What you need to know before applying for a comms job

Are you looking for a new comms job? This article is packed with advice to help you learn about internal communication including where to look and what you need to know.

I’ve interviewed Sue Palfrey, Head of Internal Communications at National Trust as she is recruiting five, yes five, internal comms roles at the moment. I wanted to find out more about them and discover how IC is happening in her organisation.

She’s far too modest to tell you, but Sue @suepacomms, is an award-winning communicator, she won the Institute of Internal Communication’s Internal Communicator of the Year award 2017 and is one of the nicest IC pros I have the pleasure of knowing.

Her National Trust team also won best not for profit team at the IoIC awards 2017. IoIC Judges said: “There’s a huge amount to admire in the submission, but particularly the clear and structured thought process, the presence of an internal communications strategy built on audience insight, and the support and buy-in of the senior team.”

Sue blogged for me last year to share how the National Trust created their intranet, and the process they went through. She’s here to provide insight into the roles she’s recruiting for.

But first, here’s some guidance to set you on your way if you’re researching the market for a new job or want to invest in your own professional development and skills.

Learn about internal communication
If you are new to the wonderful world of internal communication, I’d love you to join me at my latest IC Masterclass. It’s on 21 March 2018 in London and there’s only a handful of spaces left.

The day-long course has been designed to provide a safe place where you can learn, ask questions and boost your confidence. See my Masterclasses page to find out more and book your place.

Seven ways to learn more about the internal comms industry

10 ways to find out more about an organisation

Here are ways to learn more about an organisation before applying for a role with them:

  1. Check out the company’s website
  2. View their Glassdoor profile
  3. View their LinkedIn profile and see the types of stories they share
  4. Look up their careers website if they have one
  5. Search for clues via inside information e.g. their values and culture, you often find that in their careers/vacancies listings. Search YouTube to see if they’re sharing employees’ stories externally
  6. Look for a company’s annual report. How are they doing financially? How do they talk about themselves?
  7. Search LinkedIn to see what current and previous employees say about the organisation
  8. Search social media mentions e.g. what’s being said on Twitter by employees?
  9. Do a news search to discover what’s in the press now and what’s been said in the past
  10. Most job adverts have a person to contact for an informal chat to find out more – do take them up on that offer.
  11. Bonus one – search award entries online to discover any previous campaigns. This will give you an excellent insight into the way they communicate. 

Here’s my interview with Sue (pictured) to find out more about The National Trust and the thinking behind their five vacancies.

What you need to know before applying for a comms job

What do my blog readers need to know about your organisation?

The National Trust is a unique organisation that has special place in the heart of many. A lot of people consider us to be a tourism business, offering ‘nice days out’. Of course we do that brilliantly, but we are so much more than that. We are a conservation charity with incredibly special roots, founded to protect our nation’s heritage and open spaces against the advancing creep of industrialisation in the late 1800s.

Our founders believed that open spaces, fresh air and beauty were something that everyone should enjoy – not just the rich and the privileged. This belief continues to drive the people who work and volunteer here.

What’s happening at National Trust in terms of internal communication?

It feels as though we’ve just reached baseline and ahead of us is a world of opportunity. When I joined three years ago, IC was a tiny team, focused on maintaining channels content. It was an afterthought, if a thought at all.

I put in place a three-year plan to get fix the basics. Very early on I restructured the team to become a partnering model, aligning our focus to the Trust’s strategy. I was exceptionally lucky to have the support and loyalty of my small team, who I persuaded to join me on my quest.

They have worked tirelessly alongside me and have been equally responsible for all we’ve achieved. We extended the partnering approach to teams out in regions, establishing an incredible internal communications network who we work with as a virtual extended team. We’ve also put in place the basics such as planning, research, measurement etc.

What’s been the most challenging time?

The first 18 months were so hard. The team needed to transform rapidly to make sure we were restoring faith in IC in quick time. We were all learning as we were going, trying to understand how the Trust works, what the new strategy meant and who the audiences were.

Then just as we were coming out of that period and starting to catch our breath, we had two big changes.

The first was a merger with the Press Team, becoming part of a new Corporate Communications function. In the middle of this, we had to launch a new intranet in a very tight timeframe. It was chaos!

Now we’re through the other side and, as people are beginning to see the true value of internal comms, and as the link between internal and external is better understood, we’re able to create these new roles.

Who are you looking for?

I’m looking for a Business Partner for our Operations & Channels team.

This is an exciting role, working closely with the teams where the magic really happens. 95% of our people are at properties and, as they are mostly offline, we need to do more understand how we can reach them, through relevant content and through a channels mix that is fit for purpose.

I’m recruiting for four Internal Communication Manager roles. They will be aligned to a specific area, becoming their SME and immersing themselves in a world of Land & Nature, Culture & Heritage, Ops & Channels or Support Services.

They will get out and about, meeting the teams and they’ll be our content seekers/internal journalists/project managers. We have four of these roles available.

What does good look like for you?

I’m looking for people who are resilient, tenacious, creative, and innovative and who come with positive energy. The Trust is small, but it is one of the most complex (and noisy) organisations I’ve experienced.

I need people who want to be part of a long-term journey, because things are going to take time to get embedded.

I also want people who are genuinely interested in what’s happening in the world of IC, continually seeking new ways to try things and who are thirsty for new ideas to try out.

How would you describe working for you?

I came from Virgin and then the agency Home, both cultures where authenticity was valued and where it was ok to have fun with your work. I have the worst poker face in the world, so you’ll know what I think at all times.

I believe strongly in investing in the team and in the wider IC network. I am relentless in continually improving what we do, which can be tough for the team at times as I am always pushing for more and better.

Don’t expect me to say that the job is ever finished!

What’s ahead?

So much! I think some things of the bigger things would be:

  • Creating more opportunities for voice and conversations. The cascade approach doesn’t work for us. We’re too remote and offline. My big focus is on how we can create a culture of meaningful conversations instead.
  • Working closer than ever before with other comms teams in the Trust to create true alignment between internal and external
  • Bringing our strategy to life through storytelling
  • Building a great channels strategy to reach more of our staff and volunteers
  • Improving the capability of our people to become great communicators
  • And lots of development – I believe in developing the team so we can be at our brilliant best

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: Three technology megatrends you need to know now.

Anything else you think we should know or you want to tell me?

The National Trust is full of the most passionate, intelligent and hard-working people I have ever met.

They are driven by our cause to look after places for the benefit of our nation and we realise that in today’s changing environment, keeping the Trust relevant to everyone, is more important than ever.

It’s one of the most exciting comms challenges to be involved with. It’s going to be a few years of hard work, but the rewards will be incredible.

All of the roles are open until 19 March 2018, here are the links you need: (please note if you are reading this article after the deadline, the links won’t work).

Apply for the roles via the All Things IC jobs page:

Business Partner for the Operations & Channels team.

Internal Communication Manager x4.

Thank you Sue.

Post author: Sue Palfrey.

If you want to read more top tips of things to consider when applying for a role, see her article: Want a job in internal communications? 

Have a comms job to advertise? It costs £99 +VAT per week to advertise on the All Things IC jobs page. Here’s how.

What do you think about what you’ve read? As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @Allthingsic.

First published on the All Things IC blog 4 March 2018.

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