The Conference Board uses cookies to improve our website, enhance your experience, and deliver relevant messages and offers about our products. Detailed information on the use of cookies on this site is provided in our cookie policy. For more information on how The Conference Board collects and uses personal data, please visit our privacy policy. By continuing to use this Site or by clicking "OK", you consent to the use of cookies. 

12 Sep. 2019 | Comments (0)

How do executives perceive internal communication and what role and value do they want to see in their communication team? IC Kollectif reviewed recent surveys and reports from renowned organizations and experts to get an overview of their perceptions and expectations. The findings are published in Internal Communication in the Eyes of C-Suite Leaders.

Disparity in the role of IC

C-suite executives from some leading brands recognize the vital role of internal communication (IC) as an essential management tool for improving their financial bottom lines and help driving business results. In those organizations, the role and expectations of IC seem to be well understood by both practitioners and senior management. IC is also part of the strategic management process, as HR, finance and other functions do.

At other companies, however, IC practitioners are still often viewed as channel producers or technicians, and IC teams are often mainly required to focus on the tactical job of broadcasting messages. A 2017 report by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) indicated that IC still needs to be explained to some CEOs. It also noted that while some executives said IC as a function was strategic, the examples these executives gave were mainly tactical, not strategic.One of the reasons CEOs cite to explain why they don’t recognize the strategic role of IC is that communication professionals still lack critical business knowledge.

Nonetheless, CEOs still believe that IC is tightly linked with core business objectives and they recognize that the chances of successfully implementing strategic initiatives are greatly diminished if employees do not understand or know how to help support key objectives.

Employee engagement


Employee engagement is often emphasized by senior leaders as being particularly critical to a business’s success and senior leaders believe IC plays an important role to support this. In particular, many leaders consider IC critical to engaging employees as brand ambassadors. Many believe that all employees are company spokespeople and should therefore be well informed, so they can represent the brand effectively.

Additionally, CEOs believe IC is important in establishing the values or culture that help reinforce the corporate brand and how it is perceived by external audiences. In some instances, business leaders prioritize IC over external communication because they believe IC makes external communication easier.

Expectations of IC

A business management function C-suite leaders expect IC to be part of the management process and communication professionals to be strategists to help drive business results. At that level, they are looking for communication professionals who are both counsellors and advisors rather than simply that of a skilled communication technician.

Capacity and credibility Executives want their communication teams to demonstrate that they have the capacity to deliver value. They expect practitioners to be able to speak the business’s language and to demonstrate that they have the business knowledge that allows them to communicate on the same strategic level as senior management. Executives also want their CCO and communication team to be business people with an expertise in communication. Executives consider business acumen as a prerequisite for practitioners to gain their trust and credibility as trusted/strategic counsellors and advisors. They expect communication skills, but they want practitioners to have a firm understanding of the business, how it works, and what its challenges are. This goes for mid-level and junior team members as well as senior communicators.

Connect the dots Senior leaders expect IC to put everyone on the same page, to help shape perceptions, align people with business directions, help employees understand how their work contributes to the overall success of the organization, and the vision guiding corporate initiatives and objectives. They say alignment is particularly critical, especially when facing major changes. Importantly, this means that internal and external communication should be closely aligned.

Understand and engage employees CEOs are clear that they want advanced communication tools and methods to engage and understand employees. Whether it’s gathering local intelligence, understanding what employees think about the enterprise, or ultimately encouraging employees to be brand ambassadors, CEOs want to be sure that advanced systems are in place for employee engagement.

Support employees in times of crisis CEOs expect that in the case of a crisis, employees are at a minimum educated about the basics, and provided with well-vetted responses to questions they might face.

Download Internal Communication in the Eyes of C-Suite Leaders to read the full findings. The research brief series is based on the findings of the global report The Next Level: The Business Value of Good Internal CommunicationThe report is supported by IABC, The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management and The Conference Board, and is available on the IC Kollectif website.

  • About the Author:Lise Michaud

    Lise Michaud

    Lise Michaud is the Founder of IC Kollectif, an independent non-profit based in Montreal and the only global organization dedicated to the strategic management of internal communication. IC Kollectif …

    Full Bio | More from Lise Michaud


0 Comment Comment Policy

Please Sign In to post a comment.

    Subscribe to the Marketing & Communications Blog








    Support Our Work

    Support our nonpartisan, nonprofit research and insights which help leaders address societal challenges.