🧪 Internal Communications Introductions: Meet Chase Warner
Director of Internal Communications at Real Chemistry
Chase is the Director of Internal Communications at Real Chemistry, a global health innovation company committed to making the world a healthier place for all. In this role, he helps lead internal communications and employee engagement efforts for the firm’s nearly 2,000 employees globally. He also supports external communications and media relations, with a focus on M&A, executive thought leadership, and industry reputation.
What sparked your professional path into Internal Communications?
My road to Internal Communications has been pretty non-linear. After undergrad, I studied abroad in New Zealand where I focused on Public Health. That experience led me to Pharmacy School, but that wasn’t the right path for me. I was trying to figure out how to blend my passion for science with connecting people. Friends suggested I explore a career in communications. Ironically, it was not something I had considered with my liberal arts education.
I interviewed for a number of roles and joined Porter Novelli in their Health Group. In an account-based role, I did all the work to learn the ropes. I was doing a lot of external work, but one of the first projects I was on with a big Pharma company was all internal communications. I put together their annual culture report, wrote organizational announcements and created a strategy for a business unit.
I transitioned to another firm, but always felt myself gravitating towards those internal projects. I enjoyed thinking about Town halls, executive messages and employee events. I liked thinking about how you rally people who have signed on for a common mission and help connect the dots to other people within their own organization that aligns with their professional goals.
At my firm, we have a sabbatical program where every five years, you get to take five weeks off consecutively. My sabbatical was at the end of 2019 right before the pandemic. The firm was about to post a new Internal Communications role as we were growing exponentially. It aligned with me thinking about my next steps. When I returned from sabbatical, one of my mentors raised her hand for me and recommended me for the role. It has been an interesting and crazy but extremely rewarding 21 months and counting.
There’s this mindset when you’re working for a client that all roads eventually lead to going “in-house” someday. I’m “in-house” now, but the company and my clients are now my nearly 2,000 colleagues. It’s really incredible.
How do you describe internal communications to others?
Our CEO talks about collaborating with each other, integrating our work and connecting the dots so we can help our clients solve big healthcare challenges. I see that as a critical role for internal communications, too. I help connect dots for people internally.
Whether it is they didn't know we had a service to address a client challenge or they are searching for a benefit/perk, I can share that with them. All of my direct partners have a huge impact on an employee’s day to day. I help crystallize narratives with my colleagues in IT, HR, Legal. Etc. to figure out what story we’re trying to tell so that when we roll it out to employees, it's really solid.
Internal and external communications should be so closely related. Everything we say to our own people, we want prospective talent to know who we are. The narratives should be connected. Internal should be a bit more informal. I’ve enjoyed calling myself flex-ternal communications.
What is one project you are particularly proud to have accomplished?
In my client work, I had a chance to work on a really big oncology brand. It’s one of those drugs where it's made a profound impact in the lives of people with cancer so that’s been really rewarding.
As I turn to internal, I started this role on February 6, 2020. It was one month before our company shut down for COVID-19. That particular experience of keeping people updated as much as possible and trying to think ahead of this emergency situation was really important. I had a lot on my plate -- questions such as how do we keep people connected to the information that they need and how do we make them feel safe.
Covid-19 made us less formal. Dedicating spaces of our Intranet with karaoke or sharing videos of kids for Halloween. Keeping our company connection, from serious to the lighter feel good moments. There were so many times we could have taken a dark turn, but there were so many ways to find those moments of joy in a tough year. It was a big challenge as we all tried to help our colleagues. We also acquired six new companies and became a new company. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of this company and the journey.
What are the skills that are most important for someone to succeed in Internal Communications?
Curiosity and a willingness to probe are important traits that translate to skills when you partner with colleagues. This leads to being a solid writer. It’s also so important to be able to listen to someone and find out the real reasons why we’re doing this, how we're doing it and what impact it will have on its employees. I help craft the messaging by probing and going back and forth with your colleagues. Honing your editorial skills for clear and concise writing is also needed to succeed
How do you continue learning about the field of Internal Communications?
I diversify my feeds -- who I'm following on Twitter on LinkedIn to get more perspectives. I take a serious amount of time to learn about every department and business unit. Figuring out the elevator speech for each of those helps me become a better communicator.