How did you start your career in internal communications?
I started working in the automotive industry at General Motors Corporation as a co-op student within the engineering department. As part of my assignment, I partnered with the corporate communications team to help educate employees about our new product launches. I can honestly say I enjoyed my experiences connecting with employees while creating opportunities for them to become brand advocates. After graduation, I was hoping a position might open up within the communications department, but the timing was just not right. In turn, I accepted an opportunity in a different department but continued to build relationships with members of the communications team. After a year of volunteering as a support person at media events and working as an extra set of hands on some internal communications projects, I eventually was offered a position as a communications coordinator. I was thrilled to finally get my foot in the door.
Where did you find your passion for internal communications?
I am a natural communicator and helper so my passion for connecting with others is just part of who I am. Throughout my career, I have been blessed to have been a part of many great teams within the communications function. Communication to me has always been about developing authentic relationships that help others feel valued. This trait is probably why I always find my way back to internal communications as I believe keeping employees engaged and motivated helps bring out the best in each person. My favorite saying is “Be the Change You Want to See”. This means walking the talk, being accountable and responsible for how you show up each day. It also means to never stop growing and developing a strong inner character.
Is there a project or moment in your career that you’re most proud of?
As the lead for employee product communications at General Motors, I was able to create, from the ground up, the industry’s first experiential employee-to-consumer vehicle brand advocacy program. The Vehicle Advocate Program engaged hourly, salaried, and contract employees to serve as the face of the company at test drive events with potential consumers working for GM business partners across the United States. This grassroots program was able to attract over 3000 employee volunteers representing a variety of business functions and won the company’s prestigious “Mark of Customer Excellence” award for its positive impact on creating a customer-centered culture at GM.
The success of the Vehicle Advocate Program and the lifelong relationships I developed were a career highlight that reinforced my belief that strong employee advocacy is the “secret sauce” to authentically reaching consumers at a grassroots level.
For communications professionals interested in a career focused on internal communications, what’s a great piece of advice to give them?
Keep fighting the good fight with regard to the importance of employee engagement. When times get tough, often the first budgets targeted for reduction relate to internal communications. It is during the tough times that we need to make a greater investment in internal communications, ensuring employees are aligned with the organization’s strategy and are armed with the right messages at the right time.
As internal communicators, it is important to keep employees focused on the goals and objectives that will keep the company moving forward in good times and bad. I believe it is our voice to the organization that will ensure employee engagement strategies are in place that help improve productivity, drive innovation, and create a positive work environment.
What argument would you make to a brand on the fence when it comes to investing in internal communications?
I guess the one question I would ask is how are your employees telling your brand story? Are they a voice for you or against you? Creating employee brand advocates is an ideal way for employees to make a personal connection to the brand through an experience. It is from these experiences they can then create authentic, relatable stories to share within their circle of influence. In my opinion, the value of peer-to-peer brand recommendations is priceless.
I mean why wouldn’t you want to empower employees to serve as an extension of your brand’s marketing team?