Kath Davies on internal communications

Kath Davies on internal communications
Kath Davies, Senior Director, Internal Communications at Thomson Reuters, shares with us her journey into comms and her three key skills for communications success.

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

The opportunity to transition into a Communications role came about by chance, although I am grateful for the support the company gave me while I developed the skills I needed. I’d originally started in a Product Development role, and over the years I took on additional responsibilities supporting the build out of our intranet, plus I’d spent a number of years working in customer education and support where I was focused on creating the product-based user materials and support documentation. In a way this helped me develop early communications skills which I’ve been able to build on.

What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?

For me, there are three key skills as a communications practitioner:

  • Be intensely curious – actively listen and don’t be afraid of asking those (difficult) questions. Often the critical messages surface from those conversations.
  • Be adaptable and flexible – we’d all like the luxury of a clear plan and timeline. But we also know deadlines can shift, and priorities can change so being able to flex alongside is crucial
  • Step into the shoes of the audience – being empathetic and able to adopt the mindset of the person your developing content for really help land the message in the right ways.

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

Internal Communications played a critical role throughout the pandemic and while it’s been great to have this recognition, it has brought more requests for our help than ever before. We sometimes have to make some tough decisions about where we can add the most value and focus our efforts without being fully immersed in every ask that crosses our desks. Of course, we still get lots of reactive asks. These can be distracting, but can also give a sense of accomplishment amongst the more in depth strategic projects.

What one thing would make your working life easier?

More time for learning and networking. New approaches to communications and communications channels are emerging all the time. Really getting digging into these and understand what they are and how they could be used takes time and effort. I’d love for me and my team to spend more time immersed in to some of that.

How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?

I believe internal communications has always been respected within the organization. The pandemic put internal communications fully in the spotlight and there is new appreciation for the ways we can connect the global organization. More than ever we are being invited to the table and recognized for the critical thinking and skills we bring to any project.

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

Partnership. We can’t do our jobs in isolation. As a team, we’re one of the few functions, I believe, that has visibility across the entire organization, and can help make connections for the business. Having good relationships with your stakeholders helps to stay abreast of what’s happening across the organization and have a better understanding and appreciation for employee sentiment.

At React & Share, we’re obsessed with helping our clients measure and report their efforts - what measurements do you think comms teams should be presenting to internal stakeholders?

Start with what does success look like and plan your measurements around that, based on the measurement tools available to you. Measurements that show open rates and clickthroughs are helpful and collected over time can give you a good sense of where employees are spending most time and on what types of content. Stakeholders want to understand the impact to employee sentiment and what behavioural changes have been driven. These are great metrics to have but require more planning to achieve.

Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?  

We’ve already seen a shift to more digital communications, now in the new post-pandemic hybrid-working world, internal communications need to focus beyond the traditional channels and adapt to an audience that is no longer primarily in office, and instead ensure employees and leaders remain connected regardless of location. There is also a significant shift in how content is consumed. More and more we want to consume information in the same ways we do in our personal life. Much like the experience throughout the pandemic, we don’t have the luxury of a blueprint; it’ll take experimentation, learning from the experiments and adapting.  And opportunities like this to share ideas and tap into the collective thinking of the Internal Communications community.