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Andy Rushton, IoIC Board member and head of operations communications at DWP, provides advice on gaining buy-in to the IC strategy from the senior team.


Building a case for the IC strategy


Senior leadership teams come in many forms. From “I didn’t get to where I am today…..” through distant gurus to hungry “communication is all I do” types, they all have one thing in common – engaging them with their internal communication strategy can be a challenge. The form of that challenge can vary too – ranging from the “why are you telling me this?” to “I’ll set the direction, write the strategy and bring it to life for every man, woman, their children and family pets”.

So let’s start at the beginning. Why have an IC strategy? If you can’t convince yourself of the benefits to the bottom line, don’t expect to persuade your SLT that it’s a thing of value. Measurement more than ever before is our lifeblood and of course we could write a book (as others have done) on whether IC is art or science. To save you hours of reading and a hefty Amazon bill I’ll sum it up. It’s both. Added to that, most IC practitioners are instinctively creative types so getting the figures that will give our strategy traction will be a challenge. That said, the currency that every SLT can relate to best is numbers. So, look at your strategy as a tall building and the strong foundations it needs as being based in research and evaluation. Through this you will build a compelling statistical case for the business criticality of your strategy.

So, you have your nuts and bolts. The frame you need is your organisation’s business strategy – you need to align, cross refer and harmonise your IC strategy so the two fit together perfectly. Done that? Good. You may at this point be asking how any of this means you’re engaging your senior team. One of the first things we learn when joining the IC world is to know your audience, and this audience deals in tangibles. Armed with your evidence- based, business-focused, strategically balanced approach, you are ready to persuade.


Understanding the goals of the individuals


Of course your work to this point will have meant your interaction with senior leaders, so you should have a good feel for their personal goals and preferences. These are important – if the collective SLT deal in figures, the individuals that make it up can sometimes work in anything but. You need to know who the influencers are and the things you need to do to gain your licence to operate, and a fact of life is that these things are often tangential to your strategy and even your short term plan. You need to make regular judgement calls on the ad hoc requirements made of you or, importantly, the ones you identify. A common mistake is for an IC practitioner to be aware of an ad hoc need but to ignore it, justified by the fact that it doesn’t form a clear part of the strategy that you have by now had signed off by your SLT. This is where things can go wrong.

To establish yourself as a strategic partner with your SLT, you need to be part of the problem identification group – not just an optional member of the resolution community. This means being more than just the ‘push’ to keep IC as a constant consideration; it’s also about acting as the regulator when colleagues want to go off and do their own thing because it feels right to them.


Don't dismiss ad hoc needs


To ignore the ad hoc need, the job that is perhaps not core to what you do, the things that are broadly positive in the IC space but not really right, will push you to the peripheries. It will make you reactive and of course the thing that you choose to ignore is always personal to someone – if they feel neglected they will not be your advocate and will almost inevitably do their own IC thing. Facing up to those requests – or in some cases less than obvious needs – even if it’s to say no in the right way, is an important part of engendering trust and developing a true partnership with your senior team. Set time aside for this – it WILL happen.

Remember, your senior colleagues work every day – not just when they meet with their SMT colleagues. Make sure they know you outside of the boardroom, they understand the basis and value of what you do, and see you as an essential partner. Your job is to challenge and persuade as well as to enable and facilitate and that balance is sometimes hard to strike. If you are new to the group, like any relationship, make sure you start as you mean to go on.

So, make sure your building has foundations, it’s made of top quality material, fits perfectly with the rest of the skyscape and that it provides a brilliant environment that everyone sees as essential to their everyday lives. Make sure you maintain it and change it to meet the changing needs of your organisation. You’re not the caretaker, you are the architect in chief.


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