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I remember the day I discovered Internal Communications like it was yesterday

I remember the day I discovered Internal Communications like it was yesterday. It was 7pm and I'd been at work for about 12 hours having started on the early shift. This was in a call centre for a well known utility and I'd recently been promoted to call centre team leader. It was then that I read the job advert for an Internal Communications Assistant. It jumped out at me as it described everything I wanted to do. So I applied and amazingly was successful, which started a 25 year career in Internal Communications which has been rewarding at every turn!

In that first IC role I had two inspirational leaders that really helped me establish my IC credentials. The first was my manager at the time, who was incredibly supportive, extremely capable and forgiving of my mistakes and crazy ideas (although to be fair I think her ideas were often way crazier). The second was the General Manager of the business, who really did empower people. I remember (having been promoted to IC Manager when my boss moved on) sending an in depth and very thorough proposal to him for a campaign I wanted to run. To get the response 'make it happen' was all I needed, knowing I could seek his advice and support if I wasn't sure of anything.

But why did the role jump out at me? I'd studied Law and Economics (with Politics) at university, so it wasn't an obvious career path and I'd already decided (despite having secured a place to complete my training contract) not to pursue a career in law. But I'd always loved words and so wanted to find a career where I could write, influence and be noticed. Temping in a call centre, first as a customer service advisor and then as a team leader, didn't feel like the beginning of a career I wanted to build my future around. At the time I had no idea what I was going to do longer term.

But the three things in the advert that really stood out were firstly, that it was all about words, secondly that there was only one of these roles in a call centre of 2,000 employees, so it certainly had profile and thirdly, because I'd already been on the receiving end of a considerable amount of 'corporate communications' that didn't engage or resonate. I knew I could adapt what came from the centre into something more meaningful for people locally.

Since that first role, I have learned an incredible amount and seen the IC function evolve and change beyond measure, but I believe there are three fundamental skills that all IC professionals needed then and still need today and that this won't change in the future, namely; curiosity, being a good writer and the ability to influence. This is very clear in my current role, running specialist comms recruitment business Comms Leaders where these are the skills hiring managers are looking for most: And The Academy, where our clients are constantly asking for bespoke in house training around these key topics.

Looking back now, Law and Economics (with Politics) was actually a fantastic degree to have as a grounding for a career in IC. I'd never have been able to understand and explain the financials of the businesses I worked for as easily without that economics piece. The law element taught me the importance of being incredibly precise with words and meaning to avoid confusion, as well as an awareness of how important it is to keep communications simple and to the point. The politics was also useful in expanding my awareness of the bigger picture and the many influences, out of our control, that can frustrate decision making and progress in organisations. The rest has been learned on the job, but I still feel I have so much more to learn as the profession evolves.

Looking forwards, I see more and more jobs with internal communications and culture in their titles, which is exactly the direction I believe the profession should be going in. Who else in an organisation can straddle Corporate Communications, HR and in fact every part of the business to influence its culture? Which other function can connect with employees and other stakeholders to drive engagement and culture change?

This current pandemic has really helped raise the profile of Internal Communications and its ability to influence. I hope this will remain long after the crisis is over, but unless the profession as a whole seizes this moment and succeeds in influencing beyond the current rhythm of crisis communications, then the opportunity to keep that top level influence could easily be lost. 

If I had to go back, I would choose it one hundred...
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Wednesday, 27 January 2021
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