Who's who Wednesday
Welcome to our weekly profile about who's who in internal comms.
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Aniisu K Verghese
Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility
Time with company
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I was always inclined to creative pursuits, communication and sports – for example, editing my college newsletter, participating in cultural events as a member of the college team and serving on the lawn tennis and table tennis teams. I wanted to be in a creative field of work. As a teenager I dabbled in Dxing – listening and corresponding with numerous radio stations around the world. I had almost joined for dentistry after taking the national examination for medicine but dropped it because I had already enrolled for a science degree. After a bit of freelance journalism while pursuing my MBA, I joined advertising for a couple of years before finding my ‘true north’ in internal communications. My father worked for the Japanese Government in India at their consulate almost all of his career as the economic relations officer and chief of staff. His work had a strong influence on how I shaped my worldview, approach to communication and life.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
It is Bled, Slovenia where I recently had the opportunity to present a paper on inter-company collaboration in corporate social responsibility at the International Public Relations Research Symposium (BledCom). The country is very beautiful and people are warm and friendly. I loved the food, weather and the wonderful sights that Lake Bled, the site for the conference, offered.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
As an introvert, my preference is often to stay ‘behind the scenes’ while leading on assignments. A leader who worked closely with me suggested that I spend more time in ‘front’ of stakeholders through workshops and sessions so that they get to see me more and understand the value I add to their initiatives. That advice helped immensely. I struck better relationships and gained more confidence from stakeholders after this change in approach. This has served me well over time.
What’s the secret to a good life?
Focus and discipline to define and stick to a plan is what I feel is the secret to a good life. Everyone has the same amount of time and how you manage yours for personal commitments and professional pursuits can decide the trajectory you will take. Delivering to your promises, giving back selflessly, staying grounded, being grateful for what you have and knowing that there is a higher being that watches over you, are what matters to me.
What’s the one thing not many people know about you?
That I founded a road safety not-for-profit called Friends for Life in 2003 with a group of like-minded people in India. This followed a bike accident in 2002 that left me with a broken hand (I thankfully had my helmet on my head) and the resolve to take the message of road safety to students and citizens around the world. We launched a campaign – ‘keep your head, wear a helmet’ in the city and provided a free, communication toolkit for organizations and citizens to use in the communities they chose. The word spread and I received numerous offers of support from all over the world. Later in 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) invited my not-for-profit to Geneva, Switzerland to engage in a consultation on road safety awareness. My charity joined hands with the WHO during the 2004 World Health Day, raising awareness on injury prevention through music, communication and research based interventions.
Tell us a bit about your role:
I am responsible for corporate communications and corporate social responsibility at Tesco Bengaluru, the technology and retail operations centre that serves our global markets. My team’s role is to connect, involve, inspire and equip our colleagues and leaders to be effective brand advocates and make our centre an employer of choice in the local market.
What’s on your internal comms agenda right now?
Our focus is to help our colleagues connect and live our purpose - serving Tesco shoppers a little better every day. This means creating a communication environment where colleagues are encouraged to know our business and customers better, be themselves and contribute their fullest at work. There are three key opportunities that shape the agenda
a) making communication simple and predictable by reducing information overload, improving reach and readability and driving participation;
b) creating a culture of communication through dialogue and engagement among leaders and colleagues
c) driving change across the site and enabling leaders and managers to be their best at work and beyond.
Who, or what, has had the biggest impact on internal comms in your organisation in the past year?
The confidence leaders have in the internal communications team to do what’s right for the business has had the biggest impact. We value the autonomy to craft suitable interventions (we recently moved from a large format Town Hall to a structured, face-to-face dialogue with colleagues that builds trust and improves transparency), bringing predictability to communication planning (through a weekly scheduled update rather than multiple e-mails all week) and championing social change (through a collaborative platform that converges ideas, resources and effort for improving the communities we serve).
What’s your proudest achievement or best day in your current role?
When the team got shortlisted among the top five best in-house corporate communication teams at the 2017 Fulcrum Awards, a prestigious Indian industry celebration of excellence in PR and communication, it made me very proud. To compete and place among the best brands in the industry is testament to my team’s commitment to delivering value to the business.
How would you advise someone considering a career in internal comms?
Internal communication is one of the fastest growing functions in communication. There are numerous opportunities to make a tangible impact and shape an organization’s future. Be it creating a culture of trust, an environment that empowers employees to go the extra mile or counselling leaders as they inspire their teams to deliver excellence. With the boundaries blurred between what constitutes internal communication and public relations the role of the internal communicator is even more valuable. In the current age of specialization this function offers a lot for those wanting to build a career in this exciting function. More on this can be read in my book on internal communications (Sage, 2012) and on my blog – Intraskope which I began in 2006.
What do you think are the top three trends in internal communications to watch out for in 2018?
1) With the world of work evolving, five generations expected to be working alongside by 2020 and corporate behaviour under scrutiny, the role of internal communication in restoring trust and managing the conscience of organizations will be more pronounced.
2) The ability of internal communicators to involve employees as advocates and harness insights for improved leadership decision-making will be essential.
3) Lastly, with fake news and alternate truths gaining currency, there are opportunities for the internal communicator to help organisations and employees separate fact from fiction. This can be done by improving perception of source credibility, dialling up truthful reporting and building a culture that values truth and transparency.
(Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the views of the organization I work for.)
© pfk the communications agency.