One year on – Kim Page reflects on Women in Communications

Back in April 2020, IABC UK&I hosted our successful “Women in Communications” event, with five incredible speakers and over 50 guests discussing tips and practical advice on how to navigate a career in comms, with a particular focus on the challenges faced by women.

One year on, our speakers share their takeaways from the event, reflect on what has changed since then, and share an update on their work.

 

Kim A Page

@kimapagexb

 

Communication Trainer, Webinar Host, Author of The Right Kind of Loud: Finding your Communications Voice

Communication Expert Kim has helped thousands of professionals get their message through. Originally from Norway, her career spans across three continents and she is an author and TEDx speaker.

Since the pandemic started, Kim has been supporting clients to boost their impact through the screen as speakers and meeting hosts as well as getting them ready for video creation. For organisations she has delivered celebrations as well as best practices for conferences and panel events. Kim is also the creator and host of the zoominar series “The Right Kind of Loud in COVID times”.

Kim was interviewed by Science of Mind Magazine in the US about the voice as a communication tool in  November 2020, which you can watch here – https://fb.watch/1ZbaPElUkh/

 

Kim’s Book recommendations

  • Flow Generation: A Survival Guide for our Unpredictable Lives, by Nicolo Andreula & Vera Sprothen
  • The Culture Map – Breaking through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, by Erin Meyer
  • 10 Poems to Change your Life, by Roger Housden

 

Key takeaways from IABC UK&I Women in Communications 2020 event:

  1. The voice is part of our self, our personality – the word ‘per’ = through ,’son’ = sound, through our sound we become who we are
  2. The voice is our most intimate communication tool, starting from the inside of our body, landing inside the body if our listener as vibrations – that is deeper than skin to skin
  3. Most of us don’t like our own voice, 85% of all adults have been asked to be silent, our voice is affected by how we relate to it, a starting point for us as communicators is to stop judging and be caring towards our own voice

 

This and more is explained in the first chapter of my book – Sound Right, Unleashing the Power of Your Voice – free download on my website: https://kimapage.com/buy-the-book/ 

 

One year on…

As a communication trainer, so much changed when I started supporting my clients online. When we communicate through the screen, we go from using five senses to two senses, leaving taste, smell and touch behind while relying on visual and audio input. The shift requires a whole new set of skills when we engage with clients and stakeholders, so for me as a communication trainer, a lot changed when I started supporting my clients online.

 

As a moderator I found a zoominar format with dialogue and guided questions the best way to create a safe space for real conversations. We gather biweekly on Wednesdays at 4pm (UK time) in 1-hour zoominars with professionals around the world, each time a communication/business topic is explored. You’re welcome to join us and try yourself! On March 10th we’ll dive into ’Trusting in COVID times’.

 

And if you want to make sure you leverage your meetings and presentations online, I’ve gathered the tools for influencing through the screen in my course The Right Kind of Loud Online, starting April 13th. It’s a learning journey of seven weeks with interactive sessions. For more info, please email me at [email protected]

 

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2021 – An interview with Eduvie Martin

Eduvie Martin has over a decade of experience in communications and reputation management for global brands and start-ups in Europe and Africa. She is the Global Internal Communications Manager working for British American Tobacco (BAT) based in London, UK. She serves on the IE University UK and Ireland Alumni board and is an Executive Director for Africa’s largest comic book start-up – Comic Republic. She loves creative writing, learning new things, cooking and exploring new cities. 

 

To mark International Women’s Day 2021, Laura Desert, IABC UK&I President-Elect and Internal Communications Lead at CityFibre interviewed Eduvie Martin, Global Internal Communications Manager at British American Tobacco to find out more about her perspective on gender in the communications industry and what needs to change.

 

I’ll start off with some quick fire questions for you Eduvie! What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?

As a little girl, I was always the most enthusiastic, optimistic one in the room. I believed I could do anything I set my mind to – I still do. I wanted to be a writer who was a professional singer that also worked as a broadcaster for CNN, MTV or E!

I eventually settled for a career in communications which is sometimes like being a writer who works for a cable channel. I still sing in the bathroom, so I guess that worked out too.

 

If you could have dinner with one famous woman, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Michelle Obama. I’d like to have a chat with her about managing unconscious bias and how to  maintain a home while building a career and living with a successful life partner.

 

Now for the meatier questions – How did you find your way into a career in the communications industry?

I fell in love with communications from an early age. It was reflected in the way I articulated my thoughts, the embarrassing diary I kept with my written poetry that must never see the light of day and the way I loved hosting events for family and friends.

In my teens, I was emceeing at college events, weddings and birthdays.

I started to read more about communications while in my third year as a science student at University. I went on to discover the value of associations, seminars and focus groups in helping one to understand effective communications.

