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Kate Jones, head of communications and corporate affairs at Tarmac, received the prestigious ICon Award for Internal Communicator of the Year at IoIC’s ICon Awards in November.

Praised for her focus, business understanding and solutions, Kate has made an impact wherever she has worked. “There are lots of talented IC professionals, but seemingly very few who can so convincingly demonstrate their mastery of IC,” says IoIC chief executive Jennifer Sproul.
Here, Kate tells us about what makes a good internal communicator and her 2016 highlighted.
Congratulations on your ICon Award. How does it feel to be recognised?

I am so chuffed and grateful for the recognition. I’ve always valued the feedback that IoIC awards provide. This was my first time entering the ICon awards – I felt that it might be my last chance at the IC title as I move into my new role as head of communications and corporate affairs. Obviously I’m glad I took that chance.
Why do you think you were selected to receive the award?

I was pleased to hear that the judge highlighted my business focus, because that’s something my stakeholders have always said about me. It proves the importance of being more than a communicator when you’re at the table – talk about the business, not about comms. I encourage my team to spend time out with the frontline so that we can bring their voice and needs back to head office, and we’ll know that what we’re doing works.
Do you have any golden rules for internal communication?

Opinions and gut feelings don’t make business cases. I love the story about the CEO saying, “If you come with data, we’ll use yours; if you come with opinions, we’ll use mine.” My golden rule is that we always test materials with the end audience before we launch, and measure our results.
Why is internal comms an important and rewarding career for you?

I’ve always been nosy and interested in what really goes on behind the windows of corporate HQs or factory doors – I am addicted to fly-on-the-wall workplace documentaries. I always joke that I came into IC to be ‘citizen Kate’ and make sure everyone’s voice was being heard.
I always loved to write, so IC is a great career for me because it combines creativity with getting to know about things early and looking after employees’ needs.
What have been your biggest successes of 2016?

I moved jobs in January, leaving Atkins to head up the IC team at Tarmac, so my biggest success feels like getting quickly to grips with a new role. We’ve had a busy year where we’ve built up the team, identified changes to improve comms and delivered some great campaigns. We finish the year as a bigger, stronger team than we were in January and I’m proud of that.
What do you think will be the biggest trends in internal communication in 2017?

I hope it will be focus – understanding the ever-growing list of new ways to communicate with people, but consciously choosing which options are best for your audience, not being distracted by shiny solutions for their own sake. I also believe that IC still has a vital role to play in guiding the conversation – the recent trend for only ‘curating’ or facilitating the conversation puts us in too passive a position, when we need to actively make sure the right topics rise above the noise.
What are your plans for taking a break from the day job over Christmas and the new year?

I’ll be on call as part of the comms team rota, but otherwise I’ll be singing in two concerts with my choir and I’m sure the break will involve watching a lot of Netflix under a pile of cats.
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