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We talk to Rich Baker about career, qualifications, his new Institute role, social media and sci-fi in the latest in our IoIC People series.

How did you get into internal communication?

I like to say by accident, but it was probably by intent. I have always been fascinated by people, what engages them, and how organisations work, and as a result my work has tended to gravitate towards communications. I took a leap and changed the course of my career in 2009, and I’ve never looked back since!

How have your non-IC jobs helped you in your IC roles?

Hugely. My non-IC roles have included restaurant and customer service management, sales, logistics, human resources as well as a stint in a factory sewing together boiler suits! I’ve worked at all levels, and with very different stakeholders. It’s this experience that has helped me understand what work is really like for people, and engaging and communicating with people with all kinds of priorities and challenges.

You’ve recently embarked on a new stage in your career. Tell us about it.

I decided it was time for a change and I’ve moved from a senior in-house role and joined an award-winning change consultancy called andpartnership as director of communications and engagement.

The andpartnership specialises in the 'human side of change' and brings together experts in leadership development, change management, coaching, facilitation, communications and employee engagement.

Over many years, we've learned that small and large organisations need help creating different conversations that connect people to purpose. We do that by creating and implementing communications strategies, coaching and mentoring, employee engagement measurement and surveys, digital and online communication, increasing employee advocacy and running large scale interventions.

Our focus is on helping people to be at their best more of the time, which in turn improves organisational performance.

What have your first few weeks as Central Region Director of the IoIC been like?

Fascinating! It was a huge honour to be asked and I want to help continue to support our members in their careers and be a focal point for our profession. There’s lots to do though, starting with the prestigious Central and North Awards!

What would you like to highlight about this year’s Central and North Awards?

We all know it’s vital we can demonstrate the value we add for clients and our organisations through effective internal communications. The Central and North Awards are a simple and effective way of doing this.

As well as a useful tool for benchmarking, entrants can get valuable feedback from independent expert judges that will really make a difference to their work.

Who can enter?

Anyone who works in, or has a majority audience in the Central and North regions – which is a very large area! Which means that you could be based outside of the regions as long as your work involves people inside the regions.

You can be an in-house individual or team, or be part of a consultancy or agency. Brenda at the IoIC has put together a really useful guide to the awards and criteria, and you can download the entry pack here.

Why do you think the Central annual seminar has consistently been such a successful event?

From the feedback I’ve had, it’s because of the thought that has gone into the presenters and content. As someone who previously attended these as a practitioner, I’ve always found them to be insightful, interesting and a great way to network with fellow internal comms people.

How has your MBA influenced your work?

Hugely. Together with my experience, my master's degree has helped me understand how organisations work and the challenges senior-level executives face. It’s given me a seat at the top table and the ability to challenge and support across a range of areas. It helps me contextualise internal communications and employee engagement. Studying part-time for six years was really hard work, but it has made me even more passionate about learning. It was Albert Einstein who said ‘the more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know’ – and I’ve found that to be very true!

What do you see as the major positives and negatives about social media?

I think this question is a thesis on its own! I’ve always been a huge advocate for social media, being one of the pioneers of corporate social customer service for Virgin, way back in 2009.

Social media can bring people together, create different conversations and drive collaboration. Which is amazing. However, I think it’s important to remember that it’s not a solution for every problem. Used in the right way, with the best of intentions, social media can change lives and bring huge benefits.

What’s your favourite book?

Crikey - that’s a tough one! One book that has always stood out for me is a science fiction book called Slan, written by A E van Vogt in 1940. I discovered a dog-eared second-hand copy by chance at a jumble sale when I was about 14. I later found out it was considered one of the most important sci-fi novels of the era. It’s a brilliant story with parallels to society at the time.

If you wanted to get away from it all for a weekend, where would you go?

I’m lucky that my work is also my passion, but that does mean I can also be a bit of a workaholic! A weekend with friends and family in an isolated cottage in the countryside with amazing views helps me ‘disconnect' and recharge my batteries. After all, life’s all about getting the balance isn’t it!
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