A candid conversation with Kimberley-Marie Sklinar

Welcome to Kimberley-Marie Sklinar, Group Internal Engagement Manager at AutoProtect as our latest Candid Conversation guest.

Kim has spent her internal communication career working in-house and is also a member of the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) FutureNet group, supporting those communicators new to the internal comms profession.

We’d love to share your internal comms stories and experiences for our Candid Conversations series. You can complete our submission form and one of the team will be in 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 you Kim…

Photo of Kimberley-Marie Sklinar stood in-front of a red brick wall, promoting a Candid Conversation article.

How did you discover internal communication as a profession?
I’ve always been a bit of a writer and wanted to write a book when I was in my teens, but life took me into the world of finance and languages somehow.

I was running a music blog while working in finance in London — I loved live music, but couldn’t afford to go to all the gigs I wanted, so I started writing for blogs. Then I realised there were very few female music bloggers, so started my own.

It was great writing, editing and technical experience, and at one point, I had a team of 35 people. Someone senior at work got wind of it and knew I wasn’t enjoying my finance role — but that I was passionate about people and words. I was offered a secondment in the internal comms team to work on a change programme. I haven’t looked back; I never knew this was even a career option until the secondment offer was on the table.

P.S. I am writing a book, finally!

What do you love most about working in the internal comms profession?
No day is the same — sounds like a cliché, but it’s very true. I thrive on multitasking and the variety of things I get involved in.

I love making people’s experience at work a better one and helping them join the dots.

My finance and operational experience helps me understand my audiences’ perspectives differently. I also enjoy how many people I meet, internally and externally, through networking.

Do you have a memorable moment to share about when an IC project didn’t quite go to plan?
I’ve been quite lucky so far, but eight years in, I still hover my mouse cursor over the ‘send’ button on a big message. I did once forward an email about the CEO by accident — thankfully, there was nothing questionable in there!

What’s been a highlight of your internal comms career so far?
My current role is a career highlight if that counts. I was brought into a business to create an internal communications function from scratch, and it’s my first time not working as part of an established internal comms team. I ‘am’ the internal comms team. The autonomy was scary at first, but now I enjoy it. In the last year, I’ve created and launched an internal communication strategy, built a SharePoint intranet in-house from scratch, launched a recognition programme with our People team, delivered a drumbeat of regular events, and much more.

‘Internal communication’ is now a thing for us.

We’ve still got some mountains to climb because things don’t happen overnight, but we’re heading in the right direction, and our leadership team are supportive of what I’m doing. Internal communication is regularly on the Executive team’s agenda — which is a highlight in itself for us IC people.

What do you feel has been the biggest change to our profession you’ve seen or experienced in your career?
There’s been a very welcome focus on wellbeing and people as humans rather than employees alone and that we have lives outside of work. I can’t imagine discussing the cost of living crisis as a communicator when I started out.

It’s this kind of thing we can take to leadership and say, “this is what is on our people’s minds; how can we support them?”, knowing we can quietly make a difference in someone’s whole life, not just their work life.

That’s the sort of thing that gets me out of bed every day. These days, there’s also much more talk about two-way feedback and employee voice too. All music to my ears!

How would you define internal communication to someone who didn’t know about it?
It’s about keeping people informed, engaged and adding purpose to their days at work. It’s more than ‘corporate journalism’ – done right, it can connect people in the best ways, and impact the bottom line of a business.

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

Be curious! Ask the questions your audience will ask: if you don’t understand something – say so, because we have to articulate things to others in a way that’s easy to understand.

Ask if you can join other people’s team meetings to introduce yourself or job shadow for an afternoon to understand other people’s worlds: especially if you can get a day out with field-based colleagues or those who don’t have access to your obvious comms channels such as email and intranet. Ask colleagues for feedback – ‘what did you think of the last Town Hall?’

But curiosity can mean several things. I once worked in a team where I was the only IC member who went to the team socials (and other team events) that we were invited to. Even if I didn’t want to go (I get socially anxious when I walk into a room and don’t really know anyone), I’d still make an effort to go for 30 minutes. It’s our job to know what’s happening and build connections, we have to be role models.

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

Speaking of curiosity, be curious outside of your obvious network internally and externally: get to know other comms people, find out what they’re working on — this is my biggest tip for learning and improving. Join a network such as the Institute of Internal Communications, CIPR Inside, or if you’re a solo communicator, join my #CommsSolo network on Guild.

There are also some great podcasts. I enjoy All Things IC’s Candid Comms, WorkLife by Adam Grant, and The Internal Comms Podcast by AB Comms, to name a few. Joining events and webinars are also useful.

Finally, look after yourself. Internal communications can be an emotional endeavour, so make sure you check-in with yourself and take breaks when you need to. I’ve just started doing Two-Minute Mornings which helps me let go of things, be consciously grateful, and establish focus before I get stuck into my inbox.

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

Don’t be scared to speak up. We are the voice of colleagues, and it took me a while to be comfortable with respectfully challenging people more senior than me when I felt something wasn’t right.

But wouldn’t you rather ask questions before a ‘jargonirific’ or questionable message goes out, rather than deal with the backlash of 3000 disgruntled colleagues asking instead?

Thank you Kim for sharing your Candid Conversation with us.

You can connect with Kim on LinkedIn, Twitter @dosomethingkim or via her Guild Group CommsSolo.

Post author: Dan Holden

First published on the All Things IC blog 10 November 2022.

Photo of Caroline Cubbon-King to promote the online '2023 Planning Masteclass for Internal Communicators'

New 2023 Planning Masterclass for Internal Communicators

All Things IC Communication Consultant Caroline Cubbon-King is hosting a 2023 Planning Masterclass for IC professionals on 14 December 2022.

It’s for in-house internal communicators and there are only  five places available. We’re keeping the group small so we can work together confidentially and have a chance to focus on everyone individually.  

As a result of completing this Masterclass, you’ll know what to do next and have an opportunity to work through what’s stopping you.  

This session is ideal for you if:  

  • you’ve started planning your 2023 Internal Comms and are feeling stuck 
  • you’d like advice and guidance to help you start the year well 
  • you’re working in-house and trying to plan what 2023 looks like
  • you’d like to ask peers for their advice
  • you’ve not had the chance to think about the year ahead yet.

Book your place to get planning for 2023.

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