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WP_Query Object ( [query] => Array ( [name] => gr-corporate-communications-build-skills-support-both [post_type] => resources [resource-type] => blog ) [query_vars] => Array ( [name] => gr-corporate-communications-build-skills-support-both [post_type] => resources [resource-type] => blog [error] => [m] => [p] => 0 [post_parent] => [subpost] => [subpost_id] => [attachment] => [attachment_id] => 0 [pagename] => [page_id] => 0 [second] => [minute] => [hour] => [day] => 0 [monthnum] => 0 [year] => 0 [w] => 0 [category_name] => [tag] => [cat] => [tag_id] => [author] => [author_name] => [feed] => [tb] => [paged] => 0 [meta_key] => [meta_value] => [preview] => [s] => [sentence] => [title] => [fields] => [menu_order] => [embed] => [category__in] => Array ( ) [category__not_in] => Array ( ) [category__and] => Array ( ) [post__in] => Array ( ) [post__not_in] => Array ( ) [post_name__in] => Array ( ) [tag__in] => Array ( ) [tag__not_in] => Array ( ) [tag__and] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__in] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__and] => Array ( ) [post_parent__in] => Array ( ) [post_parent__not_in] => Array ( ) [author__in] => Array ( ) [author__not_in] => Array ( ) [ignore_sticky_posts] => [suppress_filters] => [cache_results] => 1 [update_post_term_cache] => 1 [lazy_load_term_meta] => 1 [update_post_meta_cache] => 1 [posts_per_page] => 10 [nopaging] => [comments_per_page] => 50 [no_found_rows] => [order] => DESC ) [tax_query] => [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object ( [queries] => Array ( ) [relation] => [meta_table] => [meta_id_column] => [primary_table] => [primary_id_column] => [table_aliases:protected] => Array ( ) [clauses:protected] => Array ( ) [has_or_relation:protected] => ) [date_query] => [queried_object] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7675 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2022-10-14 02:01:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-10-14 02:01:29 [post_content] => [embed]https://youtu.be/fPA1HljUdos[/embed] Avery Dillon (00:04): Hey, everyone. Good morning, and welcome to our first session of day three. My name is Avery Dillon. If you just came back from a trivia, you might see a friendly face and background. And today I am joined with the lovely Suzanne Swink and Michelle Erbeyi. Michelle is the manager of Global Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at Mary Kay, Inc. Prior to moving into a communications role about eight months ago, Michelle was the Senior Policy Analyst in Global Public Affairs. And prior to Mary Kay, Michelle had held roles such as LoudCloud systems and National Math and Science Initiative. And we are also welcome Suzanne Swink as the Head of Content Creative Communications at BP America. She has been with BP for 11 years and held roles across the US government affairs, regulatory advocacy, and now communications. Prior to bp, Suzanne was a senior legislative assistant with the House of Representatives. She also was the immediate past president of the Women in Government Relations. Questions are gonna be directed to both speakers as we kind of go throughout this day. But starting off, welcome everyone, and Suzanne and Michelle, if you guys could start off with getting into the roles that you guys are in now. Suzanne, we'll start with you. Suzanne Swink (01:27): Yeah, absolutely. Hi everybody. Really excited to be here with you. I hope the last few days have been great for everyone. I am curious, and maybe you can put in the, in the chat kind of, you know, who you are and are you in GR trying to get into comms? Are you in the communications team trying to do GR? I'm always curious about where our attendees are coming from. So my current role as Avery said is Head of Content and Creative Communications for bp. I've been in this role coming up here for almost two years. And the prior nine to 10 years of that, I was what I'd call, one of our friendly federal lobbyists for the company. So the team that I run really focuses on all the content that's created to tell our stories here in the US. So the business writers report through me, we have our social and digital media team report through me. So kind of anything that you see either on BP America's social media channels or on our bp.com/us website is a product of our team, and we also help create materials for our policy folks as well. Avery Dillon (02:39): Beautiful. All right. Michelle, what about you? Michelle Erbeyi (02:42): Hi, guys. It's a pleasure to be with you today. I'm really excited to join and be in such good company. So I am currently the Global Lead for Sustainability and Environmental Impact on Mary Kay's corporate communications team, where I lead our communications efforts for the company's sustainability program and also build authentic long-term relationships with our stakeholders and thought leaders in the sustainability space. So right now I work with our internal business partners globally to develop and execute our sustainability strategies related to our commitments to deliver a decade of sustainable action. And part of this work includes managing our external environmental impact projects and our relationships with different organizations such as the United Nations Global Compact, the World Economic Forum, the McArthur Foundation, the Arbor Day Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy. And so it's been a great learning experience so far, and I'm glad that I can be here today to share my hacks, tips, and tricks to making that transition. Avery Dillon (03:47): Wow, that's great. You guys had such amazing, impressive careers so far, looking myself as a young professional and to the audience, anyone that this applies to, I would love to hear a little bit more about how you guys started the beginning of your career before you had all this knowledge. Where did that come from? Who did you look to all of that? Michelle, let's start with you. Michelle Erbeyi (04:08): Yeah, sure. So I am actually not in the career that I thought I would be. And so when I went to college, I was a history major, so I'm a trained historian. And a lot of people assume that I would go into teaching or that I would be, I would become a professor. And that did not happen. But a lot of the skills that I actually learned as a trained historian are, you know, consuming large amounts of information, being able to synthesize that information into concise bullet points, and really figuring out the why of that information. And so when it was time for me to go into a graduate program, I ended up doing the professional route through Georgetown's School of Foreign Service rather than taking the Ph.D. route. And I'm really glad that I did because you know, there were so many issues that I had not been exposed to and legislation and regulation that is really affecting the way that the world operates now and the way we do business. Michelle Erbeyi (05:13): So I started retooling very early on in my career. I did a few internships with the United States Trade Representatives Office, the German Marshall Fund, and worked at a boutique consulting company for a few years, and then really switched over to primarily policy work. And so of course, I fell in love as everyone on the call knows, you know, this line of work is, is so fulfilling and it's so interesting and it's always changing, and there's always something new and something going on to keep things interesting. And so that's kind of my early career background in how I made that transition from a completely different field in terms of how I ended up at the corporate communications team at Mary Kay. So I have been at Mary Kay for about seven and a half years. Michelle Erbeyi (06:07): It'll be eight years next May. And most of those years were working on the public affairs team, where I led the corporate cross-functional issues management project. And so really creating a framework for how we evaluate a broad range of legislative and regulatory proposals that potentially impacted the company and our global strategic business priorities. And so I had a lot of fun there. I learned from the best in the industry. And I think it was last December I got a call from a member of our executive team, and, you know, it was unsolicited. I really had no idea what to expect when I got the call, so I was like, Uhoh, this is it. You know, I'm getting the pink slip. And so you know, the opposite happened. She commended me for my work. She mentioned that there was an open position on the corporate communications team, focus on sustainability, and thought that I would be a good fit for the role based on my reputation for being a good partner, my ability to work across business units, and for really having taken the time over the last few years to really learn the business well and to, you know, dig deep into the issues and to help, you know, advocate on behalf of the company based on what issues were and what our positions were. Michelle Erbeyi (07:24): So that was a really great compliment to me. You know, and of course, I said that I was interested in exploring the opportunity. And so that's really how it came about as far as the actual transition from teams at Mary Kay. And so I think that you know, being a good partner and having a reputation for producing high-quality work was really helpful in making this transition internally. Avery Dillon (07:50): Wow. Yeah. That's amazing. And you clearly are gonna share lots of things that you've learned throughout this. So excited to hear more. Suzanne, if you could give us a little bit more about your starting off. Suzanne Swink (08:03): Yeah. so starting off, I was in a completely different field. Like I'm thinking back, you know, 20, 20 plus years to college, college, I, I did do a full science undergrad not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it. And then I went to the nonprofit field. So I worked for a number of nonprofits in my home state out in California where I went kind of in, you know, in between undergrad and grad school. And then ended up coming to DC and working in non-profits, women's health nonprofits for a while. So I worked for Planned Parenthood, National Abortion Federation, et cetera. So completely different field, right? And then I decided that I wanted to do public policy. And at first, I tried to do public policy work kind of at the organizations I was in and was told as many of us are in our early twenties, that Hill experience is so important for that. Suzanne Swink (09:01): So it's like, okay, well, I'll go, I'll go work on the Hill. So fortunately you know, two weeks later after I kind of, you know, had submitted my resignation, I've been to the Hill. I worked for Susan Davis from San Diego for a number of years. Loved her office. One of the problems with working with a great boss on the Hill is that nobody leaves, right? So, in the end, I left the Hill to come to bp because I kind of wanted to do that, that, that flip side of it, right? I had been the person being lobbied, the person being, you know, advocated too. And I wanted to really do that work. And being from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, and it was 2011 when I came over to bp, it was just both personally and professionally really important and really meaningful for me to come to work at bp. Suzanne Swink (10:01): So that's kind of how I got to the company and then have had so many opportunities with, with BP to do so many different things. So again, it's pull soon-ish that I've, that I've been with the company and I have been able to lobby for all of the issues that we've cared about across all of our business units, right? So the great thing about working for a large and highly matrixed company is that you'll get lots of opportunities to do lots of different things, right? So anything from, you know, oil and gas development to renewables, to tax issues, to trade issues, to, you know, sanctions issues, I got to work on. And what ended up happening for my transition into corporate comms is that a number of years ago and I won't fully segue in, in, into this part of it, cuz that's a, it's a whole other session is that as a younger professional I was kind of trying to make my way within the organization and part of an internal negotiation when it came to my next steps, I ended up being able to advocate for myself to have the company help me get a graduate degree. Suzanne Swink (11:26): Yeah more, more on that. If you ever want, you know my school was Suzanne Swink (11:35): not fully paid for, but BP has great benefits. So I had kind of seen a trend both at our company and across other companies that functions were combining their government affairs side with their public affairs and communication side, right? To kind of really provide comprehensive advocacy campaign support. And so I thought, okay you know, I've done lobbying for a while, I've worked on the Hill. What I don't have is what I'd call a more traditional background in communications, right? Not a journalist, never worked with the press, you know, except do background interviews on policy. And so I got my graduate degree at Georgetown as well in public relations and corporate communications. And then a few years later, so this would've been in early, in early 2020, we had a change in CEOs and once he came into office, he announced a kind of complete corporate reimagining of, of our, of our entire corporate strategy, right? Suzanne Swink (12:42): So I wouldn't expect anyone here to be following BP enough to know what I mean. But we kind of transitioned as a company into really focusing on being a net zero company by 2050 or sooner. And that had lots of repercussions both externally and internally in terms of the entire company truly being reinvented and reorganized in a lot of ways. So when that reorganization moved its way down to our function there was an interest in having our communications and our government affairs team be much more linked up and really having some more focus on policy communications and ensuring that the kind of corporate reputation pieces that we're doing also support our, our policy goals. And so there were a couple of us that ended up being asked to kind of switch teams if you will. So a communications counterpart of mine is now over in the state affairs government affairs team. Suzanne Swink (13:41): And I was asked to come over and lead our content and creative team to kind of bring that political acumen, if you will in, into the team to kind of, you know, combined forces, if you will. So that's kind of how I got there, is both because I had seen a trend externally in terms of, you know an ultimate goal of, you know, being head of a DC office at some point, right? When you're looking at those levels, what they're really looking for, it seems as comprehensive both in GR and comms. So back in the day, that was kind of what my thought process was in doing that, but it has ended up also really benefiting me where I am now by being able to come over and do communications work for the company. So I'll stop there cuz I could, I could talk about this all day, but that's, that's how I got here. Avery Dillon (14:32): No, that's a really amazing journey you've got there and, and so many points of, of just contention and also knowing where you're gonna go and, and thinking like, this is what you want. It's just really amazing. So in the chat, we have Jeanette asking to talk about lobbying. Very excited. So I will start off with this question for both of you. I guess we'll start with Suzanne. What are the relationships between lobbying and public affairs