🏠 Internal Communications Introductions: Meet Carolyn Clark
Head of Internal Communications and Employer Brand, Opendoor
☎️ Welcome to The Switchboard. Our mission is to help you become a better (internal) communicator with career insights, inspiring stories and best practices from industry leaders. This is Edition #71! Thank you for being part of our community.
🏠 This About Page shares our story and highlights from past posts. Continue the conversation on LinkedIn, Twitter or in the comments on this page. For new readers, to receive future issues delivered to your inbox, add your email below.
In This Interview
🎉 Leverage holidays in creative ways for your brand
📚 Reconsider your reading list this year
🎁 Thank employees with a unique and personalized gift
Carolyn is the Head of Internal Communications and Employer Brand at Opendoor. Prior to that, she led employee and HR communication at GoDaddy. In 2018, she launched After Ever Communications to expand her employee communication work to a variety of clients and industries.
Her career has also spanned public relations — working on campaigns for celebrities, consumer brands, and media companies. Carolyn started her career as a news producer at ABC and paid her dues as an NBC Page working on shows like Saturday Night Live, The Late Show with Conan O'Brien, and The Today Show
A former Mountaineer, she’s now an adjunct communication professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. In her local community, she sits on a variety of boards including the Appalachian State University Foundation Board, Silicon Hollar Advisory Board, and as a Lavender House Incubator advisor.
What sparked your professional path into Internal Communications?
I came from a News Producer background. When I transitioned into communications, I started in external consumer comms pitching stories to The Today Show and Good Morning America. As time went on, I kept thinking about the people who were critical to the function - the employees.
At the time, I was at Yahoo. I had an incredible boss who encouraged me to take the lead on their internal communications. I haven’t looked back! It was such a dynamic challenge and so rewarding at the same time. Many years later, it continues to feel that way.
How do you describe internal communications to others?
The role of internal comms is to make sure that the company knows about the people and the people know about the company. We do that by inspiring people, telling stories and informing them. I have a mission that wasn’t coined by me, but it sums up internal comms:
My role is to ensure that Opendoor knows its people, that the people know Opendoor and that the world knows both.
I think it's really critical that both sides are covered. It’s our job as internal communicators to make sure we’re advocating and representing the employee, while also informing and guiding them.
What is one project you are particularly proud to have accomplished?
I love the nitty gritty work of organizational change. I enjoy being the one to advocate for the employee experience or focus on the tough topics, such as the ones we’ve been communicating during COVID-19.
At GoDaddy, one of my favorite projects was around Mother's Day. We had been working with the Marketing Team on a pro-mom campaign. We changed the logo of GoDaddy to GoMommy internally!
We made these beautiful floor decals so that when everybody walked into the door, all the logos were changed. We had quotes that said “some days she has no idea how she’ll do it, but every single day she gets it done.” At the time, my daughter was four years old and I was just so moved by the impact of this project.
What are the skills that are most important for someone to succeed in Internal Communications?
You must have the ability to look at all the facts and scenarios. You’re balancing so many types of people – an executive team, new employees, tenured employees, stressed out employees, happy employees and others. When they come to you, it’s important to create consistency in how you respond and react as a communicator.
It’s very easy for the loudest people to come to you, and to react by making a quick change. But, it might be a problem that only impacts five people out of thousands! Sometimes the way an employee explains it to you, it feels like everyone is impacted. You must have that ability to parse out information, move quickly and feel comfortable pausing before you rush to a decision. This means being an incredible manager of personalities and a stabilizer.
I really see internal communications as the flight attendants on a plane. If you’re on a plane and it’s experiencing turbulence, the first thing I do is look at the flight attendant. If they look panicked, I feel panic. If I look at them and they are going about their work, then I feel relieved. We are the ones who people go to for stability. The ability to be clear and provide context is one of the most crucial skills in internal comms.
If you have the privilege of hiring other people, it’s really important to hire people who bring skills that you don't have. At GoDaddy, I had a team member who is an incredibly witty writer. Isaac Irvine had this ability to weave content together in a way that I’d never seen before. As a corporate writer, I was so grateful for that. It's really important to surround yourself with people with differing talents.
How do you continue learning about the field of Internal Communications?
For a long time, I really tried to read and consume all the blogs and books on internal communications. But, I over indexed on it. This year, I decided I’m going to consume content not related to my career.
I’ve forgotten what it feels like to read beautiful writing in a novel or watch incredible television. I’m reconnecting to my own humanity so I can bring that to the table. I committed to reading two books a month. I just read “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” Now, I’m reading “Lincoln Highway.” I really enjoy historical fiction. Last year, I read Salt to the Sea. It was incredible and reminded me of my love for reading.
What is the most creative gift you’ve given to employees?
I love children's books! For the 2020 holidays, I picked out a children's book that I thought represented each of my team members. I wrote a note about why these books made me think of each of them. We had a happy hour where we read the books to each other and talked about them. That team still talks about the experience. It makes me really happy to know it had an impact on them.
One of my team members had a lot of tattoos (he’s the coolest!). I selected “I’m Not Just a Scribble” for him. It's all about this Scribble who is not a straight line and everybody gave him a really hard time. He teaches the other drawings in the book how to accept each other for who they are. It was perfect for him!
For another team member, I selected “The Relatives Came.” It's a beautiful book about a family coming together from the South to the North. There’s a beautiful line in it: “We were so busy hugging and eating and breathing together.” This team member has a really large, close family, and the book just reminded me of her.
What’s a piece of career wisdom you’d like to share?
The people who you work with become your people! You spend so much time with them. It’s vital to retain your relationships from past places. Thinking about what connects you to people you worked with–even 15 years later–grounds you, reminds you and stabilizes you.
I think the best managers are the ones who get to know their people, what makes them tick and invests in relationships. This is where we spend our time. Let’s be good humans and be kind to each other.
Every edition of The Switchboard is personally curated by me. It is based on a live interview conversation and edited for publication.