Where is the best place for the IC function to live?

It’s a common point of discussion among internal communication practitioners.  Where exactly is the ideal place for the IC function to sit?  Is it as part of the HR or Marketing teams? Or as a direct confidante of the CEO?

The consensus of most research is that a third of all IC teams sit in Corporate Communications, a third in HR and a third in Strategy, Marketing, Investor Relations or Legal – and even in our office there is disagreement on which is best.

So where is the ideal place for IC to live?

What’s your goal?
When deciding where the IC department should sit it is imperative to be clear on the purpose of internal communication within your organisation. From this, the logical place for the IC function to live becomes clear. If you are looking to build external advocacy then working alongside the external communications team is best. But if your company wants to develop an effective employer brand then HR is the place to be.

At home with HR
There are many advantages for an IC team to be in HR.  It’s closer to the wider people management strategy, including leadership development and employee engagement. It is also typically where essential elements of transformation planning takes place e.g. reorganisations or job losses.

Of course, IC must be careful not to become a subordinate function, confined to the tactical execution of strategy decided by others. And HR managers need to know and understand how to manage IC and creative projects.

Married to Marcomms
Being part of the Marketing or External Communication department is beneficial when an organisation is facing significant stakeholder issues or, especially in the age of social media, when a company needs to speak with a consistent voice. Messages relayed internally have to match what is said outside. It’s also beneficial in terms of efficiently managing creative services.

The challenge here is that some external communications people see comms as a matter of ‘spin’ or message control. This can be restrictive, or even downright damaging, especially when building employee trust with senior leaders.

Seated at the Strategy Table
Sometimes IC reports into the Head of Strategy. This ensures advance warning on any key transformation programmes like Mergers or Acquisitions or changes in strategic direction.  But you can be faced with tight restrictions on how much you can actually say about these initiatives.

And Utopia?
In an ideal world, the IC function should report directly to the CEO – but then sit in the Corporate Communications team.  Having the ear of the CEO sends a clear message about the strategic value of internal communications to your organisation.  You are seen as a credible and respected contributor to the strategic game.  And working day-to-day in Corp Comms means better integration and economies of scale.

But regardless of where the IC department is situated, it is essential to have a good relationship with your CEO – being recognised as a valued contributor to strategic initiatives is worth its weight in gold if you want to build an effective, trustworthy and result-driven IC function.

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