A question of comms: Shona Sullivan

Discover the first comms book Shona Sullivan, Communications and Engagement Executive, Capita BBC Audience Services bought to help her career.

Plus her advice for people thinking about working in comms.

Shona is the latest comms pro to sit in the hot seat on my blog in my regular A question of comms feature.

Want to see your name here? If you’re an in-house comms professional or freelancer, do get in touch for the questions.

I’ll hand you over to Shona…

1. When did you know internal communication was what you wanted to do?
Probably later than I thought! I started as a contact centre Agent where I am now, but 2 years in, a newly-created secondment role came up to help improve communication within the business.

The responsibilities really interested me, but it probably wasn’t until about a year into the role that I realised this was the career for me, having realised that it’s a great job for helping people.

When I look back though, I maybe was destined for IC! My strongest subjects at school were languages and media studies, and I believe held me in good stead for a career in IC.

2. What do you like most about working in this field?
There is so much opportunity to grow in IC, and I love building my knowledge and experience. It’s been well over four years since I started out in my role and I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.

At the minute, I’m studying for my CIPR Postgraduate Diploma in Internal Communication with PR Academy, and it’s becoming ever more apparent that I still have lots to learn!

3. What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?
It can be easy to take on too much if you’re eager to please; my boss always reminds me that it’s ok to say no sometimes to help you focus on your key goals and not get overwhelmed.

4. What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a career in comms?
Go for it! If you have an innate desire to help people, like to look for solutions, are tenacious and analytical, you’re definitely cut out for IC and engagement. A creative streak can help too!

5. What does a typical day or working week look like for you?
It’s another reason why I love working in IC – it’s really so varied from week to week!

I could be working on business cases to introduce a new channel or tool; working on industry award submissions for our organisation; organising events for the office; carrying out engagement surveys, spotting trends, agreeing key focus points with our Director and reporting the results; editing and publishing newsletters; providing IC coaching and delivering workshops; managing our employee intranet, and delivering staff briefings about key BBC events… I love that no two days are the same.

6. Name a book you think every communicator should read, and why you’ve chosen it
The first book I bought about the industry – Internal Communications: A Manual for Practitioners by Liam Fitzpatrick, Klavs Valskov and Pamela Mounter.

It ignited my passion for IC and is great for exploring theory and also providing practical tips to improve communication and engagement in the workplace.

7. What’s the one thing you couldn’t do your job without?
This is so old hat, but I feel completely lost without email! Of course I’m excited about emerging channels, but our organisation (and I) simply wouldn’t function without email.

If well-managed and with the right content, email is still a hugely effective way of engaging people within our business.

8. What is the future of internal communication?
As internal communication and engagement move up the agenda for senior management (great for us!) as they prove to contribute to business performance, the role of IC is evolving from tactical (sending comms, editing newsletters, channel management) to strategic (advising senior managers, planning, shaping organisational culture).

It’s up to us to bridge any gaps in our skills, knowledge and experience, and to be a little less modest about our capabilities!

9. Where can people find you online?

You can find me on LinkedIn.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts Shona.

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

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