A candid conversation with Rebecca Williams

Welcome to Rebecca Williams, Internal and Change Communications Consultant as our latest Candid Conversation guest.

Rebecca has worked in Public Relations and Communications since graduating from University and has recently worked within the NHS before moving into Consultancy. She’s also a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) sub-group Inside, helping to support other internal communicators.

If you’d like to share your internal comms story and experiences for our Candid Conversations series, complete our submission form and one of the team will be in touch. No matter where you’re based in the world or how long you’ve worked within internal communication, we’d love to hear from you.

Over to you Rebecca…

Photo of Rebecca Williams in a red top with the text 'A Candid Conversation with Rebecca Williams' for the All Things IC blog

How did you discover internal communication as a profession?
I’ve always had a love of language, reading and writing. A few years after I left school, I ran my own business – a coffee shop and events company. Don’t ask, it’s a story for another time. That was my first grounding in the importance of the employee-to-organisation relationship and how pivotal loyalty and buy-in to the brand is (no matter how big or small it may be!). I needed to create a culture where people enjoyed being at work, wanted to deliver the best customer service and believed in the business.

I went to university and pursued a career in PR and external comms. Roll on a few more years, and I was working in the NHS on a public and staff engagement around proposed changes to local health services. It was the impact of this work and some of the real challenges and frank conversations that made me re-evaluate where I felt I could add value as a communicator. Those learnings and beliefs from my early entrepreneurial days, coupled with my love of comms, suddenly made sense and shortly after, I jumped ship.

What do you love most about working in the internal comms profession?
Making a difference to people– those doing the do, every day in their jobs. Connecting them to their organisations purpose and helping to create cultures that enable people to thrive. Making sure people feel valued for the contribution they make really spurs me on.

I also love the internal communications professional network, there is a strong, supportive and really collaborative community.

Do you have a memorable moment to share about when an IC project didn’t quite go to plan?
It’s not entirely IC project-focused, but it was a seminal moment in my early comms career when I sent an invitation to a long list of internal and external stakeholders, inviting them to a research launch at 2:30am GMT. I didn’t even twig until the CEO walked past my desk and casually said I was expecting him to be up very early that day! I was new in the role and mortified! I don’t think the fear of sending a mass invitation or email ever goes away!

What’s been a highlight of your internal comms career so far?
Without a doubt, supporting staff to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was two weeks back from maternity leave in a senior leadership role for an NHS clinical commissioning group. We needed a seamless transition for staff during a time of real uncertainty and to ensure everyone was supported and enabled to do their jobs remotely.

I sat the team down and agreed that the two most important objectives were to make sure staff were connected to the business and supported in their work and that everything we were communicating should be in service of that. Then I enlisted our insights team, and we worked on a regular pulse survey to start listening. The responses informed our content and areas of focus, and issues and concerns were presented regularly to the Executive Team.

Being able to respond in real-time to staff concerns, understand barriers to home working, or where there was an organisational disconnect, or gaps in information helped us keep staff connected and supported.

And over time, we could track if the mitigations were making a difference. As people saw action being taken and realised they were being listened to, we built trust and the response rate grew.

It was really powerful – and supports my view that annual staff surveys are a thing of the past if organisations want to create meaningful change based on the challenges people are feeling in the present. But organisations need to act on what their people are saying.

What do you feel has been the biggest change to our profession you’ve seen or experienced in your career?
The role of IC has grown in professional status, and there is a greater understanding of the huge value it can add. I’ve also seen a slow shift away from IC being a broadcast function, there is much more of an appetite for engagement and dialogue and a focus on people and their experience at work – for example, topics like wellbeing and inclusion and belonging being high on the agenda.

How would you define internal communication to someone who didn’t know about it?
It’s about connecting people to their organisation’s purpose and culture, to give meaning to what they do every day.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting out in internal comms?
Be curious, ask questions, say yes to opportunities, and invest in building your professional network. You can learn so much from others and alternative perspectives from those not in your organisation can make a big difference.

What are your top tips when it comes to continued professional development to stay up to date on everything internal comms related?
I recently wrote a blog for CIPR Inside on Making CPD Count but in summary – take time to understand the areas of development important for you – it’s your development and you need to enjoy it. And think about how you like to learn – podcasts, reading, books / blogs / conferences…

And then be selective it needs to be relevant to you and be kind to yourself – there is so much out there that it can be overwhelming, and we have busy demanding jobs so it really is about finding balance.

If you could go back in time and speak to yourself when you started your IC career, what advice would you give?
It’s not all for IC to fix – though you will find many in your organisation that believe it is! You can’t be all things to all people – trust your instincts they are usually right! And prioritise time to invest in your own development.

Thank you Rebecca for your Candid Conversation. You can follow Rebecca on Twitter @BeckyMurch or connect on LinkedIn.

Don’t forget that you can feature in a Candid Conversation on the All Things IC blog. Complete our submission form and we’ll be in touch.

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Post author: Dan Holden.

First published on the All Things IC blog 13 December 2022.

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