Following on from a recent study by VMA group there was an interesting insight across hiring managers about the top five skills that are ‘most lacking’ in Internal Communications recruits.

I thought it would be useful to delve a little deeper into those skills and try to put some context behind why they are an important part of the IC practitioner toolkit in 2012.

Interestingly, the skills shortage appears to be what I would class as traditional IC skills; the surprise for me is that innovation and social media didn’t appear in the list. In fact, whilst social media is perceived as the 2nd biggest skills deficit amongst IC practitioners, it is only 12th on the list of desired skills for hiring managers.

So what are hiring managers looking for, and why?

1. Influencing

Fast becoming the number one skill requirement for all IC people; influencing has now moved ahead of technical expertise as the ‘must have’ skill. A critical success factor for an IC or engagement strategy is leadership buy in. Being able to influence and gain respect at that senior level is now a key challenge for IC professionals. Positioning yourself as a strategic adviser and strong stakeholder management skills are a pre-requisite for Internal Communications practitioners.

This is a positive trend as it suggests that IC is moving away from delivery and into influencing strategy. Having the ear of your leaders brings communication closer to the top of the organisational agenda.

Related blogs:
Stakeholder Management the key for Internal Communications practitioners.

2. Coaching Senior Leaders

Similar skillset to influencing; coaching senior leaders is now a fundamental requirement of an Internal Communications professional. Organisations are now far more reliant on managers being strong communicators; as the primary channel and communicator of the message it is essential that leaders and senior managers understand the message and are equipped with the skills to deliver it.

The assumption that all leaders and managers are good communicators is a dangerous one. Poor management communications can have a negative impact on overall engagement. Driving best practice and coaching is now an important part of an IC remit.

Related blogs:
Do we assume Line Managers are good communicators?

3. Strategy setting

In the past a good Internal Communications strategy may well have been built upon a good channel strategy. The function has evolved in recent times; and now a good IC strategy is very much driven by a good engagement strategy. To develop an engagement strategy you need to consider multiple factors such as cultural ambition, measurement, channels, engagement drivers and interactivity. There is now a hybrid of factors to consider when developing or setting your IC strategy: it has to be aligned with your organisational and people strategies.

Integrating your IC strategy as part of an engagement strategy is a core skillset for IC professionals. Increasing engagement and defining culture are two essential business priorities that now rely on a sound IC strategy.

Related blog:
The evolution of Internal Communications

4. Writing – Specific Corporate Messaging

In a changing and dynamic business environment the ability to deliver good corporate messaging is a fundamental skill. There are different types of IC professionals with differing writing styles.  It is a core skill the ability to be able to write clearly and concisely; but making the distinction between journalistic and corporate writing is a fine line.

Corporate messaging will be informative; but it will have a more formal edge than a news piece. It is a small distinction, but one that businesses find important.

5. Writing – Publication / Online

The more journalistic style of writing that is needed for publications / online is the final skill employers believe is lacking.

I find it difficult to believe that written skills would be lacking in new IC recruits; as IC is such a fluid structural function it is difficult to put a definition to an IC professional who is more comfortable writing in a ‘corporate’ or ‘journalistic’ style; with the crossover maybe creating a perception that there is a skills shortage amongst hiring managers.

Interestingly the top five skills shortages perceived by the IC community are:

  1. Coaching Senior Leaders
  2. Social Media Development
  3. Influencing
  4. Public Affairs
  5. External Communications


In summary, it looks as though hiring managers are looking for Internal Communications professionals to be able to operate at a strategic level. Influencing and coaching senior leaders to drive engagement. Written skills are still an essential part of the role: and the ability to be able to tailor your style to corporate / journalistic looks as though it will be a useful asset.

Thank-you to VMA Group for supplying the data and insight for this blog. All facts can be found in full report:

VMA Group:

2 thoughts on “Profiling an Internal Communications practitioner (based upon VMA IC development survey)

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