A question of comms: Helen Deverell

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A question of comms: Helen Deverell

Discover the book Helen Deverell thinks every communicator should read and the one thing she couldn’t do her job without.

Helen is the Director of Helen Deverell Communications and is running a Writing Skills Masterclass for All  Things IC on 22 February in London.

She’s the latest professional communicator to sit in the hot seat and share her thoughts on all things comms related.

Want to see your name here? If you’re an in-house or freelance comms pro, do get in touch and I’ll send you the questions.

Thank you to everyone who has contacted me, I have some fantastic stories lined up as a result, and will publish them over the next few weeks and months.

But first, it’s Helen’s turn and is a pleasure to hand you over to her…

1. When did you know internal communication was what you wanted to do?
I’ve always loved writing and I studied English at university, but I had no idea what to do with it. I did a couple of short work experience placements at local newspapers but in my gut felt it wasn’t the career for me.

I found myself working at a property lawyers as a case manager while I worked out what I wanted to do.

At the time, I didn’t think it was particularly relevant experience, but it’s still one of the most stressful and demanding jobs I’ve ever had. It required organisation, communication, relationship building and project management – all things that would prove useful in my future career.

In 2008, the recession hit and I was made redundant.

I remember walking into a recruitment agent and saying “I want to do a job where I can write”.

I was told my luck was in and they’d just received a job spec from a security company wanting a writer to make security sound more interesting.

I was dubious to say the least, but I went along for the interview. It turns out they were looking for an internal communications executive to support information security awareness campaigns that were being rolled out across organisations to enable behavioural change.

It was my first introduction to internal communication and I haven’t looked back since

2. What do you like most about working in this field?

The variety. Over the course of my career I’ve written anything from news stories to scripts, created strategies, rolled out campaigns, ran events (including a shooting stars themed event with a Halloween twist), conducted audits, produced videos, ran competitions, delivered training, facilitated discussions, managed projects, and supported the implementation of enterprise social networks (ESNs).

There aren’t many roles that enable you to get involved in nearly every aspect of a business, in the way internal comms does.

And at the heart of it is people.

It’s a very privileged position to be in, where you can give someone a voice and help them to feel heard.

3. What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?

I’ve been really fortunate to be surrounded by people at the beginning of my career who believed in me and took a chance on me. Bernadette Palmer, my manager at The Security Company championed me, despite the fact I hadn’t worked in a communications environment before.

She pushed me to take on new challenges and encouraged me to progress my professional development by studying for my IoIC Foundation Diploma, completing a secondment at BT and assigning me global clients to work with.

And Nick Andrews who was instrumental in helping me make the move to London and join Sequel Group, based on having met me just once at my IoIC diploma interview.

At the time I was the youngest editor at the agency and one of the only ones that hadn’t come from a journalistic background, yet Nick had complete faith in what I could accomplish. I learnt from them to grab opportunities with both hands, and to have faith in myself.

Also, that people tend to do their best when they feel that others believe in them.

That was certainly true for me and I’ve found it to be true for people I’ve managed and mentored – I’ve felt privileged to be able to pay forward the support shown to me, and watch those individuals go on to achieve great things.

4.What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a career in comms?
Network! Our role is always evolving and broadening, so having a group of people who you can call on for advice and support is invaluable.

5.What does a typical day or working week look like for you?
I don’t have a typical day, and I don’t think I ever have. Last week for example, I spent two days in London attending a conference, meetings to do with the CIPR Inside committee I sit on, as well as pitching for new work.

I was also working on my slides for my upcoming All Things IC Writing Masterclass, advising a client to help them raise their external profile, and collaborating with the agency Alive! on a couple of creative projects.

6.Name a book you think every communicator should read, and why you’ve chosen it
Quiet by Susan Cain. It’s about being an introvert in a world that’s geared towards extroverts. And in a profession like communication, for a long time I felt like a bit of a fraud, pretending to be more extroverted than I was. That was until I read Quiet.

It was the first time in my life that I realised it was ok to be an introvert – it was nothing to apologise for, and in fact I had a huge amount to offer.

I wrote a blog about it at the time, and so many other internal communicators contacted me to say they had identified with my experience. It turns out I was far from alone.

But the great thing about this book, is that it’s not just about introverts, but how different personality types can understand each other better and ultimately communicate better.

We often talk about audience in the sense of job role, location, age, gender, education etc, but very rarely in relation to personality, and that can have a huge impact on how people prefer to communicate and be communicated to.

7.What’s the one thing you couldn’t do your job without?
My network. I went freelance in April 2016 and I have received a huge amount of support from people across the industry including Rachel Miller, Nick Andrews, Alan Oram, Lauren McMenemy, Emily Atkins, Michele Madden, and Richard Fitzmaurice.

8.What is the future of internal communication?
There will be an emphasis on credibility through professional development and research, as well as tangible measurement to demonstrate the value we add to businesses.

Ultimately, I think businesses will fully realise the crucial role we play, so it will be an exciting time to be in the internal communications industry.

9.Where can people find you online?
On my website www.helendeverellcommunications.com, my blog www.justthewayicit.com Twitter @helendeverell, and LinkedIn.

Thank you Helen.

Would you like to sit in the hot seat?

Do get in touch and I’ll send you the questions.

I’m looking forward to Helen’s Writing Skills Masterclass next week. If you would like to boost your writing skills, this is the course for you. There are still a couple of places left if you’d like to join us in London.

I have a Valentine’s Day special to save you 20% off upcoming Masterclasses, including Helen’s. Just use the code VAL20 at the checkout until 23.59 on 14 February 2017.

Please note this discount cannot be used with any other code.

Want to know what to expect? Here’s Helen to tell you in person…


Thank you for stopping by,

Rachel

First published on the All Things IC blog 13 February 2017.

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