24 May 2024
by Elisabetta Pulcini

VMA GROUP report highlights lack of true leadership support for internal comms

As IC continues to evolve, professionals must stay adaptable and proactive, and call on leaders to back them in their efforts to create powerful employee experiences.


Less than a quarter (22 per cent) of IC professionals feel their leaders are advocates for internal communication. This statistic from VMA GROUP’s latest Inside Insight research underscores the ongoing challenge comms teams face in gaining visible support and endorsement from the top.

VMA GROUP’s annual survey offers a comprehensive view of the evolving landscape of the profession, with responses gathered from nearly 600 UK-based IC professionals across various organisations. The findings highlight significant trends and challenges, offering practical advice for IC professionals.

Obtain leadership support

The Inside Insight research suggests that the positive perception of IC's value has declined since 2020, with seven per cent fewer professionals feeling valued by their C-suite.

However, despite an apparent lack of leader advocates, 46 per cent of internal comms professionals say executives are generally supportive of their work. Additionally, 71 per cent have engaged with their CEO about internal comms in the past year, and 63 per cent feel their communications director values IC as much as other disciplines.

The report suggests that visible leadership support can significantly impact IC effectiveness and budget allocation.

Helen Theofanous, head of employee engagement at Mott MacDonald, explains: “We report our progress and success to senior leaders quarterly. This keeps colleagues and engagement goals in focus, and communications aligned with business priorities.”

The survey also indicates a nuanced relationship between IC budgets and senior leaders’ attitudes. In organisations where the CEO values internal communication, budgets tend to be higher, sometimes reaching up to £350,000 annually. Meanwhile, a lack of perceived value from senior leaders correlates with lower budgets.

It’s essential for IC professionals to obtain leaders’ endorsement. Christina Fee, formerly director and chief of staff people & culture at Fourtold Ltd, says: “As IC professionals we must seize the opportunity to lead the conversation, by engaging leaders to understand how internal communications intersects with and underpins the delivery of the business strategy and goals.”

Adopt a strategic role

Regularly updating IC plans is essential for adapting to new challenges and ensuring effective communication. However, more than 20 per cent of respondents do not have a communications plan, echoing sentiments from previous years.

Despite a high proportion (73 per cent) of organisations having a formal communications plan, the frequency of plan reviews has declined. Notably, eight per cent of respondents never review their IC plan, and 21 per cent do so only annually.

Sara Tehrani, account director at VMA GROUP, emphasises: "Strategic planning is vital. Teams need to focus on creating and regularly reviewing their plans to stay ahead. In a rapidly changing world, it's crucial to update your plans regularly. Failing to do so can leave teams unprepared for new challenges.”

Embracing change

The transition to flexible and hybrid working models has become commonplace post-pandemic. Currently, almost three-quarters of respondents (72 per cent) work from home at least three days a week.

Crystle Pearce, Managing Consultant at VMA GROUP, highlights: "Flexible working is not just a perk but a necessity for attracting and retaining talent. Organisations that embrace this are likely to see higher employee satisfaction and lower turnover."

In spite of continuous changes in technology, email continues to reign supreme as the most popular IC channel, with 60 per cent of employees preferring it over other methods. Despite the rise of digital tools, traditional communication methods like face-to-face briefings and newsletters remain relevant. Smaller organisations tend to rely more heavily on email, while larger ones use a broader mix of channels, including digital magazines and leadership conferences. The challenge lies in reaching non-digital employees in increasingly digital workplaces.

Jennifer Sproul, chief executive of IoIC, comments in the report: “Thoughtful, clear, and inclusive communication is an asset no machine can replicate, positioning communicators to add unique value to their organisations. Investing time in expanding knowledge allows internal communicators to capitalise on what is going to be a golden era for our profession.”

The Inside Insight survey results offer practical insights for IC teams to enhance their strategies, advocate for necessary resources, and ensure their value is recognised at the highest levels of their organisations. The ongoing commitment to professional development and strategic planning will be crucial for navigating the dynamic world of internal communications.