Today’s A question of comms features Sara Luker, eBay’s EMEA Content Manager.
Her career has seen her work in-house, agency-side and as a PRWeek journalist.
I’ve known Sara for about a decade and she’s one of my favourite people. I love her approach to life and admire her excellent work at eBay.
She’s one of the hardest working people I know and you’ll see from her answers just how passionate she is.
Thank you to everyone who has answered A question of comms so far, I have 20 profiles ready to publish. If you’re an in-house comms pro or freelancer, do get in touch and I’ll send you the questions.
I’ll hand you over to Sara…
Q1: When did you know internal communication was what you wanted to do?
It kind of found me on not one, not two, but three occasions. I was working for Innogy (now RWE Npower) and was only temping after finishing my Journalism degree.
Someone told the Internal Communications department that I was a trained journalist and within weeks I was part of their team, helping write their internal magazine, working in the press office, working with Investor Relations, etc.
They wanted me to stay and go through their graduate programme. Before I could sign on the dotted line, Innogy was bought by RWE and the graduate programme was put on hold.
I saw that as a sign to stick to my dream of becoming a journalist – and soon managed to get a journalism job in London.
A few years later, internal comms came a-knockin’ again, and I was recruited by an Internal Communications agency, Beetroot (at that time Citigate Publishing) – there I really experienced Internal Communications from all sides.
I worked with some amazing clients, including the wonderful superwoman that is Rachel Miller (she knew nothing when I used to help her with her comms, kidding), and again – the pull of journalism took me away from internal comms – this time as web editor and senior reporter at PRWeek.
While there I used my knowledge of being both in-house and agency-side to build some great relationships on all sides of the PR story.
One of them was Vanessa Canzini, the then head of European Corporate PR for eBay. She asked me if I would join her team when she took over as Director of eBay’s European Employee Communications team. And I’ve been here ever since.
I have been incredibly lucky to have ended up in this job – I absolutely bleed eBay and loved the brand long before I joined. I couldn’t believe it when I was given the chance to join its incredible team. I have also worked bleeding hard and continue to.
Communications never really stops and eBay most definitely doesn’t either – but I love pace and I’ve developed a love for change too in this job!
Employee Communications is always seen as the ugly sister of the comms family, until a leader or an employee actually realises the link to what we’ve done, then our worth is recognised.
We are relied on by the business in all its guises at eBay and that is a privileged position. And I believe that, as content creator and narrative steward, I’m in the most privileged position of all.
I get to know the ins and outs of the business while helping to communicate key messages, strategies and purpose to our people.
To know that the content I produce helps people feel engaged in our story and what we are achieving, and aiming to achieve, is what keeps me going.
Q2: What do you like most about working in this field?
That we are the centre of everything. That brands that get the importance of internal comms are the ones that truly succeed.
You can chuck news, information and presentations at people all day long. But the best brands, and greatest of internal comms teams, are the ones that engage and inspire their people behind a purpose and a bigger picture.
And I’m lucky that I get to create content for a brand that already has an incredible and inspiring purpose – to enable the world to shop and sell.
We enable, full stop. My job is all about unearthing those stories that show our people are working tirelessly to make opportunity happen across the globe.
That’s what gets me up in the morning.
Q3: What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?
Two phrases, both from the incredible Vanessa Canzini: ‘I would rather you beg me for forgiveness than ask me for permission’, and, ‘nobody will ever care about your career more than you will’ – it’s taken me a long time to listen to this last bit, but I’m on it!
Q4: What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a career in comms?
Get as much experience, in as many comms disciplines as you can. I really feel that having worked in-house, agency-side and as a journalist – has given me such a well-rounded comms experience.
And don’t play it safe, especially now, it’s so hard to break-through the noise if you do.
Q5: What does a typical day or working week look like for you?
This is tough. How many words can I use!? Every day is different and I don’t know what might get lobbed at me from one minute to the next, let alone day. And I love that.
Without doubt emails – far too many emails. I have an intranet to keep populated that also allows our people to make their own news and post, we only launched it in September of last year (2016).
We have live webcasts that are made two-way with an app. We are launching a live chat / Q&A through the same app, which will give weekly interactions between our leaders and our people who are passionate about communicating the latest on their projects or subjects that inspire them.
We have weekly stand-ups in our biggest offices, and varying frequencies in our other offices, digital signage, leader comms, change comms, the list goes on.
My days also involve a lot of creative thinking around campaigns.
What we are, always, is a support to the business – and we must never ever forget that. It’s also why we should be flexible to be able to cope with whatever comes our way.
— Sara Luker (@redluker) July 20, 2015
Q6: Name a book you think every communicator must read, and why you’ve chosen it.
I couldn’t name one. I think as a communicator you should read as much as possible.
But, as someone who beats myself up for what I’ve got wrong, and not too good and taking praise for what I’ve got right, I found Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath a good read.
We should all concentrate more on our strengths than beat ourselves up about our weaknesses.
Q7: What’s the one thing you couldn’t do your job without?
Q8: What is the future of internal communication?
Short, snappy, entertaining content that engages people behind a common purpose.
Q10: Where can people find you online?
Best not – I’ll be getting angry at Liverpool FC!! @redluker for Twitter; red_luker for Instagram – LinkedIn, of course. And I only use Facebook for friends and family, so please don’t look me up on there.
Your name here?
See what I mean about how passionate she is? Love your answers Sara, thank you, found myself nodding throughout as I was reading.
I’m enjoying the book recommendations comms pros are sharing. I’ll collate them all in a few months so you have them all in one place.
Thank you for stopping by, don’t forget to share this article if you found it useful, and do get in touch if you’d like to be in the hot seat.
P.s. I put myself in the seat first – you can read my answers online.
Post authors: Rachel Miller and Sara Luker.
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First published on the All Things IC blog 30 January 2017.