and corporate communications in your respective organizations? Suzanne, you talked a little bit about this, about communications completely switching more than that. Can you explain the day to day? Are there collaborative partnerships, separate departments, same departments? How does, what does that look like? Suzanne Swink (15:21): Yeah, so our sorry, you broke up a little bit, Avery. So I hope I'm coming through clearly, but our function is actually a combined function. So as opposed to having a communications team and a government affairs team that reports it, three different people, all report to the same function. So as communications, the external affairs what that looks like day to day is very cohesive. So it's not just about the structure, it's also about the behavior. So across the teams, we've adopted behaviors where we are always collaborative, right? Whether it's the policy team meeting, or a certain fact sheet that's written a certain way with a certain kind of core message, right? The skills across GR and comms are so similar, right? Cause it's about your audience and what you want them to do, whether it's believed a certain thing about the company or understand a certain thing about the company, hear about this new great thing that your company is doing, or with the policy side, sign onto this letter or, you know, vote for this bill or put this language in, right? Suzanne Swink (16:30): Like, there's, there's always something you're asking people to do, whether it's something that's super tangible or not, right? So it's your audience. It's about crafting the right message and kind of understanding the behaviors and the background of that audience to know what the right messages are to reach them. So it's super similar and had a lot of the same skillsets coming over, but we have cross-functional teams that work on campaigns. So if we're doing a policy campaign, for example, there are our policy folks sitting on the team. There are communications folks sitting on the team including our press people, so if there's something we need to amplify with the media or questions, we may get from the media, right? We, we come to for us being an international company, there's another layer where we need to bring in kind of what I'd call our mothership <laugh> our mothership from London. So we have them involved in certain things too. So it's, it's all about you know, you can have a structure that doesn't work because you're not demonstrating the behaviors necessary. So it's really important, and has been a great learning experience for all of us to be an increasingly cohesive team. Avery Dillon (17:41): Yeah. Well, that's amazing. All right, Michelle, what about, well, Mary Kay, what does that structure look like over there? Michelle Erbeyi (17:48): So, at Mary Kay, our structure is actually separate. Both teams, the public affairs team and the corporate communications teams report through the legal organization. But we are not as integrated as Suzanne's team is at bp. There were actually a few years where corporate communications continue to report through legal, and then the public affairs team reported through our chief operating officer due to the number of legislative proposals and regulations that were impacting our products and supply chain. But as of the end of last year, public affairs is back under legal. And I think one of the reasons for bringing me over to the corporate communications team was to create a better bridge between both teams so that we can become more integrated in the future. Although our teams have been collaborative throughout the years, I think it's, there are definitely still some silos. Michelle Erbeyi (18:50): It's not as integrated as I mentioned. For example, when I was on the public affairs team I would, you know, call upon the CorpCom team, you know, to provide me with different assets, you know, in, terms of our boilerplate language you know, how we talk about the company publicly. And then I would also ask for information related to our verbal response statements or any prepared documents on our company positions on different issues. And then we would integrate that into the public affairs work. In terms of the corp com influence on our policy communications, there wasn't a whole lot of that in the past. It was, it tended to operate separately. But I think when our organization reaches a point where we're putting out more policy communications publicly to a broader audience beyond policy stakeholders, I think there is gonna be a lot of opportunity for us to really collaborate and integrate and just deepen our relationship. I would say right now it's not quite there you know, for us, but we do enjoy a good relationship. We share information and you know, we're all on the same team. Avery Dillon (20:14): Yeah. Yeah. That's amazing. Coming from a team that just had a huge integration, we're going through a lot of that now, and it's just really interesting to just come to people as they are people. And that is a big part, just as both of you had mentioned. So feel free to our audience to put in a chat. If you guys have questions for our amazing guests, you can use the Q and A feature at the top, right. Or just chat in on the live chat feature. But I'd love some interaction from the audience and get the full knowledge that you guys are looking for going forward. I would want to know, can you tell us a little bit about the skills that prepared you to make the leap from lobbying to corporate communications? You've all talked about these little steps here and there, but I wanna know about the nitty gritty between those steps. What were some of the lessons that you've learned? Anything that was super influential for you all, Michelle, start with you? Michelle Erbeyi (21:07): Sure. so yeah, I mentioned some of the skills a bit earlier but just to, you know, reiterate those. I think the big skills that serve both functions are number one, understanding the business that, you know, for the organization that you're in and their strategic priorities and how, you know, the team aligns with those priorities and serves to help further those priorities. Another big area is working collaboratively across the business units and with your internal partners. I think in both instances, you can't really build your messaging. You can't really put that out to the public until you have figured out what that messaging is. And oftentimes input from your internal business partners, especially in on the public affairs and the lobbying side. You know, often as a lobbyist, we don't have the technical expertise on a specific on how legislation specifically impacts the company. Michelle Erbeyi (22:11): So we have to rely on our friends and coworkers, you know, at our organizations to really understand how that works and how it would impact the business. So I can't stress that enough. I think that's part of what has led to my success here at Mary Kay. I think also getting to know your internal stakeholders is important, and that it is just as important as understanding who your external stakeholders and your external is. And so that, that would be the third big skill, you know, understanding our stakeholders and an audience. I think being able to synthesize large amounts of information, you know, specialized in technical knowledge into bullet points, into compelling stories, and being able to share that with a diverse range of stakeholders, whether internal or external is important. I think you know, that that's something that I've had to really fine tune as, as far as my skills you know, not just being able to synthesize that information, but make it more compelling, make it more fun, make it more creative as Suzanne mentioned earlier. So I think those are the big, the big four things. Avery Dillon (23:33): Yeah. All right, Suzanne? Suzanne Swink (23:36): Yeah, I mean, I, I won't repeat what Michelle said cause I think that those four pieces are extremely important and fully agree with all of it. The two that I, that I would add to that is one <inaudible> credibility. For those of us who either are or have been lobbyists, you know that that's kind of your currency, right? Its being a credible voice on behalf of your organization or your company or your client. But I'm thinking through when you're working inside a company, you have, you have got to not just develop credibility externally, you have to develop credibility internally because if your business partners internally don't trust you and trust the recommendations that you're making, so you're kind of explaining, this is why we wanna know these things because we want to communicate it for x, y, z purpose. Suzanne Swink (24:35): And that will help you in x, y, z way, Right? If you're not able to convey what the real meaning of this communication is for them, they're not gonna be as excited to partner with you, right? Because from the business point of view, they're thinking about their, you know, their p and l, right? They're thinking about like, what is, what is the business objective that we're trying to get to, right? And so when you're focused on either policy matters or just pure kind of corporate reputation, like why does having a stronger corporate reputation on different, you know, ESG issues or, or whatever they are, like, how does that actually help you and your business? Is there <inaudible> able to convey to your business partners? Yeah. Right? The other skill I think is really important to develop is thinking about what I'd call your channel strategy when it comes to communications about where, where your audience is learning where your audience is getting their information and how they want to receive it, right? Suzanne Swink (25:41): Is it in the news? Like, should you be more focused on earned media, or is it, you know, a five or 15-second, you know, quick hit ad before a YouTube video right? That they're watching is where you can get it, right? So really thinking about what audience your, or what information your audience needs or wants versus what you want to tell them, and make sure those are aligned, and then find out where and how they're getting that information, right? And that can really help you be the most effective communicator that you can be. Avery Dillon (26:16): Yeah, absolutely. Well, we've got some really great questions coming in. First off from Dana, our trivia winner of today. What tips do you have for folks working to strengthen their writing muscles in order to improve the speed and efficiency of distilling the issues for stakeholders? So a little bit more into that communication speed. Yeah, Suzanne? Suzanne Swink (26:42): Yeah, I, yeah, so this is a really tough one, and this is something that we have really worked on <laugh> at the, at the company for anyone who is familiar with Axio Smart Brevity. We were a very early adopter of, I know, right? Suzanne Swink (27:03): There's a book out now, apparently, I haven't read it yet, so I can't, I can't say anything there. But we have very specific smart brevity trainings that the communications team provides across the entire company. Cuz part of what that smart brevity style does is it focuses on why does this matter, right? Like, what is the cocktail version of this and not the cocktail version where you're talking to a think tank expert in dc what's the like backyard barbecue version that you would talk to your aunt about, right? If she had a question, like, how are you explaining this in a way that both people can understand it and see why they should care about it, right? Like, what's the, you know, so what mm-hmm. <Affirmative> answer, right? So that's what we really focus on. Yeah. Michelle Erbeyi (27:49): All right. So, so I've developed a less scientific way, <laugh> a less structured way to get creative. So it was interesting because I have a colleague on my team who is a really good writer, but he also has just this great talent for making writing fun. So there was one assignment that I thought I was working on it. He thought he was working on it, and then it turns out there were two versions that were developed. And so when I saw mine and I saw his, you know, I called him and I was like, Michael, how do you make things sound so fun? I don't understand this, you know, I just, can't bring myself there. I'm working on it. And so he replied, you know, you just gotta go to your happy place. And so I kind of thought, no such place exists, <laugh>. Michelle Erbeyi (28:44): I think you really have to like, change your frame of mind. And you really just have to like, get a little silly and get a little happy with it. I mean, I really don't know how he does it, but that's something that I'm working on, you know, trying to make things approachable, make things accessible to people. One of the things I did start doing was, you know, just consuming more social media in terms of, you know, different influencers, different brands, and, just seeing like how they position things, how they make things relevant to people, how they like, hook people in into a dialogue and, you know, and you can see that through their engagement on their posts mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so I also, you know, had a conversation with our VP of brand here at Mary Kay. Michelle Erbeyi (29:36): And he has a, a really great he's had a really great career where he's worked with beauty companies. I mean, he used to work as a magazine content creator and for grunge, a rock magazine back in the day. And so I just saw how he did those how he made those transitions in his career. And so I, I reached out to him and it's like, Hey, Steven, like, I'd love to talk to you about how I can be more creative. And so he's he you know, shared some tips and basically, it's just, you know, making yourself more open to to the content that you're consuming and, and how to make things more accessible to people. Avery Dillon (30:24): Yeah. The quote about consuming more social media is a contentious one. Michelle Erbeyi (30:29): I know it's and for me, you know, I think I am always skeptical of any information that I receive or, you know, I can kind of look at something and say, Okay, this is what they're trying to get me to do. And so I just, you know, I approach it, I approach everything with a very skeptical eye. And so I'm having to turn that off sometimes. Yeah. And say, it's, it's okay if I can't provide a footnote, an MLA format, you know, to this <laugh>. Avery Dillon (30:59): Yeah, exactly. I love that all. A question from Meredith. What are some tips when different groups or people are in disagreement about a position or a response? And then when a decision is made, what are some ways to ensure that there's still trust among these groups to continue the collaboration approach? Suzanne Swink (31:24): So yeah, I won't say that I have or may ever cracked the nut of quick decisions and approvals. Again, kind of speaking from sitting in a large company, there are a lot of stakeholders. And then you add on the, you know, you add on being a multinational company, and there are lots of people who either want or need to see things and make decisions. And it is very hard <laugh>. So I commiserate with everyone who, who kind of deals with that. What we've tried to do to help streamline that is developing like RACI models, if you will, RACI, right? Like, who's responsible, Like, who is the decider, right? Cause sometimes that's my ultimate question, like, are we doing decision-making by consensus, or are we having a discussion, and then there's somebody that's making the decision based on all of that information, right? Suzanne Swink (32:30): And those are two