Could you give us a brief overview of your internal communications career so far – how did you get to where you are today?
When I came to the UK in 2002, I secured an in-house, internal communications role with what was then Churchill Insurance. It was an exciting time as Churchill and Direct Line merged not long thereafter, creating what is now Direct Line Group.
I went on to set up the Internal Communications function for First Choice Holidays PLC’s UK and Ireland business, recruiting and managing the Internal Comms team there. When First Choice merged with TUI Travel in 2007, I had the opportunity to lead the internal communication workstream in the UK and Ireland. Following this, I moved into Group Corporate Communications in the new organisation. This involved leading initiatives to engage over 50,000 employees in more than 200 countries.
Ready for a change, I moved across to Virgin Atlantic Airways in 2013. I was attracted to the strong brand and the extraordinary customer and people focus. Our CEO Craig Kreeger had recently joined with a mission to return the airline to profitability, which made it a very exciting time to come aboard. As head of internal communications I’ve led a team of seven for close to 2.5 years, driving employee engagement and making sure we deliver on our brand promise internally. For the past year I’ve also been leading the communication workstream of the largest business transformation initiative in Virgin Atlantic’s history. This has recently led to my taking on an exciting new role as head of change communications.
How would you say the internal communications industry has changed in the last five years?
Overall there’s a much stronger appreciation in businesses that there’s a close link between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and a company’s profitability. As a result, excellent internal communication is viewed as absolutely fundamental in any organisation that wants to be high performing. I think this has been very positive for the internal communications industry overall. There are more exciting roles available and more people are choosing internal communication as their specialism, which is great to see.
In one sentence what advice would you give to someone starting out in internal communications?
It’s incredibly important to be genuinely interested in all aspects of the business that you’re working in, as well as having the ability to quickly build relationships at all levels.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your internal communications career so far?
The biggest challenge was probably coming over to the UK from Sweden all those years ago, deciding to establish myself and build a career over here. I’m so glad I did as I’ve had the opportunity to work for some great companies and I really enjoy living here.
What are the top three essentials you look for when you’re hiring for your team?
1. Commercial awareness – I look for candidates with the ability to clearly articulate how their work can impact the success of an organisation.
2. All-round communicator – It’s essential that candidates have strong written and verbal communication skills, as well as a good understanding of employee engagement.
3. People skills – Working in internal communications, it’s important to have the ability to quickly build rapport with colleagues at all levels.
You are incredibly busy in your professional life, what do you do outside of work to de-stress?
Spending quality time with family and friends is the best form of relaxation for me. I also try to fit in some time to exercise when I can. I’ve recently taken up running and there’s nothing better to clear your head than going for a run while listening to some great music.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned as a leader in internal communications?
While it’s incredibly important to be proactive and plan, you also have to be very flexible and prepared for things changing. In my experience it helps to be both adaptable and resilient when working in internal communications!
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