendations for improvement.”
While writing an assignment can seem a daunting task, Jenny adds, “the course team has a reputation for giving support throughout – we’re only an email or Skype call away”. 
Connecting IC to business issues
The Masters course is aimed at more senior IC practitioners, already working at a strategic level, or who plan a strategic role as their next step.
Domna believes the course is important for anyone who wants to add rigour to their communication practice.
“It will help you understand how what you do as communicators connects to big business issues and it will enable you to prove the value of internal comms,” she says.
One of the real values of the course is the opportunity to hone critical and analytical skills.
“The Masters really helps internal comms professionals to think in a business and analytical way,” says Liz. “That’s really useful because that commands respect from the senior people you’re aiming to influence. The research and learning are important, but it’s as much about using your critical thinking faculties, as well as ensuring that you have a good evidence base for all you say.”
It’s about future-proofing your career, concludes Jenny. “Graduates tell us that the course has built their confidence – that they knew what they were talking about, but now they can prove it. It also gives them a stronger theoretical underpinning, so that they are better able to adapt to new challenges as they emerge.”

What do past students say?

I look at my work from a more evidence-based perspective now and I feel I’ve got the tools to back up my decisions and advocate for them with confidence. I acquired this body of knowledge that was really relevant to what I was doing as an internal communicator. It was a transformation in terms of how I do my job.
Oli Howard
It was hard work for one year. At the time I had a two-year old, four-year old and a ten-year old. You need to be really strict with your time. Make sure you know where you are going to plan, and how and what you’re going to study – but give yourself some time off. It’s the most amazing experience and gives you so much for your future career.
Susie May
I did the Masters mainly to get that theoretical knowledge to share back into the business, rather than just going by how I feel. I really enjoyed meeting likeminded people who shared my passion for communications, and also having the space to learn more about our discipline. At work, you don’t get that much time to seek out best practice and really sit and think about the way you’re doing things.
Joe McMann
The prospect of starting a Masters 20 years after completing my first degree and while working full time was a daunting task. I need not have worried as the quality of the teaching and level of support from Liz and Jenny was fantastic. Whenever I needed them, they were there. Whether for academic insight, or moral support, the communication between us was always responsive and incredibly encouraging.
Grant McDonald
It’s a lot of work, but it is worthwhile and it is really, really interesting stuff. It completely changed my approach to work. I look at things so differently, I put a lot more theory into it, but more importantly I think it really gives me credibility with my stakeholders.
Zaiba Mughal
One of the things that was completely unexpected was building a network of internal communicators. Within my role, I’m the only internal comms manager at my company, but through doing the Masters I’ve built up a network of people who supported me through the course and who I feel are friends, which is something you don’t really think about at the outset, but is a really great benefit.
Lia Crooks

For more information

Download the course brochure or email [email protected].

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