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KPMG internal communications manager Rachel Dakin is taking over as IoIC’s London Region director – here, she talks about the launch of free monthly hubs in 2019, why technology is a risk to employee engagement and calls for members to join the London committee.

Tell us about your background in communications.

I started my career at the Southbank Centre, at the time of a controversial planning application, which gave me first-hand experience of reputation management and the value of communication during a crisis. This led me to work at Lansons, where I specialised in employee engagement and internal communication, advising clients ranging from financial services and pharmaceutical companies to NHS Trusts and public sector organisations. 

This year, I moved in-house, as internal communication manager at KPMG, business partnering with its tax, pensions and legal division. 

How did you become involved with IoIC?

I’ve been an IoIC member for the past couple of years and I’ve benefited hugely from the combination of learning and development, networking with peers and online resources. 

I’ve been on the committee for the past nine months, so I’m realistic about what we can achieve; it is one thing having ideas, but committee members have full-time jobs, so putting our ideas into practice requires clear direction and pragmatism. 

What do you hope to achieve as IoIC London Region director?

In our industry, we talk a lot about the importance of employee voice and the need to prioritise listening over talking. I want this philosophy to be central to IoIC London. 

We need to practise what we preach. There are plenty of opportunities to attend conferences and training sessions, but what I think we’re lacking are opportunities to come together and talk with our peers. Working in internal comms, especially in-house, can be isolating. I hope to provide a platform for discussion, sharing best-practice and helping each other. I want to create a conversation. 

In terms of tangible objectives, my goal is to help grow our membership. There’s a huge opportunity in London. There are thousands of internal communications professionals working in the capital and I think all of them should be a member of IoIC. 

It’s our job as a committee to serve our members and make sure their membership is good value for money. I hope that making our events free for members will encourage more people to sign up and enjoy all of the other benefits membership provides.  

What will be your first steps?

Starting from January, we’re running monthly hubs, following the great success of the central region. These hubs will be free for members and formatted as roundtable discussions. Each event will be structured around a theme and will feature a guest speaker – for example, we’ve got Deliveroo lined up for January to talk about the challenge of communicating in the gig economy – but other than that, these discussions will be member-led. I hope everyone feels they can participate.

We are also putting a conscious effort into running these events across greater London and at different times of day, so they are accessible to as many people as possible. 

Plus, we will open up these discussions online to make them even more accessible, using a mix of podcasts, Twitter Q&As, Facebook Live and so on – the committee is brimming with ideas. In short, let’s approach IoIC London like any comms campaign at work – communicating across multiple platforms to involve as many people as possible. 

In terms of working together as a committee, we’ve just started using Slack, which is already making a huge impact on our ability to collaborate remotely without endless emails. 

Rather than running elaborate events in exclusive venues, we’ll focus on providing simple and regular events that are easy to run and free for members to attend. I think this is really important in terms of making IoIC accessible to a diverse audience and, crucially, engaging with students and younger members at the start of their careers.  

What trends do you see in internal comms?

Power is increasingly shifting from employers to employees, and this is only going to continue. Gender pay reporting is just one example of how employees can hold their workplace to account. If people don’t like what they see, they simply vote with their feet. Same goes for flexible working, support for mental health in the workplace or having a purpose-driven culture. 

Businesses that don’t engage with these topics will lose talent, damage productivity and ultimately hinder their performance. 

This presents employers with a threat, but also a huge opportunity. Our job as internal communicators is to make businesses alive to the opportunities of an engaged and empowered workforce.

The rise of technology is a trend we can’t ignore. But in the same way that consumers are beginning to disengage with technology and limit their time spent online, I think the rise of technology is a risk to employee engagement. I’m a big believer that the most powerful mode of communication is face-to-face. As workplaces become increasingly remote, technology is inevitable, but it also makes us lazy. 

As technology develops, employees will value traditional face-to-face communication even more highly. As internal communication professionals, we can make the most impact by empowering leaders and managers to be great communicators. Our value lies in advising people, rather than getting lured into the latest tech trends, which tend to dehumanise communication more than anything else.

How excited are you about getting more involved with IoIC?

Next year, the IoIC celebrates its 70th anniversary. It’s going to be a great year to be involved. Our chief executive, Jen Sproul, has made such an impact since taking on the leadership role a couple of years ago. I feel really lucky working alongside Jen, her team, the board and our regional committees to build on IoIC’s incredible heritage. 

I’d like to thank my London Region predecessor, Paula Wilson, for contributing so much to IoIC over the years. I feel very grateful that Paula has built an amazing London committee with so much enthusiasm for internal comms and great ideas for 2019. 


London calling

Interested in becoming an IoIC London committee member? The region is recruiting for two additional positions on the London committee. All IoIC members are welcome to join, so get in touch by emailing Rachel Dakin if you’d like to join the team.


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