My comms career kicked off in banking. I was a management trainee who spent all of her salary on comms courses at the Lagos Business School!

One day, opportunity met preparation when the bank advertised a role in the Marketing and Communications department. I went into the meeting with the hopes of landing an event manager role and found internal comms instead.

Looking back at that interview, I recall being in a room with three women who recognised my passion, took a chance on me and accepted me as the very first internal comms hire at the time.

Three years in, two women supported my career yet again when I was nominated for the Africa Integration project in the bank, leading the comms efforts during our acquisition of five subsidiaries in five African markets in two years!

I later moved from banking to the Fast-moving consumer goods industry (FMCG) which I’ve been in for five years now. Internal Comms is not easy, but it’s hard not to love a role that gives you an opportunity to really have an impact on your colleagues.

 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

I have celebrated International Women’s Day in my role as Internal Comms Manager across industries for more than 10 years thinking about the activities that will bring my colleagues joy. So, if I’m being honest, it’s a day that really does feel like work!

If we strip away all the planning, it’s a day that helps me reflect on where we are on our journey towards a more gender diverse world. Sometimes, I get lost in the words from different organisations amplifying all the achievements. I am however jolted wide awake by the realisation that there is a lot more left to do. I am passionate about using International Women’s day to highlight actual achievements in different industries and amplify clear examples across multiple channels.

I am thrilled that my role allows me to do this.

 

Photo of Eduvie Martin

 

Advocacy, inclusive mindsets, and tangible action are needed from all. Communications has a high proportion of female professionals, but how can male comms professionals support their female colleagues?

I think our male colleagues can be more alert to recognising bias against their female colleagues. It’s sometimes hidden in the jokes, the water cooler chats, and can be unconscious too. They can also look at creating enablers that equip women with the necessary skills to take up leadership positions so that when these opportunities come up, there are qualified women to fill them up. It’s about being the voice that speaks reason in the rooms that they already occupy.

 

What are you doing to celebrate IWD 2021 at your company, and what has been your role in supporting this initiative?

I count myself privileged to work for an organisation that fosters a diverse and inclusive workforce. Being a part of the planning committee on all the activities building up to the International Women’s day celebrations this year has been intense but no doubt the highlight of my month so far!

Celebrating in a virtual world has enabled us to get more creative. We are hosting a truly global event with a virtual panel of inspiring women from inside and outside our organisation, streaming live to more than 50,000 employees.

We’ve started to showcase inspiring women and men who promote an inclusive culture and spark conversation about everyone’s responsibility to choose to challenge.

We’ve also planned local activities in our end markets from weekly webinars, to cocktails, lunch and learn sessions, charitable events, gifts for employees and so much more.

Employees will also have access to a special IWD-themed online playlist with useful insights they can listen to all month.

Among other channels, we have created a dedicated SharePoint page regularly updated with activities across our markets, as well as live Yammer feeds to capture all activities in these virtual times.

It’s going to be an exciting month dedicated to Diversity and Inclusion at BAT.

 

How important is it for women to lift each other up?

I have always been surrounded by sisters and outstanding female bosses who have done everything to lift me up. Good people (of all genders) do and should lift each other up. It is our collective responsibility to identify opportunities to open doors for each other.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Eduvie! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Yes – I truly believe that the only thing stopping you is you. Anything you set your mind to do, you can.
I urge everyone reading this interview not to be discouraged when you walk into a room and see no one else that looks like you. You’ve earned this space, now own the room. You can do this.
And while you are in the room, never forget your journey and how you got there. Be kind. Give back. Be true.

Celebrating LGBT History Month – An Interview with Simon Monger SCMP®

Simon Monger, SCMP® is an Internal Communication, Change and Engagement Consultant. Since 2007 he’s worked with a diverse range of global and multinational organisations in 19 countries across three continents. Simon has been a Board Member of the UK & Ireland Chapter of IABC since June 2020.

 

To mark Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) History Month, Pooja Kamat, Employment Engagement Intern at the University of Leeds and IABC UK&I Student Board Member asked Simon to share his personal experiences of working in the communication industry as an openly gay man.

 

So Simon, tell us about how you found your path into a career in the communication industry?

Like a lot of people who started working in communications in the noughties, I fell into it almost completely by accident. I was working in customer service for E.ON UK straight out of university, where I’d studied English. I wanted a job that allowed me to be creative and write, so when I heard about the magical world of internal communication, I found my way into an entry-level position. From the first day I was completely hooked. That was almost 14 years ago.

 

What has been your experience of working in the communications field as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

Overwhelmingly positive. I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been openly gay throughout my communications career and it’s never been an issue. I was fortunate early on to work with a brilliant head of communications who was gay, married and very open about his life and husband. It gave me the confidence to be myself at work. Role models are extremely important – being able to see someone “like you” who has been incredibly successful shows that it’s possible.

