Andrea Davies is the Internal Communications Manager for Parks Victoria. Prior to taking on her current role, which gives her an excuse to visit every part of Victoria (well almost), she worked in various roles ranging from strategic communications and media to stakeholder relations and internal communications, in both the public and private sector. We were fortunate to work with Andrea while serving on the PRIA Council together.
Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?
I am a communications professional, specialising in employee communications, engagement and change management. I currently work at Parks Victoria leading a small team to deliver internal communications across a large and dispersed workforce. I am passionate about my work and strive to make a difference in the work life of all employees. I enjoy working in fun and supportive teams and learning from great people.
How would you describe internal communications?
Internal communications is internal PR; it’s all about engaging employees so they perform at their best for the organisation. Open, transparent and meaningful two-way communications can really make an impact in shaping the organisation’s culture. Our role is to help people understand the organisation’s purpose and direction, and build confidence and trust within the workplace. Our work goes hand-in-hand with business strategy and people and culture. At the end of the day, we want people to feel engaged and proud to work for their organisation. Communicating the organisation’s strategic narrative so that it is relatable to different job roles can influence how people feel. In times of rapid change, we also have a key role in helping to facilitate change.
When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?
I completed a Bachelor degree in Public Relations in 2003. I worked in communications roles in three local government organisations before moving to a PR consultancy and then an IT sales and marketing company. In all roles I did some form of internal communications, but it wasn’t until I worked for NEC Australia that I truly appreciated internal communications and its value. I worked on a number of high impact reform programs under a wonderful leader and coach, and that’s when I made the decision to specialise in strategic internal communications.
Who’s your communication mentor?
Many people have influenced my career and who I am professionally. I respond well to strong leaders who challenge me. Lynette Elliott, Angela Scaffidi, Rachael Sweeney, Deb Ganderton and Adrian Cropley are people who have had a real impact on me. They have all encouraged me to believe in myself. I am always grateful for their advice. I know I am the person I am because of their mentorship and coaching. Today, I challenge the status quo because of them.
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
Our ability to segment and manage internal audience groups means internal communicators are exceptional change managers. But we are not always involved in the planning of project change management, which can be a real challenge for us. Internal communications can often feel the pain of poor change management planning and end up in problem-solving mode. Also, if an organisation doesn’t prioritise internal programs, then employees can be faced with too much change, leading to change fatigue and employee disengagement. Internal communications doesn’t always have control over these issues but are generally in a good position to educate and influence internal stakeholders.
Which tools can’t you live without?
Research. I have been able to influence senior management and others by providing strong data and evidence. Research such as employee engagement results can highlight internal communications value to an organisation. Evidence is so powerful.
Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?
We’ve seen some great results from our Safety First, Zero Injuries program. This program aims to improve workplace safety culture to ensure people don’t get injured at work. We used personal stories to cut through what can be sometimes be seen as a dry subject, i.e. safety. This program has led to a real shift in attitude and behaviours and the best part, more people are going home to their family and friends injury free.
What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?
Learn from other people within the industry. Find a mentor who is willing to share their experiences with you. Join an industry body like the PRIA or IABC. Both connect you to other people in the industry that you can learn from. LinkedIn is also a great tool for gaining industry insights and connecting with other communicators from across the world. Also, recognise your gaps and undertake learning and development courses to improve your understanding of the world.
Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is… not an ‘event’. It is a continuous process. Organisations need to communicate in a thoughtful manner that’s open, honest and two way. When people see you making that extra effort, they’ll do the same. Employee engagement is at the heart of internal communications. Effective communication drives organisational culture and leads to winning business results.