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How to get the coveted licence to operate

By Lise Michaud 

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Research show that a large number of internal communication (IC) professionals still struggle to be recognized as trusted advisors and counsellors by executives and senior leaders and to convince them of the business value of internal communication. This recognition is often cited as the key to get the coveted 'licence to operate', while many argue it is actually instrumental to delivering business value.

The Licence to Operate - first instalment of our new Research Brief series - concisely distills the key findings related to this topic throughout our 164-page global research report The Next Level. Successful in-house communication professionals, C-suite leaders and academics outline a number of ways to overcome these challenges. Here are a few elements found in this 10-page edition:


Beyond communication expertise - Communication expertise alone is not enough. Practitioners must understand the business and show business leaders that they do. Business acumen is a prerequisite to gain the credibility and trust that are needed to be perceived as a trusted advisor and counsellor and able to work at a level where they can add value. For IC to be viewed as a vital business management function and IC professionals as business partners who are called upon to help address business issues, practitioners need to have a thorough understanding not only of their business but of the industry in general and, even higher-level, the principles of business.


Be part of business conversations - Practitioners need to create opportunities to demonstrate that they have something to contribute. They should put communication on the agenda and be prepared to discuss how things are performing whether it’s good and bad, where there are challenges, what they’ve learned, what they’re seeing, and how it accrues to the business. They should participate in the  discussions around where communication can and can't contribute to addressing business opportunities or challenges.


Assess and measure - The value of internal communication relies on its capacity to help organizations achieve their goals. Evaluation and measurement are essential to demonstrate to which extent IC has, or not, an organizational impact.


Bring unique insights - Beyond measurement, it’s about bringing insights to business discussions that leaders cannot, and will not, get from anyone else. Practitioners have to measure communication activities, distill the feedback, and deliver actionable recommendations. By bringing these measures together and using them to inform action, they can have a rich, constructive conversation about the value of communication. That’s a true value-added service for leaders that translates to business metrics like higher employee engagement, greater productivity, safety, or lower voluntary attrition rates.


Credibility based on data analysis - Even if the conversations do happen, it is critical that they reach the strategic level, and steer away from 'vanity measures.' Data analysis not only allows objective judgments to be made but more critically, it is data that usually unlocks the dialogue about communication in an organization. It gives credibility to internal communication team members, many of whom may not have maturity and experience to offer a valued opinion based simply on what they know or have seen.


Case study and statistical approach - Communication tends to exist in areas that are more experiential and qualitative than most business leaders are comfortable with. If practitioners can share third-party data and analysis that shows ROI and quantitative impact on business, it is sometimes the best tool for convincing management of the need and utility for robust, well-equipped internal communications teams, which is another reason for IC to keep excellent KPIs and internal results tracking to justify their programs and tactics.


Early warning systems - Beyond tracking and demonstrating performance, communication professionals can become a proactive early warning system for identifying issues or problems. Good internal communication can be the canary in the coal mine, an early warning system that allows the communication team to take the pulse of the organization and react accordingly, which can also have an impact on external stakeholders.


Financial literacy - Communication professionals must be able to understand the metrics used to define financial success or the failure of business performance. Financial literacy isn’t optional and financial communication isn’t an external communication thing. To communicate quarterly and yearly performance internally, practitioners have to understand the business to take that story and frame it appropriately for internal stakeholders. They need to have strong connections in the Finance function and find safe havens to ask questions as they build their financial acumen.


Get the complete key findings, insights and resources by clicking here to download The Licence to Operate. (Free PDF, 10 pages)


About the report - The Next Level is the first publication of its kind bringing together C-suite leaders, in-house communication professionals/executives, and academia across all continents. Based on primary and secondary research, the report takes the conversation about internal communication to the strategic management level. Via solid insights, advice, frameworks, and resources, The Next Level covers critical topics and issues dealing with today's challenges and future needs to truly help practitioners better position themselves as trusted counsellors and advisors, and communicate on the same strategic level with senior management. Find out more and download the full global report at



Official support - The global report is officially supported by IABC, as a strategic partner, and by The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, and The Conference Board.


Capture d’écran, le 2019-04-03 à 17.31.5
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