 

Do you feel the industry has changed and is now more inclusive in nature?

As I say, I’ve been very fortunate to have a good experience, so it’s difficult for me to say if the industry has changed. But if we were to speak in a broader sense about inclusivity, I do think there is lots more to do. It’s no secret that our industry is predominantly female, and once you get beyond gender there isn’t enough diversity. But I believe it’s a work in progress and what’s pleasing is that there is more pressure on us to change, a groundswell that is saying we don’t accept how it’s been, we need to change. We all have a role to play in ensuring things continue to improve and we are inclusive of everyone.

 

Have you ever faced discrimination on the grounds of your sexuality? Has being gay made it more difficult to do your job?

I don’t think I’ve ever been discriminated against based on my sexuality, no. The second part of your question is interesting, though. Being gay hasn’t made it more difficult to do my job, but there are differences. On an almost daily basis I find myself having to come out to someone. I’m pretty used to it after all this time, but it was difficult at first and can get a bit tiresome. It can also depend on the industry you work in. My clients are varied and in some I feel more comfortable than others. But that is more about me than anything, because I’ve never had any problems working in more masculine or ‘macho’ industries like transport or construction, where perhaps I might have expected it to be a bit more difficult. We can all help our LGBTQ+ friends and colleagues by never assuming sexual orientation or gender identity. Don’t assume a man is married to a woman. You’d be surprised how often someone asks about my girlfriend or wife! Use inclusive language. Ask about someone’s partner, not their wife or husband. Add your preferred pronouns to your LinkedIn profile and other social media. It really makes a difference and takes such little effort to do.

An image of Simon Monger SCMP in London, UK

Inclusion and diversity are very much buzzwords of business. What are your thoughts?

I think they’re so much more than buzzwords. Yes, you could be cynical and say that companies are just looking to tick the boxes; and in some cases, that’s probably true. But I’ve seen some wonderful organisations doing really great work in inclusion and diversity. Increasingly, organisations understand how crucial diversity and inclusion are to their success – whether that’s attracting the right talent, representing the communities and customers they serve, or simply understanding that employees who can be themselves at work are more productive and engaged. It makes good business sense. In recent years we’ve seen a shift more towards inclusivity, rather than diversity. And that’s good. Diversity is about representation. Inclusion is about integration, collaboration, perspectives and presence. We will never be “finished” when it comes to inclusion and diversity. There isn’t an end to this work and we all have a role to play.

 

Do you think the LGBTQ+ community have equal opportunities?

Within the communications industry? Well, I’m very conscious that I can’t speak for an entire community! Particularly one so varied and where there is so much lived experience that is very different to my own. I would like to say that there are equal opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community – and in my experience that has been the case – but sadly, I think I can say with certainty that it isn’t always the case. I’m confident and comfortable in my own skin, which I’m sure has helped me. If I was less confident and comfortable, then perhaps it would be different. When it comes to wider society, I don’t think we have 100% equality yet. Things are so much better than they were when I was at school – when it was illegal to talk about homosexuality in lessons for fear of ‘promoting’ it, leading to generations of LGBT kids growing up with little or no sex education – but there is more work to be done.

 

What would you say to LGBTQ+ people who are considering a career in communications?

I would absolutely say do it. I’ve found the communications industry to be incredibly welcoming and supportive. And being a member of the IABC has been incredibly helpful, too. I have connections all around the world, people who are so lovely and supportive and welcoming of people from so many different backgrounds, with different experiences. The global reach of IABC means there’s always something new to experience, and inclusivity is at the heart of everything we do.

Brewdog — Strategic Stunt or Caring Company?

By Board Member Georgia Eather

(Twitter @gmay_)

 

Brewdog’s CEO and Co-Founder James Watt recently posted some open letters to Nicola Sturgeon and Matt Hancock on LinkedIn and Twitter. He has offered Brewdog venues to support the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine, describing the venues as ideal settings with refrigerators, rooms and teams to assist if needed.

Screenshot of James Watt's post on LinkedIn

James Watts’ open letter on LinkedIn

The public response has been mixed from his followers, some comments have ranged from “brilliant initiative” and “lovely gesture” to “big PR stunt” and a ploy to ensure Brewdog is operational before competitors with vaccinated staff.

Whatever the motivation, this seems consistent with Brewdog’s ‘punk reputation’ of thinking outside the box with creative strategies that may seem forward thinking to old-school competitors. Previous examples include moving quickly to manufacture and donate hand sanitiser at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, becoming the world’s first carbon negative beer business and planting the Brewdog Forest in the Scottish Highlands. And they move fast. This, and more, has all happened in the past 12 months.

