What is it like to start out in internal communication?
Do you remember how it felt when you first became an IC professional?
I switched careers from Journalism to internal communication back in 2003. I felt completely overwhelmed as I’d only just discovered the profession existed. What attracted me were all the elements of Journalism I loved doing.
Having the opportunity to write, interview and shape stories for an organisation, rather than to sell newspapers piqued my interest and led me to apply for my first IC role.
You can hear me talk about this experience via my recent Candid Comms podcast episode: How to recruit an internal communicator.
I wish an equivalent of my blog existed back then! I would have benefitted hugely from being able to read about the realities of working in the field.
I managed to learn by being endlessly curious, seeking mentors, reading industry books and publications, asking a lot of questions, building my network and joining professional bodies.
Today I have a guest post for you by Ally Illsley, an IC Manager in BT Digital.
With 10 years of her career already behind her she’s beginning again and sharing her journey into the world of internal comms as she goes.
I spotted Ally’s post on LinkedIn the other day where she was sharing how she felt sending her first email to the company (pictured below).
It clearly resonated with other IC professionals as we all pitched in with advice to help her.
I invited Ally to come and write for the All Things IC blog, to share her experiences as someone new to the world of internal communication.
I’ll hand you over …
How to start being an internal communicator
Hello readers! I’m Ally, I’m an internal comms manager at BT. I’m very new to it actually. Even though I’ve been working at BT for ages, I’ve recently moved into internal comms for the first time. Feels a bit strange starting a new career ten years in but there it is.
Rachel kindly offered me a spot to share my very early observations of the role and my advice for others who are just getting started. Hopefully you’ll find it at least somewhat insightful/ interesting/ maybe even useful.
First things first, if someone who knows what they are talking about suggests you might be good for a role in internal comms, they’re probably right.
I remember my initial response when my colleague Anna suggested I apply for this role; ‘‘nice idea but I’ve no experience in comms and I can’t do it’. I’m hoping it’ll turn out that Anna was the one who was right!
So don’t be the one who stands in your own way.
If you’re empathetic, emotionally intelligent and have a reasonably good sense of how people consume information then you’ll probably be able to do comms.
So, how have the first few weeks been going?
Well, I’ve developed a fun new pastime- stressing about my lack of comms instinct. I feel like I keep reaching for my innate sense of the right thing to do and there being nothing there, which is uncomfy and exposing and a bit horrifying.
Literally only in the last few days have I noticed that it’s the fretting itself that’s been obscuring any glimmers of instinct which exist, and they are there!
So if you can, don’t follow my lead. Instinct only comes with time, so let some weeks flow beneath you and your comms senses develop as you go.
Also, don’t be afraid of having no clue what you’re doing and pushing forward anyway. I’ve spent the first few weeks in my new role operating with the foresight of only the next half a step and do you know what, it’s been ok. It helps that I am surrounded by patient, loyal and experienced people who are committed to supporting me, try and find yourself a few of those if you can.
Find a mentor and a Comms pal
I’d definitely recommend getting a comms mentor. And in doing so properly consider what you need. For example, I have never done comms and so I need someone who can guide me in all the belts and braces stuff, especially when it comes to things like business partnering and all the stakeholder management that comes with that. So I’ve got myself a mentor who is extremely experienced in that space and it’s already been so beneficial.
In addition to a mentor, if you can also get yourself a comms pal then I reckon you’re on to a winner. Here you are looking for someone who will genuinely never judge, roll their eyes, sigh or grit their teeth as your number pops up on their phone again.
I’ve got one of these too, Stephen. I speak to him approximately once every 10 minutes and he is worth many times his weight in gold. I would recommend everyone find their version of this person; everyone needs a Stephen.
I’ve even managed to do a few bits of work in my early weeks in the role. It’s been quite varied and there have been a couple of things that I’ve done that have given me the proper fear; How will this be received? Am I protecting this leader as I should be? Will anything about this message be damaging?