different ways of doing things. And I'm sure there are many others, right? Again, we're not perfect, but that's where I really try to drive people who is, who is deciding, right? And then who are the people that, that need to weigh in on that decision, right? Like, who needs to provide input who just needs to be made aware, and who needs to be consulted, right? There are all of these different layers of involvement and participation that you have to work through. So at the beginning of a communications campaign, for example, I attempt to kind of get that laid out at the beginning. So we all have an understanding going into it, of, you know, what to expect, right? I was given some really great advice within the first year I think of, of being a lobbyist. Suzanne Swink (33:27): But this is good advice, not just for the lobbying side, but also for the communication side. But at a certain point in what we do, sometimes all you could do is make your recommendation, and then the business has to decide, right? So I think if you make your recommendation, you have the data, whether qualitative or quantitative, to back it up, right? That's sometimes the best you can do. Not everything is that difficult. Not everything gets that structured, but there are some really complicated things that companies and organizations that everyone has to work through. And ultimately, you know, your recommendation may not be taken up, right? And that's not a failure on your part. It's that you've made your best recommendation and there's, there's been a decision if that's okay, right? But those are the kinds of things I would encourage people to think through and try to put maybe a little bit of process. I hate process for process' sake, but I think the process can sometimes help things be more efficient. So if you don't have some of those processes it might be a good idea to kind of think through what that could look like to help you get ahead of the messiness of approvals in the future. Avery Dillon (34:48): Yeah. I'm sure that really helps with burnout, just general management, you know, getting emotionally tied to your work every single day and then having it rejected or whatever is really hard to not take personally. <Laugh>, at least for me, <laugh>. Okay. Cool. So we've got a lot of great chats. People are giving some other feedback. And one of the questions here is a key component of getting out good content. Do you have an example of an effective group editing process? Hi, Michelle, let's start with you. Michelle Erbeyi (35:25): Sure. Well, I am still pretty new to the team but what I've learned is that you know, nothing that we create only has one set of eyes on it, you know, know. Typically what we do is create the content and then it goes to a review process by the corporate communications team. Typically, it's our strongest, strongest writer who kind of takes a look at it and, and makes sure that, you know, it matches the tone, matches the style that we want to have. And then we also have a legal review process that takes place. And that's where the content is edited to mitigate any potential legal risk. So that's something that has been really helpful, especially on the product side. I think on some of the softer content that we put out, you know, related to our partnerships or our impact projects, there's not as much risk there, but whenever we're talking about a product or entrepreneurship or something that might have an economic impact, then you know, that think that the legal risk, the legal review for risk is, is a lot more important in those instances. Michelle Erbeyi (36:41): Yeah, I think when I first started on the team, there was a lot more redlining. I'm getting a little better, and I think it's been a humbling experience for me. I think that part of the editing process is, you know, just realizing that one person can't do it all and that every member of the team brings their own unique talents and abilities to the table, and that makes the content that we create much stronger in the end. Avery Dillon (37:11): Absolutely. Collaboration is key, The sounds like to be the thesis of this session. What's going on? All right. Suzanne, what about you? Your editing process? Suzanne Swink (37:23): Yeah, I mean, I'll start with kind of the tools that we use. So we use Microsoft Teams a lot for document control, right? Version control, because if you're looking to get edits from, you know, 10 different people, what I don't want is to send a Word document out and get 10 different edited Word documents back, because that's, that's a personal nightmare, right? So just in terms of technology, right? And making things easier on ourselves, we definitely use teams. There also happens to be a team's approval process function. We don't use that, but we just use it kind of for, for editing. I'd echo pretty much everything that Michelle said about, you know good editing and, you know, lots of eyes on things and input can make content really strong. My overarching not necessarily caveat that to that would be that sometimes when you do that you end if people are not looking at the content as a whole, you will get what I call word spaghetti, because people will be editing the particular phrases they want in there, or they'll be adding in a sentence because they care about that, but that may not make sense for the entire thing, right? Suzanne Swink (38:35): So once you have all of that back, again, I have kind of my main business writer what he ends up doing is after he gets all of this feedback, then he kind of sets back, takes a look at it again, reads through it to make sure it still makes sense, that it is stronger. And sometimes on certain pieces, we work with an external agency, we have a communications agency that we work with to kind of bounce it off of them as well and, and get additional eyes on it. Avery Dillon (39:03): Yeah, I imagine at the, you know, the bigger your organization, you have more things to think about, Michelle on the legal side using, in having all these different editors and agencies. Yeah, keeping that original voice of the author is super, super important as well. I have a couple of extra questions that are under the lobbying umbrella. So a lot of lobbying can be under the radar, but corporate communications is much more public to customers, the press, and obviously a lot of this is the goal, but it adds to scrutiny. How do you handle this, how do you adapt to this? We were talking about work and all the things. This editing process takes months, weeks, you know, there's a lot of things that go into it, a lot of people that go into it. And then when it is scrutinized at such a high level, how do you handle this as Suzanne? I'd love to hear about your experience. Suzanne Swink (39:58): Yeah, I mean, I guess my first comment would be that and this is kind of putting on my lobbyist for lobbyist hat, that although there is like, I get why there's, you know, under the radar, like yes, and no because you're still doing lobbying disclosure, right? And, that's a high level there. There's still that. And while you may not be getting group editing or legal sign-off on the individual words that are coming out of your mouth, what comes out of your mouth in a lobbying meeting still comes with risk, right? And I think we've seen that a lot in the news in terms of again, going back to your credibility, what you say gets remembered, and DC is a small town, and they will remember you or your company in certain ways based on your behavior, right? So even though you might not be getting line editing as you're, as you're talking, it's still really important to keep in mind that what you say verbally is just as big a risk as having something in writing, right? So whenever I talk to my, my former GR team that I manage, or my current team, we always talk about the Suzanne Swink (41:14): is what you're writing, whether it's in an email, is that something that you're gonna be comfortable being on the front page of, you know, what choose your news media outlet. Yeah, right. Avery Dillon (41:26): You broke up Suzanne Swink (41:27): A little bit. Avery Dillon (41:27): I was wondering if you could repeat that last sentence. Suzanne Swink (41:31): Yeah, I, I was talking about the front page test that whether you're, whether you're speaking verbally or you are writing something use the same front page test that, you know, would you want those words and would you be comfortable standing behind those words on, on the front page of, you know, whatever your preferred media outlet is? Avery Dillon (41:53): Yeah. Yesterday we had a poll and about 75 people who engaged with that poll did say that they get their news from Twitter. So with those things in mind and, and this question Michelle what about over at Mary Kay? Michelle Erbeyi (42:07): Yeah, I agree with you know, everything that Suzanne mentioned I think, you know, when you're on the lobbying team, you know, a lot of the work that you're doing is kind of person to person. And so you're not really thinking about like relaying what you're saying, but I think oftentimes we've gotten to a point where we're comfortable with what our talking points are. And so we have to remember not to deviate too much from the script. I think also at Mary Kay, a lot of our advocacy efforts were not really talked about publicly. You know, we don't have a channel for policy comms specifically in the way that other big companies do. So I think that kind of alleviated some of the stresses that we may have had with some of our advocacy efforts. Michelle Erbeyi (43:01): But on the CorpCom team, I definitely felt a lot more pressure, you know, early on in my transition because, you know, we are creating things specifically catered to a global audience mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, and that's gonna be, you know, posted online immediately. So I think that there's definitely a lot more pot potential for immediate scrutiny. And I think that's why it's so important that the content undergoes, you know, a lot of editing and the many layer levels of approval before it's actually published. So I think one of the things that I've, one of the ways that I've kind of handled that situation is, you know, just I start tending to triple and, and quadruple check my work because, you know, the last thing I wanna do is go viral for a silly typo or, you know I think online there's a tendency for people to be like wordsmiths, like, Oh, you use this, you know, incorrect grammar or you forgot punctuation, so you must be educated. Michelle Erbeyi (44:06): And so I think I have a fear of internet trolls. And so that has made it more stressful for me. But I think all of the processes that we have in place help alleviate some of that stress. And I, I would also add that, you know, I don't work on crisis communications, but I'm sure that would definitely up the ante significantly. Suzanne probably has more crisis communications work under her belt, so she could probably provide more feedback on that. But I think I'm a little bit what's the word? I'm a little bit safeguarded because all of our, of my communications are primarily scheduled, and so that provides a level of predictability and some flexibility. So I haven't really been in a position where I've had to respond immediately to immediate requests. [post_title] => From GR to Corporate Communications: Building the Skills That Support Both Functions [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => gr-corporate-communications-build-skills-support-both [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-10-14 02:01:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-10-14 02:01:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=7675 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 7675 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'gr-corporate-communications-build-skills-support-both' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7675 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2022-10-14 02:01:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-10-14 02:01:29 [post_content] => [embed]https://youtu.be/fPA1HljUdos[/embed] Avery Dillon (00:04): Hey, everyone. Good morning, and welcome to our first session of day three. My name is Avery Dillon. If you just came back from a trivia, you might see a friendly face and background. And today I am joined with the lovely Suzanne Swink and Michelle Erbeyi. Michelle is the manager of Global Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at Mary Kay, Inc. Prior to moving into a communications role about eight months ago, Michelle was the Senior Policy Analyst in Global Public Affairs. And prior to Mary Kay, Michelle had held roles such as LoudCloud systems and National Math and Science Initiative. And we are also welcome Suzanne Swink as the Head of Content Creative Communications at BP America. She has been with BP for 11 years and held roles across the US government affairs, regulatory advocacy, and now communications. Prior to bp, Suzanne was a senior legislative assistant with the House of Representatives. She also was the immediate past president of the Women in Government Relations. Questions are gonna be directed to both speakers as we kind of go throughout this day. But starting off, welcome everyone, and Suzanne and Michelle, if you guys could start off with getting into the roles that you guys are in now. Suzanne, we'll start with you. Suzanne Swink (01:27): Yeah, absolutely. Hi everybody. Really excited to be here with you. I hope the last few days have been great for everyone. I am curious, and maybe you can put in the, in the chat kind of, you know, who you are and are you in GR trying to get into comms? Are you in the communications team trying to do GR? I'm always curious about where our attendees are coming from. So my current role as Avery said is Head of Content and Creative Communications for bp. I've been in this role coming up here for almost two years. And the prior nine to 10 years of that, I was what I'd call, one of our friendly federal lobbyists for the company. So the team that I run really focuses on all the content that's created to tell our stories here in the US. So the business writers report through me, we have our social and digital media team report through me. So kind of anything that you see either on BP America's social media channels or on our bp.com/us website is a product of our team, and we also help create materials for our policy folks as well. Avery Dillon (02:39): Beautiful. All right. Michelle, what about you? Michelle Erbeyi (02:42): Hi, guys. It's a pleasure to be with you today. I'm really excited to join and be in such good company. So I am currently the Global Lead for Sustainability and Environmental Impact on Mary Kay's corporate communications team, where I lead our communications efforts for the company's sustainability program and also build authentic long-term relationships with our stakeholders and thought leaders in the sustainability space. So right now I work with our internal business partners globally to develop and execute our sustainability strategies related to our commitments to deliver a decade of sustainable action. And part of this work includes managing our external environmental impact projects and our relationships with different organizations such as the United Nations Global Compact, the World Economic Forum, the McArthur Foundation, the Arbor Day Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy. And so it's been a great learning experience so far, and I'm glad that I can be here today to share my hacks, tips, and tricks to making that transition. Avery Dillon (03:47): Wow, that's great. You guys had such amazing, impressive careers so far, looking myself as a young professional and to the audience, anyone that this applies to, I would love to hear a little bit more about how you guys started the beginning of your career before you had all this knowledge. Where did that come from? Who did you look to all of that? Michelle, let's start with you. Michelle Erbeyi (04:08): Yeah, sure. So I am actually not in the career that I thought I would be. And so when I went to college, I was a history major, so I'm a trained historian. And a lot of people assume that I would go into teaching or that I would be, I would become a professor. And that did not happen. But a lot of the skills that I actually learned as a trained historian are, you know, consuming large amounts of information, being able to synthesize that information into concise bullet points, and really figuring out the why of that information. And so when it was time for me to go into a graduate program, I ended up doing the professional route through Georgetown's School of Foreign Service rather than taking the Ph.D. route. And I'm really glad that I did because you know, there were so many issues that I had not been exposed to and legislation and regulation that is really affecting the way that the world operates now and the way we do business. Michelle Erbeyi (05:13): So I started retooling very early on in my career. I did a few internships with the United States Trade Representatives Office, the German Marshall Fund, and worked at a boutique consulting company for a few years, and then really switched over to primarily policy work. And so of course, I fell in love as everyone on the call knows, you know, this line of work is, is so fulfilling and it's so interesting and it's always changing, and there's always something new and something going on to keep things interesting. And so that's kind of my early career background in how I made that transition from a completely different field in terms of how I ended up at the corporate communications team at Mary Kay. So I have been at Mary Kay for about seven and a half years. Michelle Erbeyi (06:07): It'll be eight years next May. And most of those years were working on the public affairs team, where I led the corporate cross-functional issues management project. And so really creating a framework for how we evaluate a broad range of legislative and regulatory proposals that potentially impacted the company and our global strategic business priorities. And so I had a lot of fun there. I learned from the best in the industry. And I think it was last December I got a call from a member of our executive team, and, you know, it was unsolicited. I really had no idea what to expect when I got the call, so I was like, Uhoh, this is it. You know, I'm getting the pink slip. And so you know, the opposite happened. She commended me for my work. She mentioned that there was an open position on the corporate communications team, focus on sustainability, and thought that I would be a good fit for the role based on my reputation for being a good partner, my ability to work across business units, and for really having taken the time over the last few years to really learn the business well and to, you know, dig deep into the issues and to help, you know, advocate on behalf of the company based on what issues were and what our positions were. Michelle Erbeyi (07:24): So that was a really great compliment to me. You know, and of course, I said that I was interested in exploring the opportunity. And so that's really how it came about as far as the actual transition from teams at Mary Kay. And so I think that you know, being a good partner and having a reputation for producing high-quality work was really helpful in making this transition internally. Avery Dillon (07:50): Wow. Yeah. That's amazing. And you clearly are gonna share lots of things that you've learned throughout this. So excited to hear more. Suzanne, if you could give us a little bit more about your starting off. Suzanne Swink (08:03): Yeah. so starting off, I was in a completely different field. Like I'm thinking back, you know, 20, 20 plus years to college, college, I, I did do a full science undergrad not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it. And then I went to the nonprofit field. So I worked for a number of nonprofits in my home state out in California where I went kind of in, you know, in between undergrad and grad school. And then ended up coming to DC and working in non-profits, women's health nonprofits for a while. So I worked for Planned Parenthood, National Abortion Federation, et cetera. So completely different field, right? And then I decided that I wanted to do public policy. And at first, I tried to do public policy work kind of at the organizations I was in and was told as many of us are in our early twenties, that Hill experience is so important for that. Suzanne Swink (09:01): So it's like, okay, well, I'll go, I'll go work on the Hill. So fortunately you know, two weeks later after I kind of, you know, had submitted my resignation, I've been to the Hill. I worked for Susan Davis from San Diego for a number of years. Loved her office. One of the problems with working with a great boss on the Hill is that nobody leaves, right? So, in the end, I left the Hill to come to bp because I kind of wanted to do that, that, that flip side of it, right? I had been the person being lobbied, the person being, you know, advocated too. And I wanted to really do that work. And being from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, and it was 2011 when I came over to bp, it was just both personally and professionally really important and really meaningful for me to come to work at bp. Suzanne Swink (10:01): So that's kind of how I got to the company and then have had so many opportunities with, with BP to do so many different things. So again, it's pull soon-ish that I've, that I've been with the company and I have been able to lobby for all of the issues that we've cared about across all of our business units, right? So the great thing about working for a large and highly matrixed company is that you'll get lots of opportunities to do lots of different things, right? So anything from, you know, oil and gas development to renewables, to tax issues, to trade issues, to, you know, sanctions issues, I got to work on. And what ended up happening for my transition into corporate comms is that a number of years ago and I won't fully segue in, in, into this part of it, cuz that's a, it's a whole other session is that as a younger professional I was kind of trying to make my way within the organization and part of an internal negotiation when it came to my next steps, I ended up being able to advocate for myself to have the company help me get a graduate degree. Suzanne Swink (11:26): Yeah more, more on that. If you ever want, you know my school was Suzanne Swink (11:35): not fully paid for, but BP has great benefits. So I had kind of seen a trend both at our company and across other companies that functions were combining their government affairs side with their public affairs and communication side, right? To kind of really provide comprehensive advocacy campaign support. And so I thought, okay you know, I've done lobbying for a while, I've worked on the Hill. What I don't have is what I'd call a more traditional background in communications, right? Not a journalist, never worked with the press, you know, except do background interviews on policy. And so I got my graduate degree at Georgetown as well in public relations and corporate communications. And then a few years later, so this would've been in early, in early 2020, we had a change in CEOs and once he came into office, he announced a kind of complete corporate reimagining of, of our, of our entire corporate strategy, right? Suzanne Swink (12:42): So I wouldn't expect anyone here to be following BP enough to know what I mean. But we kind of transitioned as a company into really focusing on being a net zero company by 2050 or sooner. And that had lots of repercussions both externally and internally in terms of the entire company truly being reinvented and reorganized in a lot of ways. So when that reorganization moved its way down to our function there was an interest in having our communications and our government affairs team be much more linked up and really having some more focus on policy communications and ensuring that the kind of corporate reputation pieces that we're doing also support our, our policy goals. And so there were a couple of us that ended up being asked to kind of switch teams if you will. So a communications counterpart of mine is now over in the state affairs government affairs team. Suzanne Swink (13:41): And I was asked to come over and lead our content and creative team to kind of bring that political acumen, if you will in, into the team to kind of, you know, combined forces, if you will. So that's kind of how I got there, is both because I had seen a trend externally in terms of, you know an ultimate goal of, you know, being head of a DC office at some point, right? When you're looking at those levels, what they're really looking for, it seems as comprehensive both in GR and comms. So back in the day, that was kind of what my thought process was in doing that, but it has ended up also really benefiting me where I am now by being able to come over and do communications work for the company. So I'll stop there cuz I could, I could talk about this all day, but that's, that's how I got here. Avery Dillon (14:32): No, that's a really amazing journey you've got there and, and so many points of, of just contention and also knowing where you're gonna go and, and thinking like, this is what you want. It's just really amazing. So in the chat, we have Jeanette asking to talk about lobbying. Very excited. So I will start off with this question for both of you. I guess we'll start with Suzanne. What are the relationships between lobbying and public affairs and corporate communications in your respective organizations? Suzanne, you talked a little bit about this, about communications completely switching more than that. Can you explain the day to day? Are there collaborative partnerships, separate departments, same departments? How does, what does that look like? Suzanne Swink (15:21): Yeah, so our sorry, you broke up a little bit, Avery. So I hope I'm coming through clearly, but our function is actually a combined function. So as opposed to having a communications team and a government affairs team that reports it, three different people, all report to the same function. So as communications, the external affairs what that looks like day to day is very cohesive. So it's not just about the structure, it's also about the behavior. So across the teams, we've adopted behaviors where we are always collaborative, right? Whether it's the policy team meeting, or a certain fact sheet that's written a certain way with a certain kind of core message, right? The skills across GR and comms are so similar, right? Cause it's about your audience and what you want them to do, whether it's believed a certain thing about the company or understand a certain thing about the company, hear about this new great thing that your company is doing, or with the policy side, sign onto this letter or, you know, vote for this bill or put this language in, right? Suzanne Swink (16:30): Like, there's, there's always something you're asking people to do, whether it's something that's super tangible or not, right? So it's your audience. It's about crafting the right message and kind of understanding the behaviors and the background of that audience to know what the right messages are to reach them. So it's super similar and had a lot of the same skillsets coming over, but we have cross-functional teams that work on campaigns. So if we're doing a policy campaign, for example, there are our policy folks sitting on the team. There are communications folks sitting on the team including our press people, so if there's something we need to amplify with the media or questions, we may get from the media, right? We, we come to for us being an international company, there's another layer where we need to bring in kind of what I'd call our mothership <laugh> our mothership from London. So we have them involved in certain things too. So it's, it's all about you know, you can have a structure that doesn't work because you're not demonstrating the behaviors necessary. So it's really important, and has been a great learning experience for all of us to be an increasingly cohesive team. Avery Dillon (17:41): Yeah. Well, that's amazing. All right, Michelle, what about, well, Mary Kay, what does that structure look like over there? Michelle Erbeyi (17:48): So, at Mary Kay, our structure is actually separate. Both teams, the public affairs team and the corporate communications teams report through the legal organization. But we are not as integrated as Suzanne's team is at bp. There were actually a few years where corporate communications continue to report through legal, and then the public affairs team reported through our chief operating officer due to the number of legislative proposals and regulations that were impacting our products and supply chain. But as of the end of last year, public affairs is back under legal. And I think one of the reasons for bringing me over to the corporate communications team was to create a better bridge between both teams so that we can become more integrated in the future. Although our teams have been collaborative throughout the years, I think it's, there are definitely still some silos. Michelle Erbeyi (18:50): It's not as integrated as I mentioned. For example, when I was on the public affairs team I would, you know, call upon the CorpCom team, you know, to provide me with different assets, you know, in, terms of our boilerplate language you know, how we talk about the company publicly. And then I would also ask for information related to our verbal response statements or any prepared documents on our company positions on different issues. And then we would integrate that into the public affairs work. In terms of the corp com influence on our policy communications, there wasn't a whole lot of that in the past. It was, it tended to operate separately. But I think when our organization reaches a point where we're putting out more policy communications publicly to a broader audience beyond policy stakeholders, I think there is gonna be a lot of opportunity for us to really collaborate and integrate and just deepen our relationship. I would say right now it's not quite there you know, for us, but we do enjoy a good relationship. We share information and you know, we're all on the same team. Avery Dillon (20:14): Yeah. Yeah. That's amazing. Coming from a team that just had a huge integration, we're going through a lot of that now, and it's just really interesting to just come to people as they are people. And that is a big part, just as both of you had mentioned. So feel free to our audience to put in a chat. If you guys have questions for our amazing guests, you can use the Q and A feature at the top, right. Or just chat in on the live chat feature. But I'd love some interaction from the audience and get the full knowledge that you guys are looking for going forward. I would want to know, can you tell us a little bit about the skills that prepared you to make the leap from lobbying to corporate communications? You've all talked about these little steps here and there, but I wanna know about the nitty gritty