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Lydia Howard

We hear from Lydia Howard, Internal Comms & Engagement Lead at Ted Baker, who has made the move in-house and taken the communication internal.

It’s been 11 weeks since I started my journey in Internal Communications & Engagement. After spending almost 18 years focused on communicating with consumers, I’m happy to admit that I was nervous about stepping over into the ‘dark side’. That’s often a term we use when journalists move over into PR, and I guess for an external comms consultant, perhaps this is our equivalent.

Often thought of as the poor relation to PR (guilty as charged) I was so ready for the challenge, but also a bit scared. Would I be spending my time telling employees about new healthcare benefits and changes in the post room? (Yes and yes). Would I be able to work alongside (and even get along with) my HR colleagues in the People Team, after spending my whole career working hard and playing hard with my team mates in “cool London PR agencies”. Well, yes. Actually, my new team is jam packed full of ambitious, smart, professional and fun people who want to make a difference. And I feel super motivated and inspired to be working with them. PHEW!

It’s true that the words ‘intranet’ and ‘town hall’ are now part of my regular vernacular. But so are ‘building trust’, ‘open communication’, ‘creating warmth’, ‘motivating’, ‘kindness’. The instant feedback you get on your work from team members can be a bit surprising (when you’re used to just whacking a bit of paid spend behind something to make it fly) but it keeps you razor sharp at your game. My focus isn’t to sell a product anymore; in some ways it’s to sell a dream. But, actually, that’s what all good communicators should do. It’s never just been about “getting coverage” for me. Perhaps I’m a bit of a sop; I’m all about meaningful connections.

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly flung Internal Comms & Engagement into the limelight for many companies, as we all try to navigate how we keep businesses going and create a sense of teamwork while all working from our spare rooms and kitchens and only interacting on screens. I’m building a function pretty much from scratch and it’s an amazing opportunity for me to put my stamp on what that looks like, coming at it with an external lens. We’re all consumers after all!

So, my advice for anyone thinking about taking the plunge would be to go for it. It’s an exciting time to be working in Internal Comms. Of course, it’s also hugely challenging and with all of us worried for our health and livelihoods, employers have a big responsibility to show care and compassion as we all try to get through this unscathed.

There are still many unknowns, but if this year has taught me anything, it’s to embrace the unexpected.


To chat with Lydia, head to: linkedin.com/in/lydiahowardpr

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