A question of comms: Emma Rodgers

Why do you need to seize the day, and what’s the importance of anarchists in the boardroom?

Emma Rodgers is head of communications at Stoke-on-Trent City Council and is here to tell us more.

She’s the latest practitioner to sit in my #questionofcomms hot seat and is also one of the smart cookies behind commscampnorth, which is well worth checking out.

I echo her thoughts on volunteering and think these are a cracking set of answers.

Want to sit in my hot seat? Here’s the link you need to answer the questions. Thank you to everyone who has sent their answers to date, I’ll be publishing more over the next few weeks.

I’ll hand you over to Emma…

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

I have worked in a number of communications roles from PR in the travel industry to financial services, in-house and agency roles and now in the public sector. Most of them have spanned internal communications in one form or another.

I started to work full-time in the role when a tour operator I was working for which operated in 60 + countries was looking to transform its whole business approach and internal communications was the lynchpin of that.

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

That you can get to the heart of the issues and make a real difference.

It’s about understanding people, what makes them tick and how it all comes together.

You also get to be a real solutions provider. Employees need to be treated as they deserve to me – an organisation’s number one asset. If that’s not recognised, it darn well needs to be and we get to help make sure it is.

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

Having the right attitude and flexibility is what sees you through most challenges and opportunities. Talent gets you a long way but being a solutions provider who gets the job done is often what will get you to the next step.

Don’t get hung up in job descriptions and role crossover. Seize the day.

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

Volunteer. Be interested. Love to learn and make sure you keep abreast of what’s going on in the industry and the skills you need to have. I started out working in a blue chip agency where the boss called me names.

It wouldn’t happen now but I had to have resilience and tenacity to not give up. Communications has brilliant elements but you also have to have elephant skin as the spotlight can be pretty intense.

You need to be able to be the type of person who gets back up again when you need to while remaining at the top of your game and being able to demonstrate that.

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

This last week has been mainly about the byelection that took place in Stoke-on-Trent. Over 100 media came to the count and our team had to manage everything that goes with it. There was quite a scrum because of the interest in the UKIP candidate. Very interesting to watch but I am glad to be going back to normal this week.

I work for a city council which covers over 700 services and we as a function covers internal communications, media, web, social media, graphic design, communications a marketing campaigns and translation and interpretation services as well as some public affairs. Work is so, so varied that life is certainly never dull.

At the moment Stoke-on-Trent is bidding to become UK City of Culture 2021 so we’re very focused on that – it’s challenging but a lot of fun too and I’m meeting so many brilliant people across the city.

We’re also introducing quite a few new internal communications initiatives like new management support and pulse surveys as well as how we can do more to support employees in their roles as advocates for our organisational priorities.

6) Name a book you think every communicator should read

I like Anarchists in the Boardroom by Liam Barrington-Bush. It’s probably not the most atypical communications book but it very much epitomises where communications is at right now. (I like this book too and have it on my bookshelf, great choice Emma – Rachel). 

Trump and issues like fake news and everyone being a publisher mean we can’t just communicate the way we’ve always done.

This book is about learning from the lessons that are all around us so that we can ‘be more like people’.

It shows how each of us has the power to make change happen and I think that’s something we should never lose sight of.

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

My amazing team. They are so hard-working, determined and adaptable.

No matter what’s been thrown at us, they’ve rolled up their sleeves and got on with it…while being extremely creative, fast learning and talented all at the same time.

8) What is the future of internal communication?

Within the public sector where resources are even more tight that they have been previously, it’s about really demonstrating the value of communicating well with your employees. This is something we’re doing already but it’s even more imperative now.

Some challenges will always remain the same – like reaching staff who don’t have regular access to line managers or online tools but finding creative solutions that overcome this.

We’re piloting a few options in this area at the moment so I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes. Within the public sector, you have to find the balance between technology, cost and access which I’m sure is the same for many workforces.

In my opinion, even with new technology advances, there isn’t a silver bullet and solutions have to be a mix of options tailored to organisations to make them work.

9) Where can people find you online?

@EmmaRodgers on Twitter, jointly organising CommscampNorth which is happening in Manchester on 27 April at www.commscamp.com or on www.lgcomms.org.uk where I’ve vice chair of LGcommunications.

You can also find out more about the internal communications seminar I’m organising for lgcomms members on 26 April in Stoke-on-Trent.

Thank you Emma.

Post author: Emma Rodgers

Want to learn more about internal communication?

There are still some spaces left on my next Internal Comms Masterclass on 27 April in London.

If you would like to boost your comms skills, do sign up to join me.

If you are new in role, have just taken on responsibility for IC, or have up to five years’ experience, this is the right level for you.

If you are at a more senior-level, e.g. Director of Comms, the Strategic IC Masterclass is the one for you and is next running on 25 May 2017.

CIPR and IoIC members, plus nonprofit organisations, can save 20% by using discount codes and earn CPD points/hours.

The All Things IC Masterclasses website contains all the information you need to know to book and save.

I hope you can join me,


First published on the All Things IC blog 9 April 2017.

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