In today’s A question of comms Gary Vyse reveals why comms pros need to ‘hand over the keys’ to colleagues, who he thinks is one of the ultimate communicators and the one thing he couldn’t do his job without.
Gary is PR & Engagement Lead at Alternative Futures Group, a healthcare charity providing services for people with mental health and learning needs. He oversees internal and external communication.
Want to sit in the hot seat? If you’re an in-house communicator or freelancer, do get in touch and I’ll send you the questions.
I’ll hand you over to Gary…
1. When did you know internal communication was what you wanted to do?
I began my career as a journalist working on local newspapers. Rapid cost-cutting (linked to declining readership and advertising revenue) increasingly took the role away from my expectations of credible journalism.
I’d developed contacts in the communications field and began to explore opportunities to work in this sector, assuming the transition would be relatively easy.
My first role was in Manchester City Council’s Press Office before I later moved to the Environment Agency.
In fact, the crossover from journalism to communications and internal communications was a challenge.
Journalists are used to hopping from one story to the other – dictated to by sudden events happening – without time or regard to properly plan, structure and later evaluate their workload and tasks.
Good communication is heavily governed by strategic thinking and setting the agenda, rather than responding to it on an ad-hoc basis.
2. What do you like most about working in this field?
I’m a people person – I’m genuinely fascinated in the power of a story everyone has the ability to tell.
Engaging with people should be the cornerstone of communications so it’s the area I enjoy the most.
I also enjoy the power of communications (when used responsibly) to provide a platform to share information which might inspire people, make them happy, reassure them and in some instances, give them a voice they might not have thought they had.
3. What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?
There’s a saying in journalism: ‘Wear your knuckles out knocking on doors’. That advice was probably meant in reference to knocking on doors where you might not be wanted!
However, the adage ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ is true.
Don’t be held back by what ifs, trust your instincts and if a job or career opportunity looks good on paper reach out for it… what have you got to lose?
4. What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a career in comms?
There are many misconceptions and assumptions about comms so firstly, make sure you understand not only what the role entails but how it connects with the organisation holistically.
To effectively communicate both internally and externally, you should understand what the organisation’s business objectives are; what’s the strategic vision?
This is good practice as to operate effectively in communications it should never be about staying in your lane, head down with the blinkers on but instead expect to work with all areas of an organisation.
Secondly, be prepared that there might be an emphasis on you to prove your worth to the organisation, with comms sometimes the misunderstood relative, less tangible in what it does than say Finance.
That can be a positive thing – an opportunity to celebrate and promote your successes and to show how you’re adding value and benefitting the business.
5. What does a typical day or working week look like for you?
At Alternative Futures Group I’m responsible for overseeing the PR, Marketing and Engagement department so this includes both internal and external comms.
I normally begin the day in the office catching up on relevant health and social care news, emails and monitoring our social media channels.
I then spend time away from email or any distractions on a core project – currently this is the pending launch of our new treatment and recovery centre specifically for women with complex mental health needs in Manchester.
A key aim is ensuring the project is communicated and understood effectively, as important as it is promoted externally. Other parts of the day often include meetings with a whole range of different teams and regions.
I try to bookend each day by having another check on relevant national and regional stories and again, monitor social media channels.
6. Name a book you think every communicator should read, and why you’ve chosen it
The Alistair Campbell Diaries Vol 1 (Prelude to Power); regardless of your politics or whether you’re a ‘Campbell fan’, there’s surely no denying he’s been one of the ultimate communicators of our era.
Hearing the battles to cut through internal divisions and create clear, coherent messages makes for fascinating reading – honestly!
7. What’s the one thing you couldn’t do your job without?
Trust; to be credible and understood by colleagues (and external partners) they have to believe in the credibility of what I’m communicating.
8. What is the future of internal communication?
Be prepared to share more and more knowledge with colleagues to allow them to communicate.
It may feel initially unusual for a communications specialist to ‘hand over the keys’ but in an era where delivering more for less is a familiar refrain, it’s important that internal comms doesn’t become a blocker with gatekeepers intercepting and sitting on information, creating a barrier.
Instead, communications teams and individuals should be there to enable, empower and moderate where necessary.
This approach can help make comms better understood and better appreciated by organisations – that’s my optimistic prediction anyway!
9. Where can people find you online?
Thank you Gary. Best of luck with the upcoming launch of the treatment and recovery centre and thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Want to take part in A question of comms?
Tweet me @AllthingsIC or send a message via the contact form to receive the questions.
See who else has sat in the hot seat
- A question of comms: Rachel Miller, Director, All Things IC.
- A question of comms: Lou Robinson, Global Internal Comms Lead, Costa.
- A question of comms: Sara Luker, EMEA Content Manager, eBay.
Thank you to everyone who has completed the answers already, am looking forward to sharing them with you.
Thanks for stopping by,
P.s. Sign up to learn about internal communication – 2017 dates are now live on the All Things IC Masterclasses website.
First published on the All Things IC blog 3 February 2017.