Those things have been the scariest but also the most thrilling.
On reflection, I’d definitely recommend trying to push the boundaries of your organisation and audience, it might feel very daunting but real conversation lies in a response to your message rather than silence.
That feels like a decent wrap up of my first few weeks in comms, a slightly mad, often baffling, simultaneously laughter and fear filled month. But I feel like there have been some glimmers of hope that convince me that I might be able to do this role after all (fingers crossed Anna will turn out to be right!).
After a squiggly career filled ten years I definitely feel like I have found where I’m supposed to be and I’m beyond excited for everything that is about to come.
If Rachel lets me back to blog again maybe I’ll let y’all know how it’s going in another few months. (Of course! Do come back, you’d be more than welcome – Rachel).
Post author: Ally Illsey.
Thank you Ally, welcome to the wonderful world of internal communication. It sounds like you’re off to an excellent start. You can find her on LinkedIn if you’d like to connect.
Part of the reason this blog continues to exist 13 years after I first launched it is because I was invited by Melcrum to write ‘Diary of an internal communicator’ for their website back in 2009.
I rebranded my blog from Life through a 2.0 lens (it was a very trendy name back in the day!), to Diary of an internal communicator. I kept that name until I launched my business, All Things IC, in 2013.
I recommend keeping a diary to help you see how you progress in your IC career.
I have my own notebooks and journals, but my blog is the main way I work out loud and make sense of the world. You can see how I approached IC 13 years ago simply by looking back at my old blog posts. With 1600 under my belt, there’s a lot to read!
Learn more about internal communication with All Things IC
If you are brand new to the world of IC, I have a number of resources to support you.
First is the All Things IC blog. See these articles to help you learn more:
- How to start out in internal communication – published in 2019
- How to start working in internal communication – published in 2018
- What is internal communication?
- Why IC pros need to know your employees – published in 2022
- These are the skills you need to be an IC practitioner – published in 2020
- How to stay in love with internal communication – published in 2022
- What does world-class IC look like? – published in 2022
- How to learn about internal communication
- Eight internal communication myths
- Do you have the right skills to work in IC?
- Mind the comms skills gaps.
- How to make internal communication add up
- How to become a Chartered PR Practitioner
- How to be a Communication Consultant – where to work
- A look back at 70 years of internal comms
- 31 books to help you learn about communication, PR and social media
- How to plan your internal comms budget.
- How to find an IC job – published in 2021.
Learn via these episodes of my Candid Comms podcast:
- Podcast: How to start out in internal communication – published in 2021
- Podcast: What start-ups need to know about internal communication – published in 2021.
- Podcast: How to recruit an internal communicator – published in 2022.
Learn in person with me:
I teach Masterclasses every month at the All Things IC Hub, my dedicated training space for internal communicators.
If you have up to three years’ experience, my Effective Internal Communication Masterclass is the one for you.
Upcoming dates are: 16 March 2022 and 25 May 2022. The course on 16 March is sold out, but places are available in May.
Learn via All Things IC Online Masterclasses:
I have a dedicated course for people who are brand new to internal communication.
How to be an internal communicator is for you if you have no experience in the field, are thinking of becoming an IC pro, or have taken on responsibility for a function. It’s suitable for professionals with up to three years’ experience.
As with all my Online Masterclasses, you can study at your own pace. There are no live lessons, so you can enrol and start learning today. It’s full of bespoke videos, surveys, workbooks, quizzes and text lessons. I’m with you every step of the way through the content.
Enrol today: How to be an internal communicator.
You can also sign up for the VIP version, which will see you submit assignments to me for personalised feedback.
Introduction to internal communication channels will help you if you’re starting out and want to get up to speedy quickly. This short course guides you through what you need to know.
How to create a 90 day plan is for you if you’re about to start a new IC role and want to know how to make an impact in your first three months. This is aimed at any level.
These three courses are also available as a bundle for new IC pros.
Thank you for stopping by,
First published on the All Things IC blog 10 March 2022.