A question of comms: Bridgette Williams

What was your path to internal communication? Today I’ve dusted off my questions of comms chair as I’d like to introduce you to IC superstar Bridgette Williams.

Thank you for introducing me to a new word – commsaroke. Love it! You can find Bridgette on Twitter @beewilliams_.

If you are new to internal communication, don’t forget the new FutureNet network from the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) is for you. See my recent guest post from Rachel Bowyer to find out more ahead of their event on 5 June 2018.

I’ll hand you over…

1) When did you know internal communication was what you wanted to do?

My path to internal communications was a bit of a funny one. Back in the second year of my career, I applied for a Media Officer role – it was a six month role at an aged care provider to help cover a team secondment. When I arrived for the interview, the Media Manager let me know that they may have an IC role coming up, and would I mind if the Internal Communications Manager joined the interview panel.

Later that afternoon, I had a call from the Media Manager saying I had been great, but they had decided to offer it to an internal applicant … who happened to be the Internal Communications Officer, in turn, I was offered her role and the rest is history!

I love the genuineness, variety and impact of working in internal communications.

Over the past five years I have had an opportunity to work with many subject matter experts who are passionate about their job and supporting their colleagues.

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

If you ever asked eight-year-old me what I wanted to be when I had grown up, I would have said a doctor (a paediatrician to be specific). Sadly, full-grown me doesn’t have the mathematical or scientific smarts to fulfil this dream, but I still have a keen sense of helping others and need to find purpose in my work.

The NHS health and well-being review published in 2009 identified a clear relationship between the wellbeing of staff and the wellbeing of patients. Research indicates that hospitals with higher staff engagement have lower mortality rates, fewer hospital acquired infections, better patient outcomes, workforces who make fewer mistakes and feel they can impact service delivery.

So even though I’m in an office, at my desk, behind a computer, I’m still contributing to improving people’s health through engaging staff – how cool is that!

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

Spending the majority of my career in-house working for not-for-profit organisations, I’ve had to work with limited resources and tight budgets (that one time I went agency side was like winning lottery!!!).

Last year, following a clinical project meeting I went back to my manager with a list of comms tools suggested by the project. She wanted to know what they were trying to achieve and why they wanted the tools.

Her advice was to step away from the ‘project bubble’ and address what people were trying to achieve (yes, even if that means saying no).

Often people want a video for the sake of a video, an infographic for the sake of an infographic, a stand in the cafe for the sake of a stand in the café, so on. Just because it’s the done thing, or currently popular in the industry, doesn’t mean it’s the best solution for the project or the stakeholders.

By establishing at the very start what people are hoping to achieve, communicators are able to work back and use our expertise to tailor a resource-efficient, engaging and successful communications proposal.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How to be a trusted adviser.

4) What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a career in comms?

Take initiative!!! By taking initiative you’ll show your team that you are not only a team player who pulls their weight, but that you have a greater vision for communications and can be trusted with more complex projects.

Your manager will gain the confidence to set you free, and you’ll be in the driver’s seat to grow and develop your career.

At first taking initiative might be something as simple as booking a meeting room or following up an approval unprompted, but later in your career it could be identifying a new scope of work to lead on or using your cross-organisational knowledge to connect people.

5) What does a typical day or working week look like for you?

I’m going to reflect back on my most recent in-house role as a Senior Internal Communications Officer at one of the UK’s leading children’s hospitals.

My day starts with picking up my rostered newspaper at 9am and reviewing it in time for our 9.30am news huddle. Although I don’t work on the press side, it’s important to stay up to date with the news agenda and flag any issues that could be raised internally (particularly pertinent when your organisation is going through crisis).

At 10am I need to walk over to the hospital for a meeting with our Patient Experience Team – this is a monthly meeting and it helps me stay close to the coal face and is a great way to gather content for our monthly staff magazine, which I edit. The Patient Experience Team always have the best stories such as celebrity visits and our Young People’s Forum hosting a national meetup!

At 11, I head back to the office and sit with our designers to mark-up changes to our staff magazine. As it’s the end of the month, the edition is almost complete and I’m doing final text edits – the end is in sight … alas, so is the start of the next edition, which I’m due to storyboard with my team later in the day.

It’s lunchtime and I do my best to get out of the office – time away from my desk allows me to dedicate my full attention and productivity to work when I’m at my desk. After lunch, I’m back over at the hospital, sitting in a clinical project steering group. Although everyone is lovely, it’s often intimidating to be in a room of clinicians, nonetheless they value the contribution of the comms team, they have signed off my communications plan and are sense-checking articles for upcoming editions of the Monday newsletter.

I return to the office just in time for our team meeting – the meetings take the form of half work in progress and half problem solving.

It’s amazing what problems can be solved when a bunch of organised, creative communicators come together.

I leave the meeting with a full story board and a list of leads to contact. Finally the day ends with a social activity. I am the team’s unofficial (and self-appointed) social coordinator, and love spending time with them. Today I’ve booked a 2 hour ‘commsaroke’ session at a local karaoke venue and have extended the invitation to our brand marketing team.

I’m a big believer that socialising together outside of work, makes it easier and more enjoyable to collaborate at work. We end with Journey’s ‘don’t stop believing’, and that’s me done for the day.

6) Name a book you think every communicator should read, and why you’ve chosen it

I must confess – I’m not a reader (I know – comms blasphemy). As far as keeping on top of professional trends, I love following fellow communicators on Twitter (the NHS comms circle has fantastic representation on there) – the beauty with social media is that once you’ve found a few people who interest you, you can usually find plenty more!

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: 31 books to help you learn about communication.

7) What’s the one thing you couldn’t do your job without?

Without a doubt – my team! There is nothing more inspiring than working alongside creative, clever, respectful communicators. They help problem solve, listen to comms woes, support when needed, and celebrate success.

8) What is the future of internal communication?

For me it goes back to basic PR strategy and the idea of building mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their stakeholders.

Internal communication isn’t just about distributing messages and saying job done, it’s about building dialogue and letting employees know that their input is both needed and valued.

There are some great tools to do this, such as Slido, which allow presenters to hear from their audience on the spot and host mini polls. I have used it during all staff presentations, and not only did it keep the audience listening and engaged, but it also allowed us to create a bank of FAQs for staff who couldn’t make it.

9) Where can people find you online?

I’m on Twitter @beewilliams_ and LinkedIn and I’m keen to explore role opportunities. I’m available for work until I return to Australia in September – please do get in touch if you’re looking for interim support. Whether it’s a heavy client load, a crisis or sudden team changes – I’m ready to come on board and see you through the summer.

Thank you Bridgette.

Bridgette is an internal comms superstar with five years’ experience. She recognises the value internal communications adds to an organisation and its people. Mainly working in-house in health (aside for a short foray into agency life), Bridgette has led comms for change projects impacting care, worked in cross-divisional crisis teams and managed a range of internal channels.

Get help from professional communicators

Thank you to everyone who has sat in my hot seat, I’ve enjoyed reading your views.

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First published on the All Things IC blog 24 May 2018.

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