Jennie Bledsoe is the Director of Internal and HR Communications at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and she will be joining ALI as a speaker at the 6th Annual Strategic Internal Communications conference, July 23-25 in Boston. Bledsoe sat down with us to answer a few questions on what’s new in internal communications.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I’ve spent my career with one focus—learning more about how employees consume information. This has taken me across multiple business models serving first as the director of communication for the ServiceMaster franchise services group and then as the director of internal communication for the parent company, ServiceMaster. My twelve years at ServiceMaster were followed by four years with the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company as the director of communication for North America and the director of global internal communication. Today I have the pleasure of leading internal and HR communications for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
What is the biggest hurdle you feel internal communicators have to overcome?
Release the fear to step outside of your campus for inspiration. Follow what is happening in technology and messaging outside of your workspace. Consumers today don’t really even want to see a video, they want to experience it live. They don’t want an article, they want a tweet with a link that they can read now, or later. They communicate with each other in vastly different ways when they leave our campuses each day, why not give them the tools they have already embraced externally, for internal purposes?
What is one piece of advice you’d give to a fellow communicator?
Always advocate for your audience. We get pulled in so many directions at times—please our leaders, protect our businesses, remember our shareholders, etc. But, we always need to keep the audience at the center of our focus. What do they need to hear? What questions or concerns do they bring to this topic? Just like a journalist must keep seeking truth, we have to be the ones who elevate the voice of our audience as we shape our messages.
Do you recommend a book or a podcast?
I love anything by Malcom Gladwell. He spends a lot of time diving into behavior and intent, which I think helps to sharpen a savvy communicator. His podcast “Revisionist History” basically gives me an “ah-ha” (or three) every week. I’m currently reading Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder by Chip Conley. Very relevant to the times we work in today—especially if you are in my cherished Gen X generation.
Are there any emerging trends that internal communicators need to be aware of?
Visual seems to continue to be a juggernaut for communications. Whether it’s infographics, video or interactive, the campaigns that leverage some visual piece are the most successful. Right now, I’m fascinated with dimensional displays that employees can walk through to learn a story and the power of VR to immerse the audience in a moment they’ve never seen before. It’s leveraging technology, but in a tactile way. We are looking up at the content vs. down at a screen.
What are you looking forward to most about the 6th Annual Strategic Internal Communications conference?
I’m really looking forward to connecting with other internal communicators. We have a niche industry so it’s nice to hear their perspectives and what’s working in their world. And, Boston is a fantastic city, so it’s the perfect location!