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IABC Barbados focuses on Internal Communications

The International Association of Business Communicators Barbados Chapter (IABC Barbados), the premier association for public relations, marketing, and other professional communicators, turned its attention to exploring the value of internal communications at its first professional development event for the year, held at the Island Inn Hotel on Thursday, April 11.  

In her welcome remarks, the President of IABC Barbados, Dr. Pamala Proverbs, told the full house of business communicators that there is strength in numbers. Therefore, she added that one of the most effective ways to elevate the profession on the island was through membership in a professional body.

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"Worldwide, communications is the fastest growing profession. There's no other profession right now, in terms of university entry, that comes close to communications. Businesses worldwide have at least one communications person or a full team of communicators within the company, depending on the company's size. In Barbados, we like to say we have this high level of education, but it goes beyond education; it goes to advocacy and how your profession is viewed within the organization. And the only way we are going to have our voices heard and take our rightful place in the corporate hierarchy is if we grow a strong professional body and commit to professional development and excellence in our work," Dr. Proverbs said.

Fay Cooke-Nurse, the VP of Professional Development, introduced the speakers: Marilyn Sealy, Senior Director and Head of Communications at Cable and Wireless Communications, and Novaline Brewster, Director of Communication, Information, and Outreach at the Central Bank, who spoke on the topic Internal Communications Strategies that Work.

The highly accomplished executives shared intriguing stories of their internal stakeholder engagement strategies. Sealy shared her experience as a communications manager in a large organization, discussing the various challenges and successes she faced in internal communications. She also highlighted the importance of alignment in internal communications and cited examples from her experience working in 20 markets with more than 1500 employees.

She noted that company policies are critical to support communications. "It is not only communicating, but it's also having policies in place for employees so that they understand that you care. One of the reasons why I would say our communication works within is for things like parental leave. We were the first company in the Caribbean to extend parental leave to three months for women, or mothers, for a month for men, for fathers, and for people in same-sex arrangements and relationships," said Sealy. She went on to cite other policies, such as one for gender-based violence, where, in dire situations, the company would relocate employees at its own expense, and the introduction of unlimited vacation to allow persons to take breaks as needed. She said these are some of the measures that have helped to lend credibility and authenticity to the internal communications messaging.

Brewster also emphasized the importance of internal communications in promoting engagement and productivity at the Central Bank of Barbados. She said the Bank uses internal comms to help employees understand their role as ambassadors and articulate the country's economic performance to others. "We use internal comms to help us live the Bank's vision. Right now, it is internalizing excellence, and what that means for us is how we must be excellent in everything we do as the premier financial institution in Barbados… We also use internal comms to promote engagement by working closely with the human resources department to make sure that people feel they are a part of the entity."

One key takeaway from the two presenters, who were expertly led through the session by moderator Javier Reid, VP of Membership, was that human resources and communications needed to work in tandem for internal communications to be successful. The presenters also discussed various other issues, including change communications, the importance of face-to-face communications, building reputations and trust among employees, managing organizational culture, and communicators being elevated to the C-Suite.