Our latest Candid Conversation guest is Amy Devlin, Internal Communications Manager at Thoughtworks, who shares with us her internal comms story.
Each month we share career highlights, insights and advice from communication professionals to help the wider comms community. If you’d like to feature in a future Candid Conversation feature, complete our submission form, and one of the team will be in contact. It doesn’t matter about your length of internal comms experience or where you are in the world. We’d love to hear from you.
Over to Amy for her Candid Conversation.
How did you discover internal communication as a profession?
I came across it quite randomly! I worked in organisational development previously which really sparked my interest in culture and behaviour. I’ve always loved writing and being curious about people’s stories, so those things combined led me to internal comms.
Being made redundant from a previous role was a pivotal moment for me. It allowed me to refocus, which is when I decided to move into internal comms. I’d seen the impact it could make when done well, badly or not at all, and knew that’s where I belonged.
What do you love most about working in the internal comms profession?
I love seeing the impact of how comms can help people to feel more connected to the business and each other. That’s never been as important as now. A huge part of my time now is spent thinking about belonging and connectedness, and the effect hybrid working has had on that.
I also love the variety each day brings – one moment I’m talking to my MD about our business challenges and opportunities, the next I’m working with our community manager on initiatives to boost our internal communities, then the next I’m bringing to life internally what’s going on in our external marketing world. All this plays to my strengths highlighted in the Gallup StrengthsFinder profile. They include individualisation, empathy and strategy, all of which I see come out to play in everything I do at work.
Do you have a memorable moment to share about when an IC project didn’t quite go to plan?
I tried to launch Workplace by Facebook in an organisation that had challenges with leadership and psychological safety. I couldn’t get the leadership engaged with using it as they were still on a journey to understanding the value in tools like this, and colleagues didn’t feel able to share as they didn’t feel safe to do. We did get there eventually but it was a very slow burn, and on reflection I would have questioned the timing more and whether the tool was right for the business.
What’s been a highlight of your internal comms career so far?
During the peak of COVID-19 lockdowns, I launched a new story campaign called ‘Same storm, different boat’. It was all about the different situations colleagues were finding themselves in – whether that was grief for someone they had lost to Covid, having to juggle home-schooling and work or feeling negative effects on their mental health. It allowed people to be vulnerable in a way that hadn’t been at work before which helped people to connect and was very well received.
What do you feel has been the biggest change to our profession you’ve seen or experienced in your career?
The role IC can play in inclusion and belonging and the importance of that. That, and the way we communicate which is now much less broadcast or parent to child, and the coaching with senior leaders to help them work through that change.
Businesses also have a different role to play now in terms of advocacy and how employees want their employers to show up for them.
It can be a fine line, but get it right and that does huge amounts for the culture.
How would you define internal communication to someone who didn’t know about it?
We’re here for a purpose (classic Simon Sinek – it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it). Finding that purpose and connecting people to it so they understand not just what we do, but why we do it, and why they matter in reaching that purpose.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting out in internal comms?
Find a mentor, get good at asking questions, be curious and never accept the first response as final.
What are your top tips when it comes to continued professional development to stay up to date on everything internal comms related?
IC can feel overwhelming as you’re involved in everything and need to have a certain level of understanding of so many different areas. It’s easy to be consumed by demands from stakeholders which take up all of your time.
Try to stay in the driving seat and make time for yourself.
Whether that’s connecting with an IC network, listening to a podcast (there are so many great podcasts out there, it’s my favourite source of inspiration), attending an event, reading a book – it’s all valuable (and I’m definitely still a work in progress in this area!)
If you could go back in time and speak to yourself when you started your IC career, what advice would you give?
You can’t be everything to everyone – trust your instincts more, and don’t listen to your self-doubt that says other people know better. There will be numerous times that your instinct has proven right, and that’s a big part of connecting with large groups of employees.
Thank you Amy for your Candid Conversation.
You can connect with Amy on LinkedIn.
If you’d like to share your internal comms stories and experiences for our brand new Candid Conversations series, complete our submission form, and one of the team will be in touch.