Internal Communications Introductions: Meet Lisa Mudge
Senior Director, Employee Communications at LinkedIn
I enjoyed talking with Lisa Mudge to learn about her career path. This is her internal communications story.
Lisa has 15 years of strategic communications experience at global companies like LinkedIn, RSA Insurance and O2 Telefonica. She started her communications career with O2 UK leading employee experience programs and in 2017 moved to San Francisco to lead employee communications for LinkedIn's Global Sales organization. She loves employee communications because no day is the same. But most importantly, it comes down to people. From coaching senior executives to inspiring her colleagues to live LinkedIn’s culture alongside her team, the best group of communications professionals in the industry.
What sparked your professional path into Internal Communications?
I’m the first generation of my family to go to college. Earlier in my career, with the help of one of my first managers, and an incredible mentor, I learned about corporate professional communication roles. But, it wasn’t a space that I was exposed to growing up.
I went to university in Liverpool, England. After I graduated, it was important to take a job that could get me into the world of 9-5 work. I started out as an office assistant for an industrial plastics company near where I grew up. After four months, I spoke to my dad and admitted that while I could definitely learn some foundational skills, I just couldn’t get excited about the product and realized work was more than a job. I resigned and decided that I would do some interim contract work to get some money behind me and figure out what to do next. The first contract opportunity that I received was working at a much-admired, large telecommunications brand to help build websites for their events.
By luck, one of the skills I had acquired through my college education — HTML coding — led me to a department that happened to have communications in it. Through building the websites, I started to see the power of communications that people were receiving and when you did it well, what would result in terms of sign ups and when you didn’t do it well, there weren’t. That was my entry point to understanding how communications could make a difference. From there, I took every opportunity that came my way. I was excited to dive into projects and volunteered to work on events for customers and employees.
I was able to advance in this role. I became an events coordinator and then led the events team. I loved the internal events. I could see the power of how communications changed people’s behavior. They would come to your event and the next day, they would do something different based on what you put together. It was at that moment when I realized how powerful communications could be and I wanted it to be my career. From there, I moved into Internal Communications where I worked with leaders in a way that was incredibly impactful – to help them reach their business goals with communications.
How do you describe internal communications to others?
It often depends on the audience. I have to stop and think where are they coming from?
To corporate professionals, I say – I help employees to do their best work by keeping them informed and connected to their company and what we can accomplish together.
If I’m talking to a senior peer, I say – I’m an advisor, counselor and unofficial therapist to leaders to help them get through problem solving together.
When I’m talking to someone in a Lyft or an Uber, I say – my role is to help employees to receive the right information at the right time.
What is one project you are particularly proud to have accomplished?
The last year of navigating the global pandemic is a moment of pride for myself but more importantly for the entire employee communications team at LinkedIn. There are many projects that fall underneath it. To start, we moved so fast to help our employees and give them as much information as possible against a really hard backdrop where people were personally supporting loved ones, dealing with social injustice and unrest happening at the same time.
I’m grateful for every single person who I’ve worked with over the past year. It really has been one of the most challenging moments. There are probably 100 courses in crisis communications, but the past 12 months were the fastest path and brought all of those core factors to the forefront. It has given us ways to innovate, operate and create in different ways. We had to move one of our most powerful ways to connect to employees, our All Hands events, from in-person to virtual. LinkedIn completely transformed our annual sales event to virtual. We also built new programs and platforms to navigate this environment.
It’s not finished, but that marathon of event after event has taught me a lot. The professionalism across our team has been remarkable. I hope everyone in internal communications takes a moment to thank their friends and colleagues. This was an example of grit through many months.
What are the skills that are most important for someone to succeed in Internal Communications?
It’s a mindset of business partner first, communications partner second. You need to understand the business, what decisions are being made and what that change might mean for the employees who you are bringing on that journey.
You must understand the organization’s products and services and how to best support the leader who you work with to help them drive that forward. It’s about guiding and counseling leaders on decisions. It’s also about being able to represent employees to help them get in the right place with the communications you are sharing. It also brings questions to the table that aren’t always being thought through by others who you work alongside since you are representing different perspectives.
It’s the ability to have many things happening at the same time. When I was a kid, the report card from my teacher used to say that I was a butterfly and doing so many things at a time and needed to focus. But, I actually credit the ability to have multiple programs, tracks and understanding what’s happening across a complex environment as one of the core components to be successful in this job. It’s important to be curious, thinking about and observing what’s happening in different areas of the business and figuring out how to bring it all together. I really encourage people to flex those multi-tasking skills.
Finally, I encourage curiosity for emerging trends. Sometimes, there’s a risk that you can think of people as employees and don’t always think through their experiences outside of work. It’s about looking at new technologies and platforms and applying that to our work. This helps you stay relevant and audiences are going to engage in what you are sharing because they are seeing this in their lives.
How do you continue learning about the field of Internal Communications?
I have two approaches which have kept me grounded and helped me grow.
First, I try to find out how my friends and people who are the “audience” respond to communications being shared with them, rather than the teams that are driving it. This is not for the faint hearted as they’ll sometimes share that they don’t read something sent to them that I know would’ve taken a long time behind the scenes for a comms person to bring together! I'm naturally nosey, or perhaps a better way to say that is curious and love talking to people about their job, which often helps me learn about communications. This includes, often looking at the staff memo board at the supermarket or observing team huddles in airports or hotels, to see what and how information is shared out with their teams.
More recently, I’ve spent more time networking one on one with peers, introducing myself on LinkedIn, of course. I’ve also been talking with independent advisors who have given me real insight into trends and how others are thinking about internal communications with their companies. Our current environment has given us a lot to learn and discuss, and I’m enjoying groups that have been created to facilitate the conversation.
In addition, moving to the US four years ago has given me the opportunity to build my network in a new place and that's been a brilliant way to continue learning, professionally and personally.