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Monday, December 12, 2011

What it means to be a corporate communications professional-1

TERESA ASHA ALEXANDER
Commits alumna TERESA ASHA ALEXANDER (Class of 2007) has been working in internal communications at Wipro, Bangalore, for four years now. Here she discusses her work and explains what it means to be a corporate communications professional:

First off, let me describe what exactly it is that I’m in charge of. I’m a part of Wipro’s internal communications team called Channel W, which is also the name of our internal portal. I create content for our intranet site, which consists of organisational announcements, “micro” sites managed by the various teams within Wipro, and our online features magazine, Odyssey. My work primarily revolves around Odyssey and the micro site Eco-Eye, which is Wipro’s environmental CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and awareness site.

THE ECO-EYE HOMEPAGE.

ECO-EYE
My work for Eco-Eye includes preparing articles and slideshows on subjects related to the environment. To make my life easier, I’ve created broad topics such as Energy, Water, and Biodiversity. Every two weeks I write, get the articles edited, and then upload an article or slideshow under one heading.

I also talk to people who head Eco-Eye teams across Wipro in Bangalore and internationally and find out what Wipro is doing for the environment. For example, when our Eco-Eye team in Hyderabad cleaned up Manikonda Lake, I created a micro site on Eco-Eye that detailed weekly updates about what was being done, the people behind the initiative, and photographs of the work done.

There are, within Wipro, people who are doing what they can for the environment on an individual basis. I talk to these people and profile the work they’re doing.

If there are environment experts or celebrities in town, I try to schedule interviews with them or have them come over for a talk at Wipro. I also organise film screenings and, to facilitate that task, I’m in touch with various NGOs and filmmakers.

The point of Eco-Eye is essentially to spread awareness about the state of the environment and to keep members involved and motivated by sharing best practices across geographies. Green is the next big thing in the corporate world and Eco-Eye gives Wipro a head start.

ODYSSEY
Odyssey is Wipro’s online features magazine, which is a platform for our techies to learn about the happenings in Wipro and in the world at large, and also take a break.

Big initiatives like Wipro’s annual marathon or small ones like the corporate sports tournaments that Wipro participates in and wins, are written about and the people profiled by me. I handle the interviews, the sports and arts reports as well as the chat sections in Odyssey.

ODYSSEY: THE INTERVIEWS HOME PAGE

INTERVIEWS
We think of people to interview, get in touch with them via their websites or any contact information we might have, pursue them relentlessly, and finally get an interview, either face-to-face, on the phone, or over e-mail. I then edit and upload the text. It can be a long drawn-out process with people taking time to respond or not getting back at all.

CHAT
My technical team has created from scratch a chat tool that we use to help people talk to employees. Wipro is a huge company and sometimes people have no idea what is happening with top management and vice versa. Our chat tool is a simple way for, say, the CEO to talk online to employees. Even the heads of the various verticals within Wipro use the tool to communicate new strategies and policies. My job here is to be the chat facilitator. So if the head of Information Systems (the team Channel W falls under), wants to talk to all his teams, they come to me with a request, I get the links and pages created, and then, on the day, go over and help them use the chat tool. Once a chat is completed, I edit and upload the transcript, always making sure that the homepage reflects the latest chats.

ODYSSEY: THE SPORTS HOMEPAGE.

SPORTS AND ARTS
This is basically features writing. I come up with ideas for articles, slideshows, and quizzes to be “converted” to features under each section and I’m evaluated on the feedback and footfall each article receives. Accordingly, I need to ensure the section’s homepage is constantly updated with new content, which I need to create.

ODYSSEY: THE ARTS HOMEPAGE.

To sum up, Internal Communications is primarily about employee engagement. It is one of the many tools that organisations employ to keep their employees motivated and connected, especially in a company as large as Wipro.

What I’ve learnt over my last four years at Wipro

1. Know your audience
No matter how well you write, no one is going to read something they are not interested in. Always actively seek feedback because that will give you an idea of who your audience is. The better you know them, the better the ideas you come up with, which means that you get more positive feedback, which ultimately equals a better appraisal session.

2. Learn to listen 
When you have to liaise with various people within an organisation, from senior management to the average Joe, your listening skills are very important. Ask pertinent questions which will come to you if you have been listening closely. You will make a positive impression on the person who will return to you in the future for similar requirements. Remember that you are the spokesperson for your team, so dress well and put your cell phones on silent. Again, positive feedback about you is always a good thing when it comes to appraisal time.

3. Learn the technicalities

All our uploads and the maintenance of the various micro sites are made possible through our Content Management System, Typo3. Jhoomla and Druple are two other CMS tools in the market. I had to learn to use the tool and today I am considered the most proficient among the members of the content team! It is important that you know your CMS tool as that way you have complete control over a written piece of work from start to finish.

4. Take complete ownership
The Channel W team consists of a content team, a design team, and a technical team. If you say you’re going to do something, treat it as your baby; for example, one article needs people from content (we do write the article!), design (to decide the look and feel of the page), and technical to work on it together. Sometimes the design team or the technical team has a heavy workload, so it is up to you to follow up with them and push them to meet your deadlines.

5. Mistakes are inevitable
We all fumble and sometimes we make serious mistakes. Apologise and correct them immediately. While it is easy to get frazzled and not take any action, I’ve learnt that the faster you correct your mistake, the more you will be appreciated. Or at the very least, not yelled at that much!

6. Find out what other companies are doing
I know that Wipro’s intranet is unique as I have friends in Infy and CTS and TCS who talk to me about their work. Through our conversations, we each have learnt what the other company is doing, which is a godsend when you need to come up with that next big idea!

7. Learn how to deal with office politics
Nothing is certain but death and taxes… and office politics! It is a historical fact that when two or more people come together, someone’s always going to say “You’ve got the bigger apple, why is that?” Experience has taught me this about office politics: ignorance is usually bliss. Try to maintain good relations with all around you and when there are conflicts, sometimes just yelling a little at each other helps.

8. Internal Communications is about organising yourself
Sometimes you’ll have a chat, interview, and article deadline all on the same day. I find it extremely helpful to write a to-do list for the week and then one for each day so that you can keep ticking off things that you have completed. Ditto for processes; for example, an internal chat has one set of rules to be followed and an external chat has a different set of rules. If you have two separate checklists, then you minimise your margin of error.

9. Prioritise your clients

You have internal (within your team) and external (outside your team) clients, and you have to prioritise your work accordingly. You will deal with demanding external clients who have no idea about how you do the work you do, and ask for seemingly absurd results. Learn how to placate them and tell them what best you can offer them. Try not to create a situation where your manager has to step in as that usually means that your client has escalated matters because they are unsatisfied.

All-in-all, internal communications can be really interesting as you get to meet interesting people within your organisation and learn about what they do and why they do it. You also have your finger on the pulse of the organisation and are sometimes privy to information before anyone else, which is exciting. You get to explore your creativity and learn about how much you really understand the people in your organisation and their culture, which is essential, after all, to being a good internal communications professional.