between those steps. What were some of the lessons that you've learned? Anything that was super influential for you all, Michelle, start with you? Michelle Erbeyi (21:07): Sure. so yeah, I mentioned some of the skills a bit earlier but just to, you know, reiterate those. I think the big skills that serve both functions are number one, understanding the business that, you know, for the organization that you're in and their strategic priorities and how, you know, the team aligns with those priorities and serves to help further those priorities. Another big area is working collaboratively across the business units and with your internal partners. I think in both instances, you can't really build your messaging. You can't really put that out to the public until you have figured out what that messaging is. And oftentimes input from your internal business partners, especially in on the public affairs and the lobbying side. You know, often as a lobbyist, we don't have the technical expertise on a specific on how legislation specifically impacts the company. Michelle Erbeyi (22:11): So we have to rely on our friends and coworkers, you know, at our organizations to really understand how that works and how it would impact the business. So I can't stress that enough. I think that's part of what has led to my success here at Mary Kay. I think also getting to know your internal stakeholders is important, and that it is just as important as understanding who your external stakeholders and your external is. And so that, that would be the third big skill, you know, understanding our stakeholders and an audience. I think being able to synthesize large amounts of information, you know, specialized in technical knowledge into bullet points, into compelling stories, and being able to share that with a diverse range of stakeholders, whether internal or external is important. I think you know, that that's something that I've had to really fine tune as, as far as my skills you know, not just being able to synthesize that information, but make it more compelling, make it more fun, make it more creative as Suzanne mentioned earlier. So I think those are the big, the big four things. Avery Dillon (23:33): Yeah. All right, Suzanne? Suzanne Swink (23:36): Yeah, I mean, I, I won't repeat what Michelle said cause I think that those four pieces are extremely important and fully agree with all of it. The two that I, that I would add to that is one <inaudible> credibility. For those of us who either are or have been lobbyists, you know that that's kind of your currency, right? Its being a credible voice on behalf of your organization or your company or your client. But I'm thinking through when you're working inside a company, you have, you have got to not just develop credibility externally, you have to develop credibility internally because if your business partners internally don't trust you and trust the recommendations that you're making, so you're kind of explaining, this is why we wanna know these things because we want to communicate it for x, y, z purpose. Suzanne Swink (24:35): And that will help you in x, y, z way, Right? If you're not able to convey what the real meaning of this communication is for them, they're not gonna be as excited to partner with you, right? Because from the business point of view, they're thinking about their, you know, their p and l, right? They're thinking about like, what is, what is the business objective that we're trying to get to, right? And so when you're focused on either policy matters or just pure kind of corporate reputation, like why does having a stronger corporate reputation on different, you know, ESG issues or, or whatever they are, like, how does that actually help you and your business? Is there <inaudible> able to convey to your business partners? Yeah. Right? The other skill I think is really important to develop is thinking about what I'd call your channel strategy when it comes to communications about where, where your audience is learning where your audience is getting their information and how they want to receive it, right? Suzanne Swink (25:41): Is it in the news? Like, should you be more focused on earned media, or is it, you know, a five or 15-second, you know, quick hit ad before a YouTube video right? That they're watching is where you can get it, right? So really thinking about what audience your, or what information your audience needs or wants versus what you want to tell them, and make sure those are aligned, and then find out where and how they're getting that information, right? And that can really help you be the most effective communicator that you can be. Avery Dillon (26:16): Yeah, absolutely. Well, we've got some really great questions coming in. First off from Dana, our trivia winner of today. What tips do you have for folks working to strengthen their writing muscles in order to improve the speed and efficiency of distilling the issues for stakeholders? So a little bit more into that communication speed. Yeah, Suzanne? Suzanne Swink (26:42): Yeah, I, yeah, so this is a really tough one, and this is something that we have really worked on <laugh> at the, at the company for anyone who is familiar with Axio Smart Brevity. We were a very early adopter of, I know, right? Suzanne Swink (27:03): There's a book out now, apparently, I haven't read it yet, so I can't, I can't say anything there. But we have very specific smart brevity trainings that the communications team provides across the entire company. Cuz part of what that smart brevity style does is it focuses on why does this matter, right? Like, what is the cocktail version of this and not the cocktail version where you're talking to a think tank expert in dc what's the like backyard barbecue version that you would talk to your aunt about, right? If she had a question, like, how are you explaining this in a way that both people can understand it and see why they should care about it, right? Like, what's the, you know, so what mm-hmm. <Affirmative> answer, right? So that's what we really focus on. Yeah. Michelle Erbeyi (27:49): All right. So, so I've developed a less scientific way, <laugh> a less structured way to get creative. So it was interesting because I have a colleague on my team who is a really good writer, but he also has just this great talent for making writing fun. So there was one assignment that I thought I was working on it. He thought he was working on it, and then it turns out there were two versions that were developed. And so when I saw mine and I saw his, you know, I called him and I was like, Michael, how do you make things sound so fun? I don't understand this, you know, I just, can't bring myself there. I'm working on it. And so he replied, you know, you just gotta go to your happy place. And so I kind of thought, no such place exists, <laugh>. Michelle Erbeyi (28:44): I think you really have to like, change your frame of mind. And you really just have to like, get a little silly and get a little happy with it. I mean, I really don't know how he does it, but that's something that I'm working on, you know, trying to make things approachable, make things accessible to people. One of the things I did start doing was, you know, just consuming more social media in terms of, you know, different influencers, different brands, and, just seeing like how they position things, how they make things relevant to people, how they like, hook people in into a dialogue and, you know, and you can see that through their engagement on their posts mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so I also, you know, had a conversation with our VP of brand here at Mary Kay. Michelle Erbeyi (29:36): And he has a, a really great he's had a really great career where he's worked with beauty companies. I mean, he used to work as a magazine content creator and for grunge, a rock magazine back in the day. And so I just saw how he did those how he made those transitions in his career. And so I, I reached out to him and it's like, Hey, Steven, like, I'd love to talk to you about how I can be more creative. And so he's he you know, shared some tips and basically, it's just, you know, making yourself more open to to the content that you're consuming and, and how to make things more accessible to people. Avery Dillon (30:24): Yeah. The quote about consuming more social media is a contentious one. Michelle Erbeyi (30:29): I know it's and for me, you know, I think I am always skeptical of any information that I receive or, you know, I can kind of look at something and say, Okay, this is what they're trying to get me to do. And so I just, you know, I approach it, I approach everything with a very skeptical eye. And so I'm having to turn that off sometimes. Yeah. And say, it's, it's okay if I can't provide a footnote, an MLA format, you know, to this <laugh>. Avery Dillon (30:59): Yeah, exactly. I love that all. A question from Meredith. What are some tips when different groups or people are in disagreement about a position or a response? And then when a decision is made, what are some ways to ensure that there's still trust among these groups to continue the collaboration approach? Suzanne Swink (31:24): So yeah, I won't say that I have or may ever cracked the nut of quick decisions and approvals. Again, kind of speaking from sitting in a large company, there are a lot of stakeholders. And then you add on the, you know, you add on being a multinational company, and there are lots of people who either want or need to see things and make decisions. And it is very hard <laugh>. So I commiserate with everyone who, who kind of deals with that. What we've tried to do to help streamline that is developing like RACI models, if you will, RACI, right? Like, who's responsible, Like, who is the decider, right? Cause sometimes that's my ultimate question, like, are we doing decision-making by consensus, or are we having a discussion, and then there's somebody that's making the decision based on all of that information, right? Suzanne Swink (32:30): And those are two different ways of doing things. And I'm sure there are many others, right? Again, we're not perfect, but that's where I really try to drive people who is, who is deciding, right? And then who are the people that, that need to weigh in on that decision, right? Like, who needs to provide input who just needs to be made aware, and who needs to be consulted, right? There are all of these different layers of involvement and participation that you have to work through. So at the beginning of a communications campaign, for example, I attempt to kind of get that laid out at the beginning. So we all have an understanding going into it, of, you know, what to expect, right? I was given some really great advice within the first year I think of, of being a lobbyist. Suzanne Swink (33:27): But this is good advice, not just for the lobbying side, but also for the communication side. But at a certain point in what we do, sometimes all you could do is make your recommendation, and then the business has to decide, right? So I think if you make your recommendation, you have the data, whether qualitative or quantitative, to back it up, right? That's sometimes the best you can do. Not everything is that difficult. Not everything gets that structured, but there are some really complicated things that companies and organizations that everyone has to work through. And ultimately, you know, your recommendation may not be taken up, right? And that's not a failure on your part. It's that you've made your best recommendation and there's, there's been a decision if that's okay, right? But those are the kinds of things I would encourage people to think through and try to put maybe a little bit of process. I hate process for process' sake, but I think the process can sometimes help things be more efficient. So if you don't have some of those processes it might be a good idea to kind of think through what that could look like to help you get ahead of the messiness of approvals in the future. Avery Dillon (34:48): Yeah. I'm sure that really helps with burnout, just general management, you know, getting emotionally tied to your work every single day and then having it rejected or whatever is really hard to not take personally. <Laugh>, at least for me, <laugh>. Okay. Cool. So we've got a lot of great chats. People are giving some other feedback. And one of the questions here is a key component of getting out good content. Do you have an example of an effective group editing process? Hi, Michelle, let's start with you. Michelle Erbeyi (35:25): Sure. Well, I am still pretty new to the team but what I've learned is that you know, nothing that we create only has one set of eyes on it, you know, know. Typically what we do is create the content and then it goes to a review process by the corporate communications team. Typically, it's our strongest, strongest writer who kind of takes a look at it and, and makes sure that, you know, it matches the tone, matches the style that we want to have. And then we also have a legal review process that takes place. And that's where the content is edited to mitigate any potential legal risk. So that's something that has been really helpful, especially on the product side. I think on some of the softer content that we put out, you know, related to our partnerships or our impact projects, there's not as much risk there, but whenever we're talking about a product or entrepreneurship or something that might have an economic impact, then you know, that think that the legal risk, the legal review for risk is, is a lot more important in those instances. Michelle Erbeyi (36:41): Yeah, I think when I first started on the team, there was a lot more redlining. I'm getting a little better, and I think it's been a humbling experience for me. I think that part of the editing process is, you know, just realizing that one person can't do it all and that every member of the team brings their own unique talents and abilities to the table, and that makes the content that we create much stronger in the end. Avery Dillon (37:11): Absolutely. Collaboration is key, The sounds like to be the thesis of this session. What's going on? All right. Suzanne, what about you? Your editing process? Suzanne Swink (37:23): Yeah, I mean, I'll start with kind of the tools that we use. So we use Microsoft Teams a lot for document control, right? Version control, because if you're looking to get edits from, you know, 10 different people, what I don't want is to send a Word document out and get 10 different edited Word documents back, because that's, that's a personal nightmare, right? So just in terms of technology, right? And making things easier on ourselves, we definitely use teams. There also happens to be a team's approval process function. We don't use that, but we just use it kind of for, for editing. I'd echo pretty much everything that Michelle said about, you know good editing and, you know, lots of eyes on things and input can make content really strong. My overarching not necessarily caveat that to that would be that sometimes when you do that you end if people are not looking at the content as a whole, you will get what I call word spaghetti, because people will be editing the particular phrases they want in there, or they'll be adding in a sentence because they care about that, but that may not make sense for the entire thing, right? Suzanne Swink (38:35): So once you have all of that back, again, I have kind of my main business writer what he ends up doing is after he gets all of this feedback, then he kind of sets back, takes a look at it again, reads through