New fast track in-person option to become IC qualified
About the author
Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and editor/co-author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.
Kevin Ruck and Martin Flegg reflect on the new accelerator face to face internal communication courses launched recently by PR Academy.
The courses include an intensive two-day workshop that enables you to move quickly into the assignment work which means that you could potentially complete the qualification within three months.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) qualification is offered at certificate and diploma levels with both courses underpinned with theory, frameworks, and models that form the basis for effective and ethical practice.
When I started my first dedicated role in internal communication more than twenty years ago, there were no books and there was precious little research to guide practice. How things have changed.
There are now three contemporary text books, at least six good practitioner-oriented books, multiple industry reports, and a fast-growing range of academic journal articles that all contribute to a body of knowledge for professionalism in the field. These sources all feed into our teaching.
Incidentally, we still use the first highly influential internal comms book in the UK, ‘Making the Connections’ by Bill Quirke in our courses, which shows how well it has stood the test of time. This is just one of the internal comms books available to students on the PR Academy Study Hub library.
When I developed the internal communication qualifications for CIPR back in 2009 the aim was to equip practitioners with stronger knowledge about effective practice. In many ways, this was to plug a gap at the time.
Today, as practitioners have access to a plethora of sources of information, the teaching focus is more about curating and synthesising theoretical developments and applying robust research. As internal communication matures, it is important to distinguish reports and articles that are based on solid research methods from opinion-based pieces. Monique Zytnik recently hosted a podcast discussion with myself and Mike Klein that covers some of the issues in this space.
In the first accelerator workshop in October, I touched briefly on the way that internal communication does not have a commonly accepted general model like, for example, the 7Ps of marketing (product, price, place, promotion, people, process, and physical evidence). I’m sure this is something that will emerge as more and more research is conducted.
In the meantime, we incorporate models from academics and practitioners that inform different aspects of internal communication. This includes my own Alignment-Voice-Identification-Dialogue (AVID) framework that evolved from my PhD thesis with an emphasis on line manager and senior manager communication. This can be associated with Mary Welch’s Commitment-Understanding-Belonging-Awareness (CUBA) outcomes and engagement model and her IC Matrix.
We adapt medium theory for insights into content and channel mapping and explore Smith’s Context-Action Result (CAR) process for internal storytelling.
We use established change management models for change communication and apply guidelines from the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) for planning and measurement.
Good leadership communication principles that include listening also feature prominently and we will shortly be using a new leadership listening model that I have developed with colleagues Mike Pounsford and Howard Krais for our new book ‘Leadership Listening: Creating Organisations that Flourish’. PR Academy students will be able to access this on our Study Hub library as soon as it is published.
From an academic perspective, my role as a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Communication Management entails peer reviews of academic internal communication research articles. Its genuinely exciting to see new angles on practice that are now being explored across the globe. Examples of this include our evolving understanding of internal crisis communication, employee advocacy, and employee activism.
Our courses are regularly updated to reflect new thinking. However, we continue to emphasise core principles such as research, objective setting, strategic thinking, strategic narrative, and listening to employees. These are all points that ensure that the use of limited time and resources has the maximum possible impact for the organisation.
There is something about the learning experience in an in-person face-to-face situation which simply cannot be recreated online, no matter how sophisticated the technology.
I was quickly reminded of this as we began teaching the first two-day accelerator in October this year. It was something which I think many of us had forgotten after the intense digital by default conditioning we all experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
Face to face in a group setting is simply a more human way to learn, particularly when it comes to some of the more complex concepts we cover on the internal communication qualification courses at PR Academy.
Getting your head around things such as the Elaboration Likelihood Model, Medium Theory and Kotter’s Accelerators can be challenging, but learning in person provides the spontaneous opportunities and ‘lightbulb moments’ to share how these concepts and frameworks can be put into practice in the real world. As internal communication practitioners, we all have examples of this from our day jobs, even if we don’t know it before we begin our studies. Sharing these examples, building on the experiences of others in the room and comparing our successes and failures in practice can immediately bring these rather academic constructs to life.
As practitioners we also rarely get the opportunity to take a step back and really think about what we are doing and why, and work with others to explore what the best solution for a communication issue might really be. Our organisational stakeholders usually want to see action pronto when they commission our help, which often drives us to jump straight into content creation and using channels to produce visible internal communications activity quickly.
So often in this situation the up-front research to find out more about the issue, develop insights and identify how theory could help us leverage those insights to develop a more effective communication solution never happens. Our inherent busyness means we get stuck in an outputs-based practice mindset.
Undertaking a qualification course provides the time and opportunity for a paradigm shift to occur in thinking and a practice approach to internal communication that starts with research-based communication objectives, stakeholder analysis and prioritisation and not content and channels. Part of our role as tutors at PR Academy is to help students make that transition, enabling them to achieve more successful communication outcomes by strategic design rather than by coincidental accident.
Cutting through the internal politics of organisations, dealing with the competing and conflicting demands of stakeholders, working out how to say ‘no’ constructively and delivering uncomfortable truths and unwelcome bad news to leaders are just some of the things all IC practitioners grapple with every day at work.
At its core, internal communication is a relationships-based profession and fostering productive and effective relationships with others in the organisation is one of the keys to effective and impactful practice.
However, these challenges are sometimes stressful and it can be easy to lose perspective. We sometimes don’t give ourselves the space and time to share the ‘pain’ with other IC practitioners, to decompress with others who have had similar experiences. This is perhaps the biggest highlight of face-to-face teaching and learning on a course like the accelerator. Just having the opportunity to chat about the challenges of working in IC with people who really understand helps.
Our London Accelerator course will run again in spring 2024. Delegates come together in London for two back-to-back days of learning followed up by full access to our online course including further live sessions, tutorials and access to our extensive library.
We also run a London Accelerator for the CIPR Professional PR Diploma.