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We talk to Chris Boffey about how he got into internal comms, how his career has spanned three continents (he now works as associate director, global change communications, Jones Lang Lasalle in Singapore), and who he would select for his fantasy football team.

How did you get into communications in the first place?

I was working as a home health aide in Boston, USA, when my boss – a feisty Catholic nun called Sister Judith – said, “Chris, I think you’d either make a good priest or a comms guy!” At college I always enjoyed writing letters to friends and family who told me they would look forward to reading my updates, so I chose the comms path and haven’t looked back…

You began by working in general corporate communications. What made you decide that internal comms would be your chosen career?

In my first two positions with Nikon and the British Standards Institution, I was doing 80% press office/customer-facing work, and 20% internal comms. I discovered that I much preferred working on the internal comms stuff because of the freedom to be more creative, and weave in my own writing style. That’s when I decided I’d like to do internal comms full-time which is exactly what happened when I started my next job at Sainsbury’s.

You moved to the US in 2002. What took you there and what was your job?

I’d been working as an independent comms consultant for the pharmaceutical firm, Pfizer at their UK research HQ in Sandwich, Kent. The project was coming to an end and my manager (and mentor), Nigel Edwards asked if I’d be interested in applying for a full-time role at Pfizer’s research hub in San Diego. I had always wanted to work in the US as my degree was in American Studies, so my wife, Alka and I took a risk and headed out to California – four suitcases in hand – to apply for the position in person. After a few weeks working as a contractor, I was offered the full-time position of ‘site communicator’ which basically meant making sure the 2,000 employees knew what was going on! The cool part about working in Southern California was the fact that colleagues liked to have fun and let their hair down… so once the serious comms work was done, I’d spend time organising tasty Ice Cream Socials and Hollywood-themed recognition events!

You’ve recently moved to Singapore. What does your current role involve?

Communicating how JLL is improving and integrating its technology platform to become the industry’s pioneer in managing and interpreting corporate real estate data. Sometimes data is referred to as the ‘new oil’ so I guess my job is to help explain how JLL is at the forefront of the drilling and extraction process! In the last 12 months I’ve learned a lot, especially the need for companies to seize the benefits from the data and technology revolution and turn it into a competitive advantage! Because it’s a global role, I’ve also become more sensitive to the audience needs in the Americas; Europe & the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

You’ve worked on three different continents! Have you always wanted to travel?

I got the travel bug from my dad who I remember poring over maps when I was a kid. He took us abroad whenever he could, so I think I inherited his passion for travel (and looking at maps). Although a cliché, travel does broaden the mind and, from a professional viewpoint, it’s a good reminder to put yourself in the audience’s diverse shoes when planning a global comms campaign.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in internal comms across your career?

Definitely the increasing media channels and tools at our disposal, matched by the decreasing amount of time audiences have to read, view or hear the content. Just like the explosion in data and new technology, there is a danger of drowning in too much content, so I believe there’s an even greater need for internal comms professionals to cut through the confusing maze and deliver clear, concise information in a way that’s useful, relevant and meaningful to the audience, as well as highlighting human interest components and the company’s values at play. Another big change has been the fusion of change management practices with internal comms so that’s a whole new and exciting skill-set to learn and implement.

When and why did you join IoIC?

I joined in 1996 as part of the amalgamation with the Industrial Society’s communications membership group. I wanted easy access to a forum where I could learn best practices, spot emerging trends and network with like-minded practitioners.

Who has most inspired you?

My wife, Alka, has always encouraged me to try new things, take risks and look forward. From a work perspective, I’m inspired by inclusive leaders who admit they’ve made mistakes, and don’t have all the answers, ‘tell it like it is’, and ask for help. In this sense, it’s hard to find a better communicator and leader than Nelson Mandela. I wish there were more current world leaders like him!

What would be your perfect restaurant meal?

A plate of steamed momos (Tibetan style dumplings), followed by any kind of hot and spicy Nepali curry, and finished off with a steaming bowl of home-made bread and butter pudding with custard – just like my mum used to make!

Which three players would you most want on your fantasy football team?

Top of the list would be Pelé because his magical skills on B&W TV always inspired us kids; then Johan Cruyff as he was my schoolboy hero in the 70s (and how cool is that orange kit!); and finally Billy Bremner who epitomised the raw, fighting spirit and determination of my local team, Leeds United, in the 1960s and 70s.

To see IoIC people interviews as they appear, keep an eye on our Facebook page.
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