it to make sure it still makes sense, that it is stronger. And sometimes on certain pieces, we work with an external agency, we have a communications agency that we work with to kind of bounce it off of them as well and, and get additional eyes on it. Avery Dillon (39:03): Yeah, I imagine at the, you know, the bigger your organization, you have more things to think about, Michelle on the legal side using, in having all these different editors and agencies. Yeah, keeping that original voice of the author is super, super important as well. I have a couple of extra questions that are under the lobbying umbrella. So a lot of lobbying can be under the radar, but corporate communications is much more public to customers, the press, and obviously a lot of this is the goal, but it adds to scrutiny. How do you handle this, how do you adapt to this? We were talking about work and all the things. This editing process takes months, weeks, you know, there's a lot of things that go into it, a lot of people that go into it. And then when it is scrutinized at such a high level, how do you handle this as Suzanne? I'd love to hear about your experience. Suzanne Swink (39:58): Yeah, I mean, I guess my first comment would be that and this is kind of putting on my lobbyist for lobbyist hat, that although there is like, I get why there's, you know, under the radar, like yes, and no because you're still doing lobbying disclosure, right? And, that's a high level there. There's still that. And while you may not be getting group editing or legal sign-off on the individual words that are coming out of your mouth, what comes out of your mouth in a lobbying meeting still comes with risk, right? And I think we've seen that a lot in the news in terms of again, going back to your credibility, what you say gets remembered, and DC is a small town, and they will remember you or your company in certain ways based on your behavior, right? So even though you might not be getting line editing as you're, as you're talking, it's still really important to keep in mind that what you say verbally is just as big a risk as having something in writing, right? So whenever I talk to my, my former GR team that I manage, or my current team, we always talk about the Suzanne Swink (41:14): is what you're writing, whether it's in an email, is that something that you're gonna be comfortable being on the front page of, you know, what choose your news media outlet. Yeah, right. Avery Dillon (41:26): You broke up Suzanne Swink (41:27): A little bit. Avery Dillon (41:27): I was wondering if you could repeat that last sentence. Suzanne Swink (41:31): Yeah, I, I was talking about the front page test that whether you're, whether you're speaking verbally or you are writing something use the same front page test that, you know, would you want those words and would you be comfortable standing behind those words on, on the front page of, you know, whatever your preferred media outlet is? Avery Dillon (41:53): Yeah. Yesterday we had a poll and about 75 people who engaged with that poll did say that they get their news from Twitter. So with those things in mind and, and this question Michelle what about over at Mary Kay? Michelle Erbeyi (42:07): Yeah, I agree with you know, everything that Suzanne mentioned I think, you know, when you're on the lobbying team, you know, a lot of the work that you're doing is kind of person to person. And so you're not really thinking about like relaying what you're saying, but I think oftentimes we've gotten to a point where we're comfortable with what our talking points are. And so we have to remember not to deviate too much from the script. I think also at Mary Kay, a lot of our advocacy efforts were not really talked about publicly. You know, we don't have a channel for policy comms specifically in the way that other big companies do. So I think that kind of alleviated some of the stresses that we may have had with some of our advocacy efforts. Michelle Erbeyi (43:01): But on the CorpCom team, I definitely felt a lot more pressure, you know, early on in my transition because, you know, we are creating things specifically catered to a global audience mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, and that's gonna be, you know, posted online immediately. So I think that there's definitely a lot more pot potential for immediate scrutiny. And I think that's why it's so important that the content undergoes, you know, a lot of editing and the many layer levels of approval before it's actually published. So I think one of the things that I've, one of the ways that I've kind of handled that situation is, you know, just I start tending to triple and, and quadruple check my work because, you know, the last thing I wanna do is go viral for a silly typo or, you know I think online there's a tendency for people to be like wordsmiths, like, Oh, you use this, you know, incorrect grammar or you forgot punctuation, so you must be educated. Michelle Erbeyi (44:06): And so I think I have a fear of internet trolls. And so that has made it more stressful for me. But I think all of the processes that we have in place help alleviate some of that stress. And I, I would also add that, you know, I don't work on crisis communications, but I'm sure that would definitely up the ante significantly. Suzanne probably has more crisis communications work under her belt, so she could probably provide more feedback on that. But I think I'm a little bit what's the word? I'm a little bit safeguarded because all of our, of my communications are primarily scheduled, and so that provides a level of predictability and some flexibility. So I haven't really been in a position where I've had to respond immediately to immediate requests. [post_title] => From GR to Corporate Communications: Building the Skills That Support Both Functions [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => gr-corporate-communications-build-skills-support-both [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-10-14 02:01:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-10-14 02:01:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=7675 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 1 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7675 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2022-10-14 02:01:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-10-14 02:01:29 [post_content] => [embed]https://youtu.be/fPA1HljUdos[/embed] Avery Dillon (00:04): Hey, everyone. Good morning, and welcome to our first session of day three. My name is Avery Dillon. If you just came back from a trivia, you might see a friendly face and background. And today I am joined with the lovely Suzanne Swink and Michelle Erbeyi. Michelle is the manager of Global Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at Mary Kay, Inc. Prior to moving into a communications role about eight months ago, Michelle was the Senior Policy Analyst in Global Public Affairs. And prior to Mary Kay, Michelle had held roles such as LoudCloud systems and National Math and Science Initiative. And we are also welcome Suzanne Swink as the Head of Content Creative Communications at BP America. She has been with BP for 11 years and held roles across the US government affairs, regulatory advocacy, and now communications. Prior to bp, Suzanne was a senior legislative assistant with the House of Representatives. She also was the immediate past president of the Women in Government Relations. Questions are gonna be directed to both speakers as we kind of go throughout this day. But starting off, welcome everyone, and Suzanne and Michelle, if you guys could start off with getting into the roles that you guys are in now. Suzanne, we'll start with you. Suzanne Swink (01:27): Yeah, absolutely. Hi everybody. Really excited to be here with you. I hope the last few days have been great for everyone. I am curious, and maybe you can put in the, in the chat kind of, you know, who you are and are you in GR trying to get into comms? Are you in the communications team trying to do GR? I'm always curious about where our attendees are coming from. So my current role as Avery said is Head of Content and Creative Communications for bp. I've been in this role coming up here for almost two years. And the prior nine to 10 years of that, I was what I'd call, one of our friendly federal lobbyists for the company. So the team that I run really focuses on all the content that's created to tell our stories here in the US. So the business writers report through me, we have our social and digital media team report through me. So kind of anything that you see either on BP America's social media channels or on our bp.com/us website is a product of our team, and we also help create materials for our policy folks as well. Avery Dillon (02:39): Beautiful. All right. Michelle, what about you? Michelle Erbeyi (02:42): Hi, guys. It's a pleasure to be with you today. I'm really excited to join and be in such good company. So I am currently the Global Lead for Sustainability and Environmental Impact on Mary Kay's corporate communications team, where I lead our communications efforts for the company's sustainability program and also build authentic long-term relationships with our stakeholders and thought leaders in the sustainability space. So right now I work with our internal business partners globally to develop and execute our sustainability strategies related to our commitments to deliver a decade of sustainable action. And part of this work includes managing our external environmental impact projects and our relationships with different organizations such as the United Nations Global Compact, the World Economic Forum, the McArthur Foundation, the Arbor Day Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy. And so it's been a great learning experience so far, and I'm glad that I can be here today to share my hacks, tips, and tricks to making that transition. Avery Dillon (03:47): Wow, that's great. You guys had such amazing, impressive careers so far, looking myself as a young professional and to the audience, anyone that this applies to, I would love to hear a little bit more about how you guys started the beginning of your career before you had all this knowledge. Where did that come from? Who did you look to all of that? Michelle, let's start with you. Michelle Erbeyi (04:08): Yeah, sure. So I am actually not in the career that I thought I would be. And so when I went to college, I was a history major, so I'm a trained historian. And a lot of people assume that I would go into teaching or that I would be, I would become a professor. And that did not happen. But a lot of the skills that I actually learned as a trained historian are, you know, consuming large amounts of information, being able to synthesize that information into concise bullet points, and really figuring out the why of that information. And so when it was time for me to go into a graduate program, I ended up doing the professional route through Georgetown's School of Foreign Service rather than taking the Ph.D. route. And I'm really glad that I did because you know, there were so many issues that I had not been exposed to and legislation and regulation that is really affecting the way that the world operates now and the way we do business. Michelle Erbeyi (05:13): So I started retooling very early on in my career. I did a few internships with the United States Trade Representatives Office, the German Marshall Fund, and worked at a boutique consulting company for a few years, and then really switched over to primarily policy work. And so of course, I fell in love as everyone on the call knows, you know, this line of work is, is so fulfilling and it's so interesting and it's always changing, and there's always something new and something going on to keep things interesting. And so that's kind of my early career background in how I made that transition from a completely different field in terms of how I ended up at the corporate communications team at Mary Kay. So I have been at Mary Kay for about seven and a half years. Michelle Erbeyi (06:07): It'll be eight years next May. And most of those years were working on the public affairs team, where I led the corporate cross-functional issues management project. And so really creating a framework for how we evaluate a broad range of legislative and regulatory proposals that potentially impacted the company and our global strategic business priorities. And so I had a lot of fun there. I learned from the best in the industry. And I think it was last December I got a call from a member of our executive team, and, you know, it was unsolicited. I really had no idea what to expect when I got the call, so I was like, Uhoh, this is it. You know, I'm getting the pink slip. And so you know, the opposite happened. She commended me for my work. She mentioned that there was an open position on the corporate communications team, focus on sustainability, and thought that I would be a good fit for the role based on my reputation for being a good partner, my ability to work across business units, and for really having taken the time over the last few years to really learn the business well and to, you know, dig deep into the issues and to help, you know, advocate on behalf of the company based on what issues were and what our positions were. Michelle Erbeyi (07:24): So that was a really great compliment to me. You know, and of course, I said that I was interested in exploring the opportunity. And so that's really how it came about as far as the actual transition from teams at Mary Kay. And so I think that you know, being a good partner and having a reputation for producing high-quality work was really helpful in making this transition internally. Avery Dillon (07:50): Wow. Yeah. That's amazing. And you clearly are gonna share lots of things that you've learned throughout this. So excited to hear more. Suzanne, if you could give us a little bit more about your starting off. Suzanne Swink (08:03): Yeah. so starting off, I was in a completely different field. Like I'm thinking back, you know, 20, 20 plus years to college, college, I, I did do a full science undergrad not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it. And then I went to the nonprofit field. So I worked for a number of nonprofits in my home state out in California where I went kind of in, you know, in between undergrad and grad school. And then ended up coming to DC and working in non-profits, women's health nonprofits for a while. So I worked for Planned Parenthood, National Abortion Federation, et cetera. So completely different field, right? And then I decided that I wanted to do public policy. And at first, I tried to do public policy work kind of at the organizations I was in and was told as many of us are in our early twenties, that Hill experience is so important for that. Suzanne Swink (09:01): So it's like, okay, well, I'll go, I'll go work on the Hill. So fortunately you know, two weeks later after I kind of, you know, had submitted my resignation, I've been to the Hill. I worked for Susan Davis from San Diego for a number of years. Loved her office. One of the problems with working with a great boss on the Hill is that nobody leaves, right? So, in the end, I left the Hill to come to bp because I kind of wanted to do that, that, that flip side of it, right? I had been the person being lobbied, the person being, you know, advocated too. And I wanted to really do that work. And being from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, and it was 2011 when I came over to bp, it was just both personally and professionally really