The first 100 days are usually the hardest – it is a new terrain, a new set of faces, you are unsure of the work culture, the vibe and everything else. And then, it is your job to be Chief Communications Officer – and to provide efficient internal comms inclusively. How do you navigate that?
I joined DLM Capital Group as Head of Corporate Communications and Marketing late February 2021. It was clear from the onset that the institution was vibrant and fast-paced and required someone to come in and take charge of corporate communications and marketing in a fast and yet efficient way.
Here are some of the top lessons from my journey:
1. Do Your Due Diligence: Do not depend on findings that are online. Most of the information you need will come from chatting with colleagues and getting to understand the new terrain, the people, and how things are done. How does the CEO like to be addressed? Who is his confidante at work? These sorts of ‘little information’ make your navigation easy and smooth.
2. Gauge Your Team From The First Day: Your team will be your backbone – ensure that everyone has the right quantity of skills and ambition that you need. Loyalty is a strong quality you will need as a new comms chief – you cannot afford to let that slide. Teach loyalty to your team, let them also see that you are loyal to them. Let your team be able to vent to you before they take it outside. You will also need to gain their respect – so show them you know your stuff and have them at heart.
3. Create a Community Around You: Healthy organizational relationships you can lean on are often overlooked but important. You need loyal kingmakers who can help make settling in easier for you. These are influential people (usually very senior colleagues) at the organization whose impact can be felt on almost all decisions. All you need to do is to work on a great initiative and get them to support it. Identify these leaders early enough and win them over at lunch or some hangout. Understand the internal structures and workings; find out who influences what issues, make friends of them and get a grip of everything.
4. You Will Need To Gain The CEO’s Respect Early: More than anything, you need to earn the respect and maybe trust of the CEO soon enough. An easy way to do this is to share your communications strategy for the organization with the CEO and his management team – and find out if it aligns with the business strategy. Keep in constant communication with the CEO – you serve him and need him to see that you are working. Share with him periodic strategic plans with timelines – and discuss these often with him. Loop him in all your grand ideas and let him see that you always think about his business.
5. Get Yourself Some Early Victories: Ensure that you have successful projects, campaigns or some media work that can earn you the green tick in your early days as comms chief. The organization should feel your impact – even though a good number of them may not fully comprehend your job description.
About the Writer
Chinwendu Ohakpougwu is a financial communications professional and currently the Head of Corporate Communications and Marketing at DLM Capital Group. She has worked with institutions in the financial sector such as FBNQuest, Renmoney, Visa, Agusto&Co, WorldRemit and Standard Chartered.
Chinwendu started her career in communications as a Communications Assistant to the award-winning Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is also certified professional with the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).