Kalpesh Joshi on coming to communications from the outside and chasing diverse experiences

Kalpesh Joshi on coming to communications from the outside and chasing diverse experiences
Kalpesh Joshi, communications director for GSK Consumer Healthcare, shares his thoughts on building a range of experience to bring to communications.

The third installment in our interview series. Kalpesh Joshi, communications director for GSK Consumer Healthcare, came to communications from a Law degree. He talks about how he discovered his career path, and how he's used his experience for communications success.

1. Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?

Well, I actually studied Law at university so I can’t say communications was something I always aspired to get into. It was probably on my placement year as part of my law degree that I decided Law wasn’t for me. I took the opportunity to do some shadowing of other functions via my network of other industrial placement students at the company I worked for, and communications was the area that interested me the most. My placement was a valuable experience, and I would encourage all students to try and get some experience before setting down your career path (particularly if the area you think you want to go into will come at a financial cost, as Law does!).

Since graduating, I’ve taken the opportunity to work in all different areas of communications – internal/employee communications, external (media relations) and also digital. I think this has given me a strong grounding. Coming from a less traditional academic background for a communications professional, it has pushed me to build diverse experiences and knowledge.

2. What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important for a communications role? Why these skills/attributes in particular?

The single biggest attribute I think comes down to attitude. Both in being proactive to find the really interesting stories you want to tell, but also having the curiosity to find out more and then invest the time in building your understanding of a particular topic. Its so obvious when someone has gone through the motions without really taking the time to understand what they are communicating. Linked to both of these is the ability to build and maintain relationships. As communicators, we don’t always need to be the subject matter expert, but we do need to know who they are and work with them to tell the story we want to.

3. What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?

In my current role, I lead editorial and content for the business, and I would say one of the challenges I face is deciding what content or stories we share with the global organisation. This requires choices being made and with that comes the job of saying 'no'. Air traffic control and being thoughtful about what content we share is so important. We know employees and those that follow us externally have a finite amount of time so we need to share what is going to be most impactful, interesting, and relevant for them.

In the current environment, another challenge, as any professional faces, is managing the work-life balance. We’re working where we live (or in my case, where I eat) so drawing a clear line between the working day and personal life is so important. I can’t say I have fully cracked it yet.

4. How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?

Fortunately I think it is seen positively, from the top down. Having that senior leader buy-in is so important as they set the tone for the organisation. If they buy into the value of communications, and are active themselves in communicating, it is massive. In the remote working situation we find ourselves in, leaders play an even more important role so it's important we equip them with the skills, materials, and content that they need.

5. What advice would you give to those at the start of their career in communications?

I would say be open-minded and build as much breadth of experience as you can early on. Often the areas of communications you don’t really think you’d be interested in are the most exciting. I manage the communications graduate programme for GSK and it's something I always tell the new joiners.

I would also say, pay attention to all of the managers and leaders you work with. This is just as important as the what. Take the best elements of their leadership style — take note of the things you aren’t so keen on and learn from that as you build your own leadership style. This goes beyond just communications of course.

6. What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?

I don’t think there is a secret to success. I’d go back to what I said before. Be inquisitive, be open-minded and invest the time to broaden your knowledge and experience. Digital communications, especially social media is moving fast and as communicators, we need to stay at the forefront.

7. We at React & Share live for helping communications teams through understanding website content sentiment and improving it off the back of feedback. How do you and your team approach content improvement?

First of all, I completely agree with React & Share’s ethos. It is so important that you analyse the content you develop and then act on the data, insights, and feedback you receive. Otherwise you end up in a hamster wheel of just doing what you’ve always done. We are really shifting our mindset to ensure we scrutinise the content we develop. That requires thick skin. The new ideas you come up with might not perform well. You have to take out the emotion and make data-based changes, not hang onto things just because you like. Every month, we review all of the content we have put out to see what worked well, why it worked well (or didn’t!) and identify any changes we need to make (particularly for recurring content/serialised content).

And then the next month we will do the same — we take a test and learn approach.