A candid conversation with Joanna Parsons

Our latest Candid Conversation is here, featuring stories and advice for readers of the All Things IC blog.

We hosted our first Candid Conversation last month with our very own Communication Consultant, Caroline Cubbon-King, sharing what she loves about working in IC, how she started out in her career and some great advice for those new to the profession.

This month we’re delighted that Joanna Parsons, Head of Internal Communications and Culture at Teamwork joins us for a candid conversation.

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 touch. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked in comms or where you are in the world, we’d love to hear from you.

Over to Joanna…

Candid Conversation featuring Joanna Parsons

How did you discover internal communication as a profession?

I had a wonderful mentor early in my career who said I would be well suited to working in internal comms. I’d never heard of it – was communicating solely within an organisation really a thing?? Once I got into the world of IC I was hooked. I’ve never left and never looked back.

What do you love most about working in the internal comms profession?

For me, it’s a beautiful blend of being very data-driven and strategic, whilst also having the freedom to get creative and tell emotional stories. I find it very rewarding to communicate effectively about a topic that was previously seen as really boring, usually using people-centred stories or funny visuals. The world of IC is so varied. It is what you make it – and I love this. The freedom, the autonomy.

Do you have a memorable moment to share about when an IC project didn’t quite go to plan? 

Haha, yes. Actually, I’m cringing as I write this just remembering it. In a previous role, I had a social get-together for employees who shared a birthday that month. I kept it really simple – some music and nibbles in a meeting room, and a game of pass the parcel.

WELL. The game absolutely bombed, the conversations were all really stilted, and to top it off the cake wasn’t great!

But you know what – it’s fine to fail. That event didn’t work, so I binned it and the next month I tried something new. Don’t let the fear of failure put you off.

What’s been a highlight of your internal comms career so far? 

I accepted a job to lead internal communications in the Irish police in 2019. I was the first person in the 100-year history of the police to do this job. I had no budget and no team when I joined – it was just me and a literal army of 18,000 employees. Not only that but I was joining a male-dominated workplace as a woman, as a civilian, and as someone relatively young at a very senior level.

It was very daunting and honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was up to the task. But you know what – I went in and gave it my best.

Three years later I left with five internal communications awards under my belt, a solid team built up and a lasting legacy of a well-loved digital channel which is still running to this day. It was a very hard job but an absolute highlight for me.

What do you feel has been the biggest change to our profession you’ve seen or experienced in your career? 

There’s a recognition now that IC isn’t a nice to have – companies are hiring more and more IC professionals, with the understanding that they need them to have a successful business.

An effective internal communication system is like the oil in an engine – it keeps everything running smoothly and reduces friction.

How would you define internal communication to someone who didn’t know about it?

It’s about informing employees of what’s happening at work and what it means for them. Ultimately it should align employees with the overall business strategy so that everyone understands what is important, what the company is trying to achieve and how everyone plays a role in this.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting out in internal comms?

If you are curious and creative and love listening, then this is the job for you. I would highly recommend doing a course to get you started so that you have some theory under your belt to get you started.

What are your top tips when it comes to continued professional development to stay up to date on everything internal comms related? 

Put the time in your diary each month to invest in your own learning. There are tons of courses out there and plenty of short webinars you can join. The Institute of Internal Communication is a good place to start if you’re looking to upskill in IC.

If you could go back in time and speak to yourself when you started your IC career, what advice would you give? 

I would say to myself that solving all the business problems is not my job. Internal communicators can often take on too much or blame themselves if something goes wrong.

We can communicate effectively, but if there’s a deeper problem in the business then it’s not our role to fix it.

I’d advise myself to scope out my role clearly at the start and be sure what I’m responsible for and what I’m not. Then stick to it.

Thank you Joanna for your Candid Conversation.

You can connect with Joanna 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 touch.

Regardless how long you’ve worked in comms or where you are in the world, we’d love to hear from you.

Post author: Dan Holden

First published on the All Things IC blog 8 July 2022.

Comments

  1. > I would say to myself that solving all the business problems is not my job

    I love that. Great interview.

  2. Shaun Randol says:

    Starting the IC program for the Irish police is a story that MUST be told! It’s hard enough running an IC function in a small-ish company, but to start from scratch…phew! What a beautiful feather for Joanna’s cap. Brava!

  3. Dan Holden says:

    Thank you so much Joanna for sharing your candid conversation with us. It’s wonderful to hear the experiences and insights from your IC career so far.

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