important and really meaningful for me to come to work at bp. Suzanne Swink (10:01): So that's kind of how I got to the company and then have had so many opportunities with, with BP to do so many different things. So again, it's pull soon-ish that I've, that I've been with the company and I have been able to lobby for all of the issues that we've cared about across all of our business units, right? So the great thing about working for a large and highly matrixed company is that you'll get lots of opportunities to do lots of different things, right? So anything from, you know, oil and gas development to renewables, to tax issues, to trade issues, to, you know, sanctions issues, I got to work on. And what ended up happening for my transition into corporate comms is that a number of years ago and I won't fully segue in, in, into this part of it, cuz that's a, it's a whole other session is that as a younger professional I was kind of trying to make my way within the organization and part of an internal negotiation when it came to my next steps, I ended up being able to advocate for myself to have the company help me get a graduate degree. Suzanne Swink (11:26): Yeah more, more on that. If you ever want, you know my school was Suzanne Swink (11:35): not fully paid for, but BP has great benefits. So I had kind of seen a trend both at our company and across other companies that functions were combining their government affairs side with their public affairs and communication side, right? To kind of really provide comprehensive advocacy campaign support. And so I thought, okay you know, I've done lobbying for a while, I've worked on the Hill. What I don't have is what I'd call a more traditional background in communications, right? Not a journalist, never worked with the press, you know, except do background interviews on policy. And so I got my graduate degree at Georgetown as well in public relations and corporate communications. And then a few years later, so this would've been in early, in early 2020, we had a change in CEOs and once he came into office, he announced a kind of complete corporate reimagining of, of our, of our entire corporate strategy, right? Suzanne Swink (12:42): So I wouldn't expect anyone here to be following BP enough to know what I mean. But we kind of transitioned as a company into really focusing on being a net zero company by 2050 or sooner. And that had lots of repercussions both externally and internally in terms of the entire company truly being reinvented and reorganized in a lot of ways. So when that reorganization moved its way down to our function there was an interest in having our communications and our government affairs team be much more linked up and really having some more focus on policy communications and ensuring that the kind of corporate reputation pieces that we're doing also support our, our policy goals. And so there were a couple of us that ended up being asked to kind of switch teams if you will. So a communications counterpart of mine is now over in the state affairs government affairs team. Suzanne Swink (13:41): And I was asked to come over and lead our content and creative team to kind of bring that political acumen, if you will in, into the team to kind of, you know, combined forces, if you will. So that's kind of how I got there, is both because I had seen a trend externally in terms of, you know an ultimate goal of, you know, being head of a DC office at some point, right? When you're looking at those levels, what they're really looking for, it seems as comprehensive both in GR and comms. So back in the day, that was kind of what my thought process was in doing that, but it has ended up also really benefiting me where I am now by being able to come over and do communications work for the company. So I'll stop there cuz I could, I could talk about this all day, but that's, that's how I got here. Avery Dillon (14:32): No, that's a really amazing journey you've got there and, and so many points of, of just contention and also knowing where you're gonna go and, and thinking like, this is what you want. It's just really amazing. So in the chat, we have Jeanette asking to talk about lobbying. Very excited. So I will start off with this question for both of you. I guess we'll start with Suzanne. What are the relationships between lobbying and public affairs and corporate communications in your respective organizations? Suzanne, you talked a little bit about this, about communications completely switching more than that. Can you explain the day to day? Are there collaborative partnerships, separate departments, same departments? How does, what does that look like? Suzanne Swink (15:21): Yeah, so our sorry, you broke up a little bit, Avery. So I hope I'm coming through clearly, but our function is actually a combined function. So as opposed to having a communications team and a government affairs team that reports it, three different people, all report to the same function. So as communications, the external affairs what that looks like day to day is very cohesive. So it's not just about the structure, it's also about the behavior. So across the teams, we've adopted behaviors where we are always collaborative, right? Whether it's the policy team meeting, or a certain fact sheet that's written a certain way with a certain kind of core message, right? The skills across GR and comms are so similar, right? Cause it's about your audience and what you want them to do, whether it's believed a certain thing about the company or understand a certain thing about the company, hear about this new great thing that your company is doing, or with the policy side, sign onto this letter or, you know, vote for this bill or put this language in, right? Suzanne Swink (16:30): Like, there's, there's always something you're asking people to do, whether it's something that's super tangible or not, right? So it's your audience. It's about crafting the right message and kind of understanding the behaviors and the background of that audience to know what the right messages are to reach them. So it's super similar and had a lot of the same skillsets coming over, but we have cross-functional teams that work on campaigns. So if we're doing a policy campaign, for example, there are our policy folks sitting on the team. There are communications folks sitting on the team including our press people, so if there's something we need to amplify with the media or questions, we may get from the media, right? We, we come to for us being an international company, there's another layer where we need to bring in kind of what I'd call our mothership <laugh> our mothership from London. So we have them involved in certain things too. So it's, it's all about you know, you can have a structure that doesn't work because you're not demonstrating the behaviors necessary. So it's really important, and has been a great learning experience for all of us to be an increasingly cohesive team. Avery Dillon (17:41): Yeah. Well, that's amazing. All right, Michelle, what about, well, Mary Kay, what does that structure look like over there? Michelle Erbeyi (17:48): So, at Mary Kay, our structure is actually separate. Both teams, the public affairs team and the corporate communications teams report through the legal organization. But we are not as integrated as Suzanne's team is at bp. There were actually a few years where corporate communications continue to report through legal, and then the public affairs team reported through our chief operating officer due to the number of legislative proposals and regulations that were impacting our products and supply chain. But as of the end of last year, public affairs is back under legal. And I think one of the reasons for bringing me over to the corporate communications team was to create a better bridge between both teams so that we can become more integrated in the future. Although our teams have been collaborative throughout the years, I think it's, there are definitely still some silos. Michelle Erbeyi (18:50): It's not as integrated as I mentioned. For example, when I was on the public affairs team I would, you know, call upon the CorpCom team, you know, to provide me with different assets, you know, in, terms of our boilerplate language you know, how we talk about the company publicly. And then I would also ask for information related to our verbal response statements or any prepared documents on our company positions on different issues. And then we would integrate that into the public affairs work. In terms of the corp com influence on our policy communications, there wasn't a whole lot of that in the past. It was, it tended to operate separately. But I think when our organization reaches a point where we're putting out more policy communications publicly to a broader audience beyond policy stakeholders, I think there is gonna be a lot of opportunity for us to really collaborate and integrate and just deepen our relationship. I would say right now it's not quite there you know, for us, but we do enjoy a good relationship. We share information and you know, we're all on the same team. Avery Dillon (20:14): Yeah. Yeah. That's amazing. Coming from a team that just had a huge integration, we're going through a lot of that now, and it's just really interesting to just come to people as they are people. And that is a big part, just as both of you had mentioned. So feel free to our audience to put in a chat. If you guys have questions for our amazing guests, you can use the Q and A feature at the top, right. Or just chat in on the live chat feature. But I'd love some interaction from the audience and get the full knowledge that you guys are looking for going forward. I would want to know, can you tell us a little bit about the skills that prepared you to make the leap from lobbying to corporate communications? You've all talked about these little steps here and there, but I wanna know about the nitty gritty between those steps. What were some of the lessons that you've learned? Anything that was super influential for you all, Michelle, start with you? Michelle Erbeyi (21:07): Sure. so yeah, I mentioned some of the skills a bit earlier but just to, you know, reiterate those. I think the big skills that serve both functions are number one, understanding the business that, you know, for the organization that you're in and their strategic priorities and how, you know, the team aligns with those priorities and serves to help further those priorities. Another big area is working collaboratively across the business units and with your internal partners. I think in both instances, you can't really build your messaging. You can't really put that out to the public until you have figured out what that messaging is. And oftentimes input from your internal business partners, especially in on the public affairs and the lobbying side. You know, often as a lobbyist, we don't have the technical expertise on a specific on how legislation specifically impacts the company. Michelle Erbeyi (22:11): So we have to rely on our friends and coworkers, you know, at our organizations to really understand how that works and how it would impact the business. So I can't stress that enough. I think that's part of what has led to my success here at Mary Kay. I think also getting to know your internal stakeholders is important, and that it is just as important as understanding who your external stakeholders and your external is. And so that, that would be the third big skill, you know, understanding our stakeholders and an audience. I think being able to synthesize large amounts of information, you know, specialized in technical knowledge into bullet points, into compelling stories, and being able to share that with a diverse range of stakeholders, whether internal or external is important. I think you know, that that's something that I've had to really fine tune as, as far as my skills you know, not just being able to synthesize that information, but make it more compelling, make it more fun, make it more creative as Suzanne mentioned earlier. So I think those are the big, the big four things. Avery Dillon (23:33): Yeah. All right, Suzanne? Suzanne Swink (23:36): Yeah, I mean, I, I won't repeat what Michelle said cause I think that those four pieces are extremely important and fully agree with all of it. The two that I, that I would add to that is one <inaudible> credibility. For those of us who either are or have been lobbyists, you know that that's kind of your currency, right? Its being a credible voice on behalf of your organization or your company or your client. But I'm thinking through when you're working inside a company, you have, you have got to not just develop credibility externally, you have to develop credibility internally because if your business partners internally don't trust you and trust the recommendations that you're making, so you're kind of explaining, this is why we wanna know these things because we want to communicate it for x, y, z purpose. Suzanne Swink (24:35): And that will help you in x, y, z way, Right? If you're not able to convey what the real meaning of this communication is for them, they're not gonna be as excited to partner with you, right? Because from the business point of view, they're thinking about their, you know, their p and l, right? They're thinking about like, what is, what is the business objective that we're trying to get to, right? And so when you're focused on either policy matters or just pure kind of corporate reputation, like why does having a stronger corporate reputation on different, you know, ESG issues or, or whatever they are, like, how does that actually help you and your business? Is there <inaudible> able to convey to your business partners? Yeah. Right? The other skill I think is really important to develop is thinking about what I'd call your channel strategy when it comes to communications about where, where your audience is learning where your audience is getting their information and how they want to receive it, right? Suzanne Swink (25:41): Is it in the news? Like, should you be more focused on earned media, or is it, you know, a five or 15-second, you know, quick hit ad before a YouTube video right? That they're watching is where you can get it, right? So really thinking about what audience your, or what information your audience needs or wants versus what you want to tell them, and make sure those are aligned, and then find out where and how they're getting that information, right? And that can really help you be the most effective communicator that you can be. Avery Dillon (26:16): Yeah, absolutely. Well, we've got some really great questions coming in. First off from Dana, our trivia winner of today. What tips do you have for folks working to strengthen their writing muscles in order to improve the speed and efficiency of distilling the issues for stakeholders? So a little bit more into that communication speed. Yeah, Suzanne? Suzanne Swink (26:42): Yeah, I, yeah, so this is a really tough one, and this is something that we have really worked on <laugh> at the, at the company for anyone who is familiar with Axio Smart Brevity. We were a very early adopter of, I know, right? Suzanne Swink (27:03): There's a book out now, apparently, I haven't read it yet, so I can't, I can't say anything there. But we have very specific smart brevity trainings that the communications team provides across the entire company. Cuz part of what that smart brevity style does is it focuses on why does this matter, right? Like, what is the cocktail version of this and not the cocktail version where you're talking to a think