How to be an Internal Communications Consultant

Jennifer McDermott
Feb 1, 2015 · 4 min read

Post originally featured on KQ Magazine, which I co-ran.

At KQ Magazine we’re big on being happy with your working life. We don’t believe anyone should be in a job they don’t like and hold firm on the saying, “you are not a tree”. If you’re thinking of changing your career, or you’re mulling over what kind of career to begin with, we’re here for you. We have spoken to the many talented people we know around us in interesting and desirable careers so you don’t have to. So far we’ve brought you a fashion photographer, an artist manager, a vintage hairdresser and this week we’re taking the turn to a more corporate career for the budding communications role seekers in you.

I’d like to introduce Nikki Griffiths. Nikki is a Yorkshire-lass-come-London-career-chaser currently fulfilling a 12 month contract at Gatwick Airport, rallying their 2,600+ staff force behind their Gatwick Obviously campaign.

Firstly, what do you do?

I’m currently working as Airport Communications Manager for Gatwick Airport. I’m here for a year to support their high-octane campaign for a second runway and manage the business as usual communication to staff (anything from how the £2billion transformation of the airport will affect them, to business performance).

How did you get started in the industry?

I got this 12 month contract following a stint here as a freelancer.

I started my career working in airline operations. Intuitively, I knew they needed better internal communication — so that’s what I gave them. This was across a network spanning 18 countries and over 100 different companies. I started by establishing a network of reliable contacts, then implemented a digital solution for sharing documents and communication, followed by starting up a newsletter — which with no budget, I knocked together myself using Microsoft Word week after week.

Over five years, I decided internal communications was what I wanted to do and so I tailored my work more and more towards that. Eventually my CV had enough on it to move to the next level.

I then went from flying at 30,000 feet, to tunnelling 7000 metres below ground. I went to work for a Coal Mining company as Communications Manager, with the most remote of all audiences.

Eventually the inevitable happened — I couldn’t find work that was exciting or well paid enough and so I moved to London and tripled my opportunities and potential earning overnight.

What made you decide to start your own consultancy?

I decided that I wanted to work more on my own terms and so I set up my company WOLF Communications and got my first contract at Gatwick Airport. Ta-dah! I also hate office politics, so it was a genius way to avoid that.

What challenges did you face?

Because I’m still young and like to have fun, it’s quite difficult for me to be taken seriously. My work always overcomes it in the end, but it can be hard to get going — particularly with traditionalist crowds.

Is there anything you’d do differently?

I wouldn’t change a thing!

What are you most proud of?

I’ve just been shortlisted for ‘Best individual contribution to internal communications’ at the Chartered Institute of PR awards. I was amazed to be nominated, never mind shortlisted!

I’m also really proud of some of the work I did at UK Coal. When I arrived, there were 2,500 coal miners who were so disengaged. In my time there, I ran an awareness campaign about the importance of reporting near misses, and I implemented a feedback loop — meaning that if you reported a near miss, you’d find out what was done about it. The rate of near miss reports doubled, changes to procedure were made and future injuries were avoided.

What advice would you give to someone coming into internal communications?

I don’t think there’s one company out there that’s got internal comms nailed. There’s always a need for more. So if you want to get into internal comms, I’d suggest looking for gaps, and filling them. Your work will always be welcome.

There are some great resources out there too such as blogs and training. I write my own internal communications blog which you can find at www.wolfcomms.com/blog. I keep it short and snappy for those leading busy lives and I hope it helps to inspire.

What skills & qualifications do you need to do your job?

I got as far as A-Levels and have made a success of it. You do need good writing skills, but other than that all you need is a bit of passion and creative thinking.

What is the best thing about your job?

I’m always trying to find good news stories from around the business to talk about which means that I get to speak to so many interesting characters. In fact just this week I’ve had a tour of the airport fire station, been driven around the airfield and spoken to a 60 year old employee about how he’s still studying, even at his ripe old age!

Who inspires you?

I’m a huge fan of Carolyn McCall — the CEO at easyJet. She’s the third woman ever to head up a FTSE100 company and manages to be a mum, amazing public speaker and look wicked all at the same time. She’s also an inspiration in the internal communications world, too. I happen to know that she personally records a short voice message every week for her staff, which is then available as a podcast. Cool lady!

What’s your prediction for the next big thing in your industry?

Everyone’s gone digital. Don’t get me wrong, that’s got a place. But I think there’ll be a reversal and we’ll see more people realise that they’re missing a trick and actually — people just want to have a cuppa with their boss.

For further inspiration, follow Nikki on Twitter @wolf_comms.

jennifermcdermott

Product Owner. Previously SEO & Digital Marketing. Northerner in London. Favourite pastime is eating, followed by learning new stuff.