🥫 Internal Communications Introductions: Laura Colantuono
Head of Internal Communications, International at The Kraft Heinz Company
In This Interview
📓 The power of an internship to influence your career
🧡 A successful virtual values roll-out
🎯 Advice for pursuing a career in internal communications
Laura is a comms professional with over 12 years of experience gained in global organizations. She’s Italian but has lived abroad for almost half of her life. Laura started her career as a journalist to then join Unilever Italy in 2010 where she discovered her passion for Internal Communications.
A passion that has been growing over the years leading her to the luxury sector in 2014, when she moved to Fendi (the Italian Fashion house) to lead the IC function for almost 5 years.
And then life brought her to London. At Harrods for one year and — almost 2 years ago — she moved to The Kraft Heinz Company, where she’s the Head of Internal Communications for the International Zone.
Would you introduce yourself?
I’m Italian, but I’ve spent a lot of my life living abroad. I was born in South Africa, grew up in Turkey and moved back to Italy when I was 18 years old.
I’ve always wanted to work in communications. When I was a kid, I asked my parents for a typewriter — so there was a dream there for me!
I started as a journalist in Italy for a local tv network and newspapers while I was in college. When I was doing my Masters Degree in Corporate Communications, I realized that I wanted to work for a big global company.
One of the companies I read about in my Marketing book is where I work today! I’m the Head of Internal Communications for the International Zone at The Kraft Heinz Company, based in London. I’m looking after over 16,000 employees across 6 regions, both office and factory-based.
What’s your favorite Kraft Heinz product — if you can choose?
The BBQ sauce. I put it everywhere — on fish, chips or chicken!
What sparked your professional path into Internal Communications?
I applied for an internship at Unilever Italy as a new grad and joined the country communications team in 2010. I was initially part of the press office. A few months later, I got offered the role in IC and I took it with great excitement! I can say with pride that I chose this path.
I appreciate the sense of purpose — our mission is to make the life of our employees better and easier. It’s a role very connected to the company’s culture. We make an impact on the business by helping create the culture of an organization. We keep people connected, informed, we listen to what they need and act on their feedback.
We’re not just the person behind emails or end-of-year parties. We create magic moments for employees — connecting them to business strategy and company values. We hold their hands through the entire employee journey and help them feel that emotional connection to their workplace.
The moments that I love the most are when I work so hard on a project and then receive messages of appreciation from my colleagues. These are the moments that brighten up my day and remind me why I love what I do so much, despite the challenges we face every day as communicators.
It’s definitely not an easy role. It’s difficult to have everyone on the same page, working with senior stakeholders, being strategic but also very hands-on, always on the lookout for new, creative, ways to do things and make an impact. And we juggle many different topics, from HR comms to financial results, from engagement to diversity and inclusion, just to name a few.
How do you describe internal communications to others?
We are the ears, eyes and hearts of the organization. That can mean so much. It’s a very poetic way to look at our role!
What is one project you are particularly proud to have accomplished?
I joined Kraft Heinz in May 2020 from my living room. Coming into a global company as a communicator during a pandemic was an exciting new challenge. The week I joined, we launched a new corporate strategy and our new values, purpose and vision. My team’s role was to make them relevant within our zone and we needed to move fast to drive engagement and make them stick.
So we launched a cross-market campaign over seven months called — “One value, One month.” We tied each of the values to an important moment in our business. Each month, we shared and celebrated the ways employees were already living these values. They were already embedded. It was our mission to bring them to life.
We crowdsourced employee nominations across all functions and levels. An internal panel then chose four candidates each month. We leveraged the art of storytelling to bring their stories to life and shared them internally, at Town Halls and in our newsletters, and externally on our LinkedIn channel. I’m particularly proud of it because it also made us win an award! And this year, I have the honor to be one of the judges for the same awards.
What are the skills that are most important for someone to succeed in Internal Communications?
You need to have an incredibly vast skill set — influencing others, strategic thinking and planning, amongst many others. Regardless of the industry, these skills are transferable. The more you embrace challenges and opportunities, the more you build on them.
Adaptability and flexibility are also quite important. Our work is in the spotlight so you have to be able to react fast.
But empathy is my favorite — it’s something very important to me. You need to understand people, listen to them and speak to their hearts.
How do you continue learning about the field of Internal Communications?
I’m a very curious person and always try to make time to meet other communication colleagues and learn from some of the best organizations. In the UK, we have great professional bodies like the Institute of Internal Communications (IOIC) — where I am also a mentor — and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). The IC community is amazing. We are always open to sharing our experiences and supporting others.
I also attend workshops, webinars and enjoy networking events as much as possible. This year, I’m about to start a Change Management and Communications diploma with PRCA. It’s important to keep learning and upskill as our role keeps evolving.
What advice do you have for others interested in Internal Communications?
Go for it, you will love it! No two days are alike, so be ready to change your priorities and be flexible. One day you might be working with your leadership team on how to cascade the new business strategy, and the following one you are drafting a communication on the company’s D&I or ESG goals and commitments. You will learn a lot, grow a lot and I’m sure you will also have a lot of fun!
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☎️ Every edition of The Switchboard is personally curated by me — Julia Levy. This post is based on a live interview conversation and edited for publication. Learn more about why I write.