Who's who in IC?

Welcome to our regular profile about who's who in internal comms.

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Name

Advita Patel

Company

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority & CIPR Inside Chair

Job Title

Communications Consultant

Time with company

12 months

Take five

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I always thought I’d work in some sort of IT role, I remember my dad bringing home our first family modem and PC when I was 15 and I was fascinated at this amazing device. I did my first degree in Information Technology and learnt how to code using Javascript and C++ (I’m giving away my age here!). However, once I graduated it was a tough field to break into, especially for a woman as it was such a male dominated industry. I ended up doing an admin role, which overlapped in marketing and the rest is history. I still love technology and it is something that’s helped me throughout my career so I would never go back and change that.

If you could have one wish, what would it be?

I’d love to eradicate all ill health from the world. Pretty certain they’d be knock on effects in doing that but not having to watch loved ones and others go through terrible suffering would be worth it!

Where is your favourite place in the world?

New York truly captures my heart. It’s such a fantastic place and so different from the rest of the US. I love sitting in a coffee shop or central park and just watching people getting on with their lives. If I wasn’t working in comms I think I’d be an anthropologist, people just fascinate me.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Knowledge is the one thing that no one can take away from you. This has been drummed into me from such a young age. I’m a huge advocate of Continuing Professional Development and learning. I always spend a percentage of my earnings to keep on top of CPD and memberships to various bodies. For me CPD is just as important as paying my mortgage, it’s an investment in the future me.

If you could have any super power what would you choose?

I'm totally obsessed with Mad Men at the moment so it's a flip between Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway. Both are strong women who have such strength to keep pushing for what they want and won't allow to be told they can't do it! Love them both.

Proudest achievement

Tell us a bit about your role:

I’m currently contracting for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) where I am responsible for the communications and stakeholder management workstream for a transition programme. This basically involves making sure that interested and impacted stakeholders are kept up-to-date with what is happening across the programme and advising leaders on best approach.

It’s a bit of a complex project as there are so many different stakeholders, channels and businesses involved plus various relationships to maintain, but it has been an interesting challenge so far.

I also recently stepped into the Chair role for CIPR Inside which I’m really excited about. This involves supporting internal communicators by making sure they have a trusted place to go for information and when they need advice or guidance on various challenges they may come across in their role. We’re really proud of the work we’ve done so far so I’m looking forward to building on this further in 2019 with the fab team of volunteers we have.

What’s on your internal comms agenda right now?

We’re now approaching quite a crucial point in the programme and for me it’s to make sure that all the various stakeholders, internal and external, are aligned with their messaging. It’s important to me that all our stakeholders are informed enough so they feel they are part of the process, particular internal stakeholders. It’s even harder when they are remote or hard to reach workers so it’s imperative we have appropriate channels in place so they can communicate back and forth with the leadership team (and vice versa) at various sites.

On my agenda as Chair, the committee and I have an exciting year planned which we hope will address the big ticket items such as measurement. It’s an area I know that causes a world of pain for many IC folk but if done well it can bring so much value to an organisation and the IC team.

What has had the biggest impact on internal comms in your organisation in the past year?

I’d have to say the sheer level of change at the organisation has definitely impacted IC. The NDA itself employs approximately 260 people directly but indirectly they have more than 14,000 employees via various subsidiaries. Each subsidiary has its own email systems, intranets, values etc, which can be challenging from a group perspective, especially with various security restrictions in place. However, a lot of work is taking place to address this with various initiatives. One of which is the launch of Jive (an Enterprise Social Network) that will hopefully bring teams closer and help curate information much easier than it is today.

What’s your proudest achievement or best day in your current role?

2018 was a great year for me in terms of achievements, from being named on the Top 50 Future Leaders for Northern Power Women to becoming a CIPR Fellow, but my proudest achievement has to be becoming a Chartered PR practitioner with CIPR. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do but I always had an excuse on why it wasn’t the right time. I finally got some guts and put myself forward, convincing myself that if I failed I would just learn from it and move on. Luckily I passed but I still stand by that statement.

We often put a ridiculous level of pressure on ourselves to be perfect 100% of the time and I think it comes with the role we play in organisations. But it’s so important, for our own wellbeing and mental health, that we talk about our failures. We need to encourage others, especially the new generation, that failing is not often a bad thing – if no one ever failed how we would ever keep on learning?

How would you advise someone considering a career in internal comms?

1) Find a mentor/coach or someone you can speak to for advice. What I absolutely love about our community are the people and their willingness to help. Speaking to someone who is in a role that you want to do, will give you so much more than just reading various websites or magazines.

2) Join a professional membership. This may seem biased coming from me but I genuinely believe joining a professional body can really help you progress in your career and open up your networks so you can keep learning! It certainly transformed my life. I’m not only a member of CIPR but also IoIC and IABC, as they offer benefits that will help me become better in my role and the work that I do. Research the ones that work for you and make sure you put in what you want out – you won’t regret it.

3) Get a qualification. This is a personal preference and there is plenty of debate on whether it’s needed or not. But I do think having a solid foundation on communications theory and basic practical skills can really set you up for success. The PR Academy offer the Internal Communications Certificate/Diploma which will give you the skills needed to hit the ground running in any organisation but there are other shorter courses that will give you a good insight.

What do you think the top three trends in internal communication will be in the next year?

1) IC Measurement. I know we’ve spoken about this for what seems like decades. But I believe in 2019 we’ll start to see a big difference and move away from just talking about measurement to actually embedding it into our everyday practice and really focussing on outcomes. Doing this, I think, will help catapult many more IC practitioners further into the Trusted Advisor space.

2) Virtual reality and videos. This was a predication of mine for last year and I’ve certainly seen an increase in IC people using these tactics in their work in 2018. In 2019 I think more ‘live’ videos will be making an appearance and VR will become an everyday tool in many people’s comms plan/strategy.

3) Internal and external comms merging into one. I’ve noticed at various events that conversations have started to happen on whether or not there’s a vast difference between the two roles, it’ll be interesting to see if this translates into JDs and what it means for specialisms as a whole.

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