Presenting the 42nd edition of Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series featuring Ellen Hall of Refinitiv. Watch the complete video interview on YouTube or read the transcript below.
Ellen Hall is a senior communications practitioner, with 15+ years of communications experience. She began her journey studying public relations hoping to work in celebrity PR but has happily ended up in the corporate world, working with some of the world’s biggest companies, best consultancies, and most brilliant people. Ellen continued her studies, with a post graduate diploma in Internal Communications Management, and most recently a year-long course in integrative psychotherapy and counselling. She is currently a Communications Director at Refinitiv, and based in London.
1. What does internal communication mean to you?
To me, internal communications is a responsibility. I am responsible for helping colleagues to understand our organization’s vision/strategies; I am responsible for reflecting said strategies in every letter of my work; and equally I am responsible for making sure people’s voices are heard by leadership – it’s a two-way street.
2. How is it practiced in your organization?
Excellently, if I do say myself! 🙂 We take internal communications very seriously at Refinitiv – our channels are varied, the language we use is accessible, and support for leaders and their business areas is focused. I support the Chief People Officer, for example, and provide him with dedicated, ongoing partnership, for all things HR to the HR function, and about people-related topics across the business. Our executive leadership team are made very visible, we collect insights and feedback constantly, and detail matters.
3. Please share an example/campaign that you are personally proud of working on and that made a significant impact to an organization in the recent past
In March, I was asked to support on coronavirus. No one knew just how serious the pandemic would become, and my support grew from the occasional all-colleague email to working 12 hours per day, every day including weekends on COVID-19 communications. Our Chief People Officer, Alex, was leading the charge on Refinitiv’s approach to the pandemic, and we all lucked out – he is strong and empathetic, decisive and thoughtful, and fortunately, our personal values are significantly aligned. This meant that I could reflect his tone of voice in all communications that really spoke to how I would want to be spoken to at this time – with kindness, clarity, and consistency. His communications were/are always so well received, and feedback is always very positive. As well as working closely with Alex on his leadership corona communications, I also kept our 100+ site leaders informed and on message, and helped to boost executive team visibility through a series of films we launched called, ‘5 in 5’ (5 questions in 5 minutes) that colleagues so appreciated. In May, we conducted an all colleague engagement survey, and I’m delighted that we continue to see survey on survey improvements on engagement, despite the crisis.
4. What is the biggest challenge we face while going about managing internal communication?
Credibility. IC is often seen as the poor sister of external comms, so my tip is to measure everything and prove your worth. There is also an issue with being perceived as a ‘doer’, i.e. managing distribution lists, building feedback surveys, sending out invites for events, etc. Whilst it’s important to be someone who takes accountability and delivers ‘end to end’, there comes a point where you have to ask, ‘am I investing time and energy in the right places in order to add most value’? Raise this issue with your line manager and stakeholders.
5. What according to you is the biggest opportunity that internal communicators have?
Sadly, crisis. The world is changing, and we are experiencing numerous crises emerging that impact businesses (energy, sustainability, oil, race in the US, etc.). A great internal communications practitioner needs to be ready to respond, focused, accurate, creative, and strategic. Give advice, don’t wait for instructions.
6. How can internal communicators add more value to the business?
Move up the value chain – don’t be a postbox, be a partner. The closer you are to leaders, the more influence you will have over decisions which impact people, and therefore engagement, and therefore performance.
7. What skills must they have or develop?
Listening is essential. The ability to reflect and think critically. Thick skin. Excellent writing skills.
8. What is your advice for people who are keen to join internal communication and make a career?
Don’t think of this as ‘internal communications’ but rather ‘important conversations’. Learn the tactics as quick as you can and move up the value chain. You’re not just responsible for sending but for creating communications – that takes confidence, resilience, and opinions.
9. What is your advice for women who want to make a mark in this domain and what must they do differently?
Frankly, women shouldn’t do anything differently – organizations need to build cultures that address the decisions they make not try to ‘fix’ underrepresented groups like women, or people of color, for example. I have learned this at Refinitiv who are doing so much in this space. My advice to anyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, class, or race – be yourself, and know that you and your views matter.
10. Can you share one trend that you spot with internal communications?
One trend I predict is the hyper professionalization of internal communications – we cannot claim to be ‘internal communicators’ and simply manage channels.
11. If there is one aspect of internal communications you would like to change, what would that be?
The word ‘internal’ – the concept of inside a business no longer exists.
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Keen to contribute and participate in the ongoing series on Intraskope where we put the spotlight on thought leadership, great ideas, and practical solutions? Look up the previous stories from organizations featured on the Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series here – AXA Business Services, Subex, global insurer, Standard Chartered Bank, BASF, Applied Materials India, Microsoft UK, Times Group, Samsung, Falabella, Cisco, Brillio, UAE Exchange, Apeland, M.H. Alshaya Co, Proctor & Gamble, Infosys, SOBHA Ltd., ICICI Securities, First Advantage, CK Birla Group, TVS Motors, GE, Suzlon, Tata Sons, Percept, Knight Frank, TCS Europe, Vedanta, Oxfam, Danske Bank, Diageo, Pandora, Symantec, ISS Global Services, Telia, Thomson Reuters, IBM, General Motors, Intelligence India Software Solutions and Philips.
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