Empowering Communications Leaders

4 minutes

On the 14th of March 2024, communications recruiter, Matthew Stevenson, held a seminar event...

On the 14th of March 2024, communications recruiter, Matthew Stevenson, held a seminar event entitled, “Empowering communications leadership”.  

One of the key frustrations that our recruiters have seen from Communications Leaders recently is the lack of recognition from board level. In this event, Matt brought together experienced communications professionals to discuss their career journeys and how they advocate for comms teams in their business. Attendees heard from: 

  • Claire Truscott, VP, Strategic Communications at Moody's Corporation 
  • Vanessa Maydon, Chief Communications Officer at Investindustrial  
  • Jonathan Bunn, Head of Communications, Europe, Middle East & Africa at MetLife 

Together, they discussed the following topics: 

  • Their unique career journeys and challenges they’ve faced along the way 
  • Key opportunities for communications teams to contribute to a business’ success 
  • How to retain, upskill and promote team members  

Keep reading for key takeaways from the morning’s conversation. 

Journey to Head of Communications and above 

The route to senior communications roles is rarely straightforward. Each of our speakers had different paths to the Head of Communications role and beyond, so we kicked off the morning’s discussion with an overview of each pathway. 

Claire Truscott 

Claire Truscott is currently the VP of Strategic Communications at Moody’s Corporation, however her career has taken her through a number of marketing and communications roles. Marketing provided Claire with a good foundation, “but there was something about the bigger picture that really interested me.” From there, Claire moved into journalism, where she gained a broad set of skills to move back into the corporate world with. 

Claire described her career as “squiggly”, inspired by The Squiggly Careers Podcast. In each career move, Claire followed her needs, skill sets and interests, and this is the approach that she recommends to anyone when growing their career. 

Jonathan Bunn 

This nonlinear progression is certainly not uncommon, with Jonathan Bunn taking a similar approach. Jonathan shared his seven-year stint in journalism, which laid the foundation for his move to corporate PR. To achieve this, Jonathan highlighted the significance of flexibility, agility, and a robust network. 

Vanessa Maydon 

On the other hand, Vanessa Maydon was clear on her decision to move into a corporate communications role. The majority of Vanessa’s career has been within the financial services sector, working within PR firms before she moved in-house. 

Challenges facing communications leaders 

Several challenges face senior communications leaders throughout their careers. Matt asked our speakers to expand on these challenges. 

The business’ perception of the communications function 

Undeniably, the biggest challenge facing communications leaders is the perception from businesses. Communications teams often face the idea of being a support, non-revenue driving function.  

This image displays a quote in a simple text-based graphic. The quote reads: "Leadership is far more enlightened these days about the role of communications as a strategic support to the business." Below the quote, there's a citation that says, "Source: 3Search, 'Empowering Communications Leaders'". The text is primarily in black with the word "communications" highlighted in red. The background of the graphic is white. The font used for the quote is bold and modern.

While it’s true that the perception of comms teams has improved over the years, Jonathan shared that communications leaders are often still “fighting to promote the value of communications.” 

Engaging with leadership teams and boards 

Understandably, encouraging buy-in from boards and leaders who might not fully grasp the role of communications can be difficult. Matt asked our speakers to share some ideas around how they have handled this challenge in their roles. 

Commercial value 

Ensuring that you can deliver commercial value as a communications team is key. Vanessa suggested aligning with different areas of the business and understanding what each of their strategic goals are. From there, you can understand their concerns and how communications can help support both. These points should influence your strategy. 

Risk and reputation management 

Risk and reputation management is where communications teams add most value to a business. 

This image features a quote in a clean, text-based design. The quote reads: "There is nothing like a crisis for helping leadership really understand what the value of communications can be." The source is cited below the quote as: "Source: 3Search, 'Empowering Communications Leaders'". The quote is set in a bold and modern font, with most of the text in black and the word "value" highlighted in red. The background of the image is white.

Spending time preparing for these moments is key. Networking and relationship-building internally and externally can help you manage crises more effectively and efficiently when the time comes. 

Sponsors on the board 

When it comes to gaining buy-in from the board, finding sponsors who can help champion the communications team is crucial. Communicating internally and showcasing your small wins across the organisation will really help to promote the value of comms. 

Retaining communications talent 

Our 2024 Annual Pay & Hiring Report revealed that there is a remarkably high number of individuals looking for a new role this year. 67% of employees have told us they will be moving roles. 

With retention high on all Communications Leaders’ agendas, Matt asked our speakers for their thoughts on keeping their team happy at work.  

What drives your team? 

Jonathan shared the importance of remembering the basics of team management. Get to know your employees on a personal level and understand what they’re looking for in their career.  

Making this effort will allow you to provide them with the right opportunities to grow and progress within their current role. 

Internal communication 

Vanessa advocated transparency to build trust amongst your team. As a Comms Leader, you’re privy to a lot of high-level information. While it’s not always right to share everything with your team, providing them with context will allow an understanding of the bigger picture. This enables them to feel more connected and valuable. 

Project ownership 

Along the same lines of creating autonomy, Claire suggested assigning project ownership to members of the team. By giving individuals ownership over specific tasks, you create a culture of accountability and credibility.  

Thank you to our Comms Leaders

A big thank you to Claire, Jonathan and Vanessa for your time and insights throughout the morning. We also wanted to extend our gratitude to attendees for your excellent questions, helping to make this event such a success. If you’d like to join us at our next communications event, register your details below! 

Looking for communications recruitment support?

If you’re ready to invest in communications leadership or grow your team, get in touch with our specialist recruiters! As a specialist communications and PR recruitment agency, we promise the best recruitment experience you will ever have. Upload your vacancy to start working with us today. 

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