I spent the first part of my career as a copywriter in Saatchi & Saatchi, and I remember one of my first jobs was to write packaging copy for a few big brands for Procter & Gamble. This is where I first learned one of the most fundamental rules in writing: that before you can write about anything, you need to get to its core, its truth, its heart.
I later became a Creative Director and worked in other global agencies such as Young & Rubicam, Dentsu and FCB. During this time, I was based in the Asia-Pacific region, primarily working in Malaysia, but also did stints in Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines, working on and handling regional and global accounts such as CitiBank, Tiger Beer, Sony, Colgate Palmolive, Campbell’s Soup and Kraft Foods.
In 2003, one of my clients offered me the opportunity to join and lead their in-house marketing communications team, so I decided to move to the client side in the UK to join Lotus Cars. They appointed me as the global Head of Brand and Marketing Communications, and I was tasked to spearhead the launch of two new cars in their first-ever global campaign. Lotus Cars is such an iconic brand, it has so much cachet, and it was a privilege working on its brand marketing and other activities such as merchandising, licensing, and PR.
Think of me as a right-brain/left-brain person. I love the creative process, and I also thrive in strategic thinking and planning.
Three years later, I was offered a role in the transport sector. Transport for London (TfL) asked me to be their Head of Communications Planning in Surface Transport. My remit included internal communication and external niche marketing. This was my very first exposure to internal communications, and I found it to be such an exciting world.
I liked the fact that you can get immediate feedback and see the impact of a campaign fairly quickly, plus that I could apply the principles of marketing to internal communication. After a year, I was given the opportunity to go full-time on internal communication in TfL. I said yes and haven’t looked back since.
After two and a half years in a global role in the oil & gas sector, I joined Kier as Group Head of Internal Communications over a year ago, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s pretty full-on, and my team and I plan and deliver numerous campaigns for the entire organisation, including our annual Leaders Conference, Employee Roadshows, our Kier Annual Awards recognition programme, and other campaigns designed to change attitudes and behaviours and to motivate people and drive them to do their best.
Kier is a very diverse business, from construction to infrastructure services, and developments and housing. In turn, our workforce is very diverse and very dispersed – out of 20,000 employees, 40% are offline. That poses its own challenges, but also offers great opportunities to be more exploratory and creative.
We have a collegiate and collaborative environment in Kier. People are willing to help each other and work together towards common goals. And a big part of my job is to help keep our people motivated and inspired through clear, authentic and engaging campaigns.
First of all, be audacious in introducing yourself to colleagues. Don’t hold back in this arena – grab the opportunity to meet and speak to anyone and everyone in your organisation, no matter the role, remit and seniority. Visit sites and offices, talk to people, call them, get to know the business, get as many views, ideas and perspectives as you can. The more you talk to employees, the more you get to know them and what makes them tick, and the more this will help you in delivering effective internal communications.
Always treat the workplace like an external environment. People are very time-poor, and they are bombarded with clutter even internally. Communications should be simple, memorable, and cut through the noise. It should respect people’s time and attention – while being engaging and keeping it human. And it should always be measured and evaluated for its impact and effectiveness.
Be authentic – in how you work, in your communications and engagement campaigns. Good internal communications should ring true and meaningful with colleagues and in the organisation you’re in.
And finally, love and enjoy your work. It may seem obvious, yet it definitely shows in your work when you do.