Career Scoop: Internal Communications Manager

Career Scoop file, on what it's like to work as a Communications ManagerIn a nutshell, what do you do?

I’m responsible for ensuring our internal messaging is clear and effective, and that easy to access communication channels are in place so our people understand the company’s strategic goals, and their contribution to them.

Why did you decide to become an Internal Communications Manager?

In our organisation, the internal communications and press office (Public Relations) teams work together. I was working on the press office side, when a position in internal communications came up. It appealed to me as it felt like a better fit for my skills. PR was always a little too close to sales for my liking.

What path did you take into it?

I was already working in the company, in the customer services area, but was doing some freelance journalism for local and national papers as well. The company was looking for a Press Assistant, and I swung the job mainly thanks to experience of working in the media, I think.

What, in your opinion, is the best bit of being an Internal Communications Manager?

Working on the puns for the headlines of articles in the company magazine. A more serious answer would be that I enjoy the creative aspect, married to the fact that the work is never the same day to day. Plus you’re getting involved with major projects from inception and working closely with the exec which is always fun. The word ‘fun’ is being used pretty broadly here, I should point out.

Every job has its downsides. What do you think are the worst bits?

Every job has its own vocabulary and jargon, internal comms has an inferiority complex that means its practitioners can lapse into overly complicated and nebulous turns of phrase to make it sound more scientific. No one likes to be asked if their channel management deliverables have hit client-centric engagement levers.

Is it what you expected when you first started out – and what’s different?

There’s more project management than I expected. We spend more time working on projects like the annual company conference than we do drafting communications, for example.

One thing that is tremendously valuable and that I had a feeling might be necessary is the ability to get on with people. I’m not saying it’s something I always manage to do, but a lot of the time you’re asking people to take time out of their day job to provide information, fact check, present to an audience, draft an article for the company magazine etc. etc. so it helps to have good contacts across the business.

What do the public least understand – or mistake – about what you do? 

When I tell people I’m an internal communications manager, many people still think that I have something to do with managing the telephone system. There isn’t a very wide understanding of internal comms outside large organisations. Some understand all too well – someone at a party summed my role up as “oh, I get it. Pravda for the employees”.

What kind of people tend to do well?

The basic, entry level requirement is a facility with words. However, you also need to be able to write in a number of different voices. Internal comms may be drafting something from the CEO one day, which needs to be formal, measured and ambassadorial in tone, and then writing a piece for the magazine on some people who’ve spent the day speaking backwards for charity. If not gregarious, you certainly need to be able to get on with people, as mentioned previously, and to network.

Finally, any advice you’d offer to people looking to get into this line of work? 

Umm. Think about how you’d like to be communicated to by your employer. Not patronized, not bored, not excluded, and try writing in that style.

Qualifications help – there are comms certificates and diploma courses that you can do part time, for example. There are also full time diploma courses and the like which can’t hurt. That’s on top of a degree of some kind, as it’s an entry level requirement these days; I think you’d need to demonstrate a lot of experience in the field in order to get a job without a degree of some variety.

But I think the main thing is to understand that companies want to see some return on their investment, so if you’re asked to come up with a plan as part of a job offer, then offer some decent benchmarks and make any results measurable. Internal comms needs to demonstrate a positive impact on engagement for any link to be made to productivity, and whatever a company may say about its feelings towards its people, the means to increased productivity is usually closest to its heart.

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