AB Thinks  →  25th March 2019

My first month in Internal Comms – five things I’ve learnt

It’s been a little over a month since I joined AB, and it seems a good moment to pause and reflect on what I’ve learnt so far. After a background in literary journalism, the plunge into the world of internal comms has refreshed and invigorated in equal measure. It hasn’t been solely about swapping novels for hard hats and hi-vis though – I’ve found it has also required learning new skills and donning different attitudes.

Here’s five of them…

#1 It’s all about the people
One of the most enjoyable aspects of journalism is meeting inspiring, interesting folks. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some extraordinary people in my career so far, from the musician Goldie to MPs and leading academics.

Working on AB’s portfolio of magazines, however, has been equally exceptional. From chatting to colleagues training for Iron Man races to delivery drivers who’ve talked people down from motorway bridges, it’s reminded me that even the most outwardly ordinary people have extraordinary stories to share.

#2 Buy into the brand
We work with some fantastic household names. Post Office, Royal Mail, TfL, KPMG – these organisations are landmarks in our everyday lives. Learning about the way they work and meeting their people has been fascinating.

I’ve come to realise that each brand’s identity is wonderfully diverse; a variety that is reflected in the way they communicate, organise and position themselves. This diversity is an essential aspect of success in internal comms – and one I’ve relished getting to grips with.

#3 Get out there
The pace of work here was a revelation. I’ve gone from sitting tapping alone on my laptop in a coffee shop, to being immersed in a frenetic world of competing deadlines, multiple sources and photography contracts. At times, you can feel the white heat of a newsroom at AB.

It’s great fun. And when even the biggest newspapers are succumbing to the ease of a press release to pull together stories, getting out and reporting makes all the difference. Boots-on-the-ground journalism is all too rare these days; getting to do it on a daily basis is a privilege.

#4 Trust
Trust – like those oft-repeated buzzwords ‘teamwork’ and ‘communication’ – is in danger of becoming threadbare through overuse. And yet, it is at the very core of internal comms.

You’ve got to trust your sources. They, in turn, must trust you with their stories. And, of course, the client must trust that their brand identity is in safe hands. It’s a delicate ecology; but one you’ve got to continually strive to get right.

#5 Be responsive and responsible
Crafting a coherent and cohesive narrative takes time. But it also takes a willingness to shift the story in response to the thoughts of clients and sources. The conversation, in short, must continue long after the dictaphone has been switched off.

Allowing space for that conversation is key. But it also necessitates a sense of responsibility and loyalty – to the client, to the source and to the story. Get that right, and the rest flows from there.

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