Image for post

Forbes article detailing Brewdog’s carbon negative status

Whether the open letters are a PR campaign or if Brewdog intend to follow through on their promise, we may not know right now. But one thing is clear, the power of PR and communications is real. With this extension of goodwill and offer to support a national health scheme, it’s clear where Brewdog’s priorities lie. Brewdog cares about people.

Brewdog is not alone in this. Ben and Jerry’s is a vocal supporter of LGBTQI+ rights. Fenty Beauty is a leader in the beauty market through their inclusive and diverse shades of make-up, prompting other brands to follow suit. Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign championed gender equality and women empowerment.

The idea of a PR ‘stunt’ is not new, but perhaps with good intentions, brands can follow the example set by Brewdog and others. I believe in the power of brands doing good. Maybe the world can be a better place if stories are told and change is made. There is much more at stake than reputations.

Gazing into the crystal ball

By Simon Monger, SCMP®

Predicting what’s going to happen in 2021 might seem even more of a laughable prospect than usual. You might well ask yourself why anyone would even want to.

Jenni Field recently posed a question on Twitter: ‘What do you think will be the big trends for communications and business in 2021 #internalcomms #business #trends.’ There’s some interesting thoughts in the thread, so I recommend taking a look.

It got me thinking. And three things very quickly came to mind:

  • Employer brand and organisational culture.
  • Employee listening.
  • Human communication.

Employer brand and organisational culture

Every organisation has an employer brand, whether it knows it or not. You only have to look on Glassdoor to see the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), in their 2008 guide, ‘Employer branding: a no-nonsense approach’, define employer brand as ‘a set of attributes and qualities, often intangible, that [make] an organisation distinctive, [promise] a particular kind of employment experience, and [appeal] to those people who will thrive and perform best in its culture’.

Of course, employer brand is closely connected to organisational culture and values. Which is all well and good when you’re in a working environment. But how do you foster the right culture with people working remotely?

As we begin to vaccinate against COVID-19, we may well see some companies returning to their workplaces. But this isn’t going to happen overnight, and many organisations are very unlikely to return to the old ways of working.

So how do you ensure that your employer brand and culture are fit for 2021 – and beyond?

You already have an employer brand and culture. Hopefully, it’s even one that you like. It might not be perfect, but it’s there. You may be one of the many organisations we’ve seen this year really stepping into their own, putting their values into practice. 

But is this experience consistent throughout the employee lifecycle? From induction to performance management, from the way you communicate to how people leave your organisation, you need to be consistent. What are you doing to sustain this in the new remote working world?  

The new year might be a great opportunity to take stock and reset. Because as we know, culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Employee listening

Listening to employees isn’t new. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. While it’s true to say that, historically, communicators might have been better at communicating out and less good at listening to what comes back, that’s definitely changing. And as we enter a new year, with many of us still away from the workplace, ensuring that we’re really listening to what people have to say is more important than ever.

This ties in nicely with culture. Do you have a listening culture? If you do, have you been able to maintain this through lockdowns and remote working? If you don’t, what small steps could you begin to take to begin to establish trusted ways for employees and management to share? 

The ‘Who’s Listening?’ report – a joint activity between the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and the PR Academy – showed that effective listening delivers a more competitive organisation, a greater sense of employee engagement and advocacy (reducing reputational risk and enhancing that employer brand), more trust in leadership, greater innovation, and openness to change, resilience, learning and wellbeing.

But fear can be a barrier to listening – both for employees and leaders. And it’s not just speaking the truth to senior leaders that can be difficult. Some leaders and managers avoid listening because they’re afraid of being asked a question they feel they can’t answer, but should be able to.

The report was updated in 2020, showing that with COVID-19, organisations have sped up the rate with which they are adopting new, online ways of listening to employees, and listening will only grow in importance. 

A note of caution: the research also shows that some companies still undervalue listening as a leadership capability, and often pay lip service to it. This will not wash with employees in 2021 as we continue to adapt to different ways of working.

Human communication is here to stay

You might well ask what type of communication it was before, but the truth is that this year we have really seen the human side of organisations. 

OK, so the novelty of seeing your CEO with a cat on their lap, or your HR Director trying to wrangle a screaming four-year-old while presenting, may have worn off. But no one can deny that we now know more about our colleagues – and leaders – than ever before.

Internal communication is often criticised for being too formal, too corporate – and rightly so. This year has seen many organisations really focus on bringing empathy and humanity into their communications – and it’s here to stay. As we settle into a routine of ‘COVID normal’ and, eventually, whatever kind of normal comes after that, we should never lose sight of the fact that people are behind every communication we craft and send. 

There will, no doubt, be many surprises in the coming months and years. Notice I didn’t even mention Brexit! But no matter what happens, organisations can’t go wrong focusing on culture, listening and clear communication. Because at the end of the day, we’re all human.