A question of comms: John Kay

Discover what got John Kay hooked on comms and what we can learn from a choral conductor.

John is Group Internal Communications Manager at Oxford University Press and is the latest professional communicator to sit in my #questionofcomms hot seat.

He’s revealed what book he thinks every practitioner should read, plus what he likes most about working in this field.

Want to see your name here? If you’re an in-house comms pros or freelancer, here are the questions you need to take your turn in the hot seat.

Over to you John…

When did you know internal communication was what you wanted to do?
My first job included creating communications for people with learning disabilities, which was invaluable; I realised I had a knack for taking difficult concepts and communicating them simply and clearly.

What do you like most about working in this field?
I started out 20 years ago in a job with a remit covering internal and external communications, and saw very early on how one went hand in hand with the other – if you got a picture in the local paper of head office staff doing a good deed it made them feel good about the organisation.

I got hooked having realised the sometimes unquantifiable impact that communications could have on morale, trust, reputation and performance.

What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?
I’m a choral singer in my spare time; the best advice came from a conductor who stopped a rehearsal and said (a propos of singing)…

The three most important things are your ears, then your brain, then your voice

I think that applies to IC as well.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a career in comms?
Do it! What other job allows you to be a writer, artist, diplomat, leader, orator, strategist, consultant, and superhero?

What does a typical day or working week look like for you?
A working week will include frequent communication with a network of informal comms champions around the globe; and a lot of honing and polishing of my craft.

I work in a creative industry in an office stuffed with editors and designers, so it’s important that I produce content that matches the quality of Oxford University Press’ products.

Name a book you think every communicator must read, and why you’ve chosen it.
English, Our English and How to Sing It‘ by Keith Waterhouse. It’s a wonderful book on writing and style from the dawn of the digital era.

His deconstruction of a passage from ‘War and Peace’ is an awesome piece of literary surgery.

What’s the one thing you couldn’t do your job without?
Agile working.

What is the future of internal communication?
See previous answer. But I’m a little alarmed at the increase in the number of interim IC posts.

Where can people find you online?
@positively_ on Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Post author: John Kay.

Thank you John, I love your comment about the conductor!

If you fancy being featured, simply complete the questions.

Thank you to everyone who has answered them so far, I have a healthy collection of profiles to publish and will do so over the next few weeks and months.

Invest in your comms career
Want to learn more about working in comms?

Come and join me for an All Things IC Masterclass. Next week’s Strategic IC Masterclass is full, but bookings for 27 June in London are still open.

If you’re new to comms, would like a refresher or skills boost and the chance to meet other practitioners, this is the course for you.

I love running Masterclasses and seeing comms pros leave feeling inspired and equipped to face whatever challenges they had been grappling with professionally. This is your safe space to come and learn and you’re welcome to attend.

See the Masterclasses website for full info and to save your space. Nonprofit organisations and CIPR and IoIC members can save 20% using my discount codes.

You can also earn 10 CPD points (CIPR) or six CPD hours (IoIC).

I hope you have a great week,


P.s. Look out for my brand new website coming soon…

First published on the All Things IC blog 17 May 2017.

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