CIPR Summit 2024 Webinar Recap

25 March 2024

As the dust settled on a busy week, our Content Specialist, Daniel McKeon, signed in to Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ 2024 Inside Summit and checked out some select sessions focussed on internal comms. We’ve selected three in particular to expand upon that most resonated with the chatter we’d heard within the sector. As expected, strategy alignment and communications impact was the main focus as well as connecting the throughline of where communications can maximise operations. Read on to get some of the key insights from a range of communicators.  


Purpose – the connection to leadership, culture, and influence 

We began with a talk led by Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe, Head of Engagement for the Cabinet Office, who outlined how impactful communications always came back to clear company purpose. She took the Japanese concept of Ikigai, the secret to fulfilment in the daily routine of life, looking at how a similar approach could guide career decisions and even wider company purpose. This holistic approach can bring overarching understanding of your Impact on the world outside of products and services.  

In the ongoing shift of bringing greater credibility to communications, Thomas-Sutcliffe stressed that leadership and confidence in our abilities would be crucial. The issues communicators engage with are complex but more often than not, we have a sense of the solution. The trick is in selling this solution to other departments, trusting services, and understanding business acumen to back up our insights.  

One particularly interesting point was Thomas-Sutcliffe’s discussion of how to bring change ambassadors along with you in your communication strategy and how integrating a feedback loop could help reach colleagues where they are. This was a formalisation of effective listening and a reframing of the leader and colleague relationship to find the true voice and purpose of organisations.  


IC: The glue that keeps strategy and organisation together  

Christina Fee built upon Thomas-Sutcliffe’s notion of the throughline of interconnectivity. She began by setting out the current landscape, remarking on the ripple effect of the pandemic, emerging internal and external threats, and the barriers to IC executions that continue to impact creativity. It was inspiring to hear her talking about the power of comms to bring organisational purpose to life.   

To further expand on this, she referred to two case studies from her work, one with Bupa and one with AA. These demonstrated her proposition that impactful communications had to straddle both operations and strategy to maximise results. Rather than just talk about the need to be more strategic, she pointed to communicators asking to see business plans to inform a tactical delivery approach of your internal comms. If you don’t have the business plan, ask for it and use it to understand key systems within the organisation and ways of working. In doing so, you break down the interchange between employees and entire departments and can better showcase the contributions of the part to develop your purpose.  

Fee emphasised a more high-minded idea of the company emerges from this methodology. Fee emphasised that as well as enabling high change readiness and establishing clear foundations, this type of transparency demystifies strategy and encourages the sharing of ideas across hierarchies.  It enabled a healthier culture – an outcome we all strive for – and it was a wonderful example of how developing business acumen doesn’t sacrifice the overall vision of what an organisation can mean to its internal teams.  


Panel discussion: A strategic approach to communications  

To round out our observations, we stepped into a virtual panel discussion between Shalini Gupta of Arup, Alex Kinnear-Mellor of Doncaster Group, Nicki Dyson of T. Rowe Price, David Manning of Curry’s, and Sharn Kleiss of Gallagher. This was a brass-tacks application of what communicators need to be acting on to maintain relevance and bolster their positioning.  

The panellists discussed the tangible steps to understanding process for more effective internal communications, a functional distinction that actually worked to highlight the human nature in all business operations. Colleague networks and employee resource groups enabled recognition of contributions from people of all positions and abilities. It also leant credibility to campaigning for upper management, harnessing a variety of skillsets whilst keep an eye on the ultimate outcomes. It felt like a vision of the feedback loops that stop comms feeling like top-down imperatives by responding to concerns and giving appreciation for raising them before resolving. 

Alex Kinnear-Mellor offered a particularly salient point, saying successful pitches were never just a simple yes but rather involved compromise and collaboration as people ask for alterations when they want to contribute to the vision. Such responses mean investment – stakeholders want to feel part of the solution and we should be embracing these rather than shutting them down. 


It’s clear that communicators have a lot of work to do in the next year to progress on some of the challenges raised by the Gallagher state of the sector report. Coming out of the CIPR conference, however, I feel invigorated seeing such a cavalcade of ideas presented to make tangible in-roads to shape more positive and effective work cultures.   

About Us