tank expert in dc what's the like backyard barbecue version that you would talk to your aunt about, right? If she had a question, like, how are you explaining this in a way that both people can understand it and see why they should care about it, right? Like, what's the, you know, so what mm-hmm. <Affirmative> answer, right? So that's what we really focus on. Yeah. Michelle Erbeyi (27:49): All right. So, so I've developed a less scientific way, <laugh> a less structured way to get creative. So it was interesting because I have a colleague on my team who is a really good writer, but he also has just this great talent for making writing fun. So there was one assignment that I thought I was working on it. He thought he was working on it, and then it turns out there were two versions that were developed. And so when I saw mine and I saw his, you know, I called him and I was like, Michael, how do you make things sound so fun? I don't understand this, you know, I just, can't bring myself there. I'm working on it. And so he replied, you know, you just gotta go to your happy place. And so I kind of thought, no such place exists, <laugh>. Michelle Erbeyi (28:44): I think you really have to like, change your frame of mind. And you really just have to like, get a little silly and get a little happy with it. I mean, I really don't know how he does it, but that's something that I'm working on, you know, trying to make things approachable, make things accessible to people. One of the things I did start doing was, you know, just consuming more social media in terms of, you know, different influencers, different brands, and, just seeing like how they position things, how they make things relevant to people, how they like, hook people in into a dialogue and, you know, and you can see that through their engagement on their posts mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so I also, you know, had a conversation with our VP of brand here at Mary Kay. Michelle Erbeyi (29:36): And he has a, a really great he's had a really great career where he's worked with beauty companies. I mean, he used to work as a magazine content creator and for grunge, a rock magazine back in the day. And so I just saw how he did those how he made those transitions in his career. And so I, I reached out to him and it's like, Hey, Steven, like, I'd love to talk to you about how I can be more creative. And so he's he you know, shared some tips and basically, it's just, you know, making yourself more open to to the content that you're consuming and, and how to make things more accessible to people. Avery Dillon (30:24): Yeah. The quote about consuming more social media is a contentious one. Michelle Erbeyi (30:29): I know it's and for me, you know, I think I am always skeptical of any information that I receive or, you know, I can kind of look at something and say, Okay, this is what they're trying to get me to do. And so I just, you know, I approach it, I approach everything with a very skeptical eye. And so I'm having to turn that off sometimes. Yeah. And say, it's, it's okay if I can't provide a footnote, an MLA format, you know, to this <laugh>. Avery Dillon (30:59): Yeah, exactly. I love that all. A question from Meredith. What are some tips when different groups or people are in disagreement about a position or a response? And then when a decision is made, what are some ways to ensure that there's still trust among these groups to continue the collaboration approach? Suzanne Swink (31:24): So yeah, I won't say that I have or may ever cracked the nut of quick decisions and approvals. Again, kind of speaking from sitting in a large company, there are a lot of stakeholders. And then you add on the, you know, you add on being a multinational company, and there are lots of people who either want or need to see things and make decisions. And it is very hard <laugh>. So I commiserate with everyone who, who kind of deals with that. What we've tried to do to help streamline that is developing like RACI models, if you will, RACI, right? Like, who's responsible, Like, who is the decider, right? Cause sometimes that's my ultimate question, like, are we doing decision-making by consensus, or are we having a discussion, and then there's somebody that's making the decision based on all of that information, right? Suzanne Swink (32:30): And those are two different ways of doing things. And I'm sure there are many others, right? Again, we're not perfect, but that's where I really try to drive people who is, who is deciding, right? And then who are the people that, that need to weigh in on that decision, right? Like, who needs to provide input who just needs to be made aware, and who needs to be consulted, right? There are all of these different layers of involvement and participation that you have to work through. So at the beginning of a communications campaign, for example, I attempt to kind of get that laid out at the beginning. So we all have an understanding going into it, of, you know, what to expect, right? I was given some really great advice within the first year I think of, of being a lobbyist. Suzanne Swink (33:27): But this is good advice, not just for the lobbying side, but also for the communication side. But at a certain point in what we do, sometimes all you could do is make your recommendation, and then the business has to decide, right? So I think if you make your recommendation, you have the data, whether qualitative or quantitative, to back it up, right? That's sometimes the best you can do. Not everything is that difficult. Not everything gets that structured, but there are some really complicated things that companies and organizations that everyone has to work through. And ultimately, you know, your recommendation may not be taken up, right? And that's not a failure on your part. It's that you've made your best recommendation and there's, there's been a decision if that's okay, right? But those are the kinds of things I would encourage people to think through and try to put maybe a little bit of process. I hate process for process' sake, but I think the process can sometimes help things be more efficient. So if you don't have some of those processes it might be a good idea to kind of think through what that could look like to help you get ahead of the messiness of approvals in the future. Avery Dillon (34:48): Yeah. I'm sure that really helps with burnout, just general management, you know, getting emotionally tied to your work every single day and then having it rejected or whatever is really hard to not take personally. <Laugh>, at least for me, <laugh>. Okay. Cool. So we've got a lot of great chats. People are giving some other feedback. And one of the questions here is a key component of getting out good content. Do you have an example of an effective group editing process? Hi, Michelle, let's start with you. Michelle Erbeyi (35:25): Sure. Well, I am still pretty new to the team but what I've learned is that you know, nothing that we create only has one set of eyes on it, you know, know. Typically what we do is create the content and then it goes to a review process by the corporate communications team. Typically, it's our strongest, strongest writer who kind of takes a look at it and, and makes sure that, you know, it matches the tone, matches the style that we want to have. And then we also have a legal review process that takes place. And that's where the content is edited to mitigate any potential legal risk. So that's something that has been really helpful, especially on the product side. I think on some of the softer content that we put out, you know, related to our partnerships or our impact projects, there's not as much risk there, but whenever we're talking about a product or entrepreneurship or something that might have an economic impact, then you know, that think that the legal risk, the legal review for risk is, is a lot more important in those instances. Michelle Erbeyi (36:41): Yeah, I think when I first started on the team, there was a lot more redlining. I'm getting a little better, and I think it's been a humbling experience for me. I think that part of the editing process is, you know, just realizing that one person can't do it all and that every member of the team brings their own unique talents and abilities to the table, and that makes the content that we create much stronger in the end. Avery Dillon (37:11): Absolutely. Collaboration is key, The sounds like to be the thesis of this session. What's going on? All right. Suzanne, what about you? Your editing process? Suzanne Swink (37:23): Yeah, I mean, I'll start with kind of the tools that we use. So we use Microsoft Teams a lot for document control, right? Version control, because if you're looking to get edits from, you know, 10 different people, what I don't want is to send a Word document out and get 10 different edited Word documents back, because that's, that's a personal nightmare, right? So just in terms of technology, right? And making things easier on ourselves, we definitely use teams. There also happens to be a team's approval process function. We don't use that, but we just use it kind of for, for editing. I'd echo pretty much everything that Michelle said about, you know good editing and, you know, lots of eyes on things and input can make content really strong. My overarching not necessarily caveat that to that would be that sometimes when you do that you end if people are not looking at the content as a whole, you will get what I call word spaghetti, because people will be editing the particular phrases they want in there, or they'll be adding in a sentence because they care about that, but that may not make sense for the entire thing, right? Suzanne Swink (38:35): So once you have all of that back, again, I have kind of my main business writer what he ends up doing is after he gets all of this feedback, then he kind of sets back, takes a look at it again, reads through it to make sure it still makes sense, that it is stronger. And sometimes on certain pieces, we work with an external agency, we have a communications agency that we work with to kind of bounce it off of them as well and, and get additional eyes on it. Avery Dillon (39:03): Yeah, I imagine at the, you know, the bigger your organization, you have more things to think about, Michelle on the legal side using, in having all these different editors and agencies. Yeah, keeping that original voice of the author is super, super important as well. I have a couple of extra questions that are under the lobbying umbrella. So a lot of lobbying can be under the radar, but corporate communications is much more public to customers, the press, and obviously a lot of this is the goal, but it adds to scrutiny. How do you handle this, how do you adapt to this? We were talking about work and all the things. This editing process takes months, weeks, you know, there's a lot of things that go into it, a lot of people that go into it. And then when it is scrutinized at such a high level, how do you handle this as Suzanne? I'd love to hear about your experience. Suzanne Swink (39:58): Yeah, I mean, I guess my first comment would be that and this is kind of putting on my lobbyist for lobbyist hat, that although there is like, I get why there's, you know, under the radar, like yes, and no because you're still doing lobbying disclosure, right? And, that's a high level there. There's still that. And while you may not be getting group editing or legal sign-off on the individual words that are coming out of your mouth, what comes out of your mouth in a lobbying meeting still comes with risk, right? And I think we've seen that a lot in the news in terms of again, going back to your credibility, what you say gets remembered, and DC is a small town, and they will remember you or your company in certain ways based on your behavior, right? So even though you might not be getting line editing as you're, as you're talking, it's still really important to keep in mind that what you say verbally is just as big a risk as having something in writing, right? So whenever I talk to my, my former GR team that I manage, or my current team, we always talk about the Suzanne Swink (41:14): is what you're writing, whether it's in an email, is that something that you're gonna be comfortable being on the front page of, you know, what choose your news media outlet. Yeah, right. Avery Dillon (41:26): You broke up Suzanne Swink (41:27): A little bit. Avery Dillon (41:27): I was wondering if you could repeat that last sentence. Suzanne Swink (41:31): Yeah, I, I was talking about the front page test that whether you're, whether you're speaking verbally or you are writing something use the same front page test that, you know, would you want those words and would you be comfortable standing behind those words on, on the front page of, you know, whatever your preferred media outlet is? Avery Dillon (41:53): Yeah. Yesterday we had a poll and about 75 people who engaged with that poll did say that they get their news from Twitter. So with those things in mind and, and this question Michelle what about over at Mary Kay? Michelle Erbeyi (42:07): Yeah, I agree with you know, everything that Suzanne mentioned I think, you know, when you're on the lobbying team, you know, a lot of the work that you're doing is kind of person to person. And so you're not really thinking about like relaying what you're saying, but I think oftentimes we've gotten to a point where we're comfortable with what our talking points are. And so we have to remember not to deviate too much from the script. I think also at Mary Kay, a lot of our advocacy efforts were not really talked about publicly. You know, we don't have a channel for policy comms specifically in the way that other big companies do. So I think that kind of alleviated some of the stresses that we may have had with some of our advocacy efforts. Michelle Erbeyi (43:01): But on the CorpCom team, I definitely felt a lot more pressure, you know, early on in my transition because, you know, we are creating things specifically catered to a global audience mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, and that's gonna be, you know, posted online immediately. So I think that there's definitely a lot more pot potential for immediate scrutiny. And I think that's why it's so important that the content undergoes, you know, a lot of editing and the many layer levels of approval before it's actually published. So I think one of the things that I've, one of the ways that I've kind of handled that situation is, you know, just I start tending to triple and, and quadruple check my work because, you know, the last thing I wanna do is go viral for a silly typo or, you know I think online there's a tendency for people to be like wordsmiths, like, Oh, you use this, you know, incorrect grammar or you forgot punctuation, so you must be educated. Michelle Erbeyi (44:06): And so I think I have a fear of internet trolls. And so that has made it more stressful for me. But I think all of the processes that we have in place help alleviate some of that stress. And I, I would also add that, you know, I don't work on crisis communications, but I'm sure that would definitely up the ante significantly. Suzanne probably has more crisis communications work under her belt, so she could probably provide more feedback on that. But I think I'm a little bit what's the word? I'm a little bit safeguarded because all of our, of my communications are primarily scheduled, and so that provides a level of predictability and some flexibility. So I haven't really been in a position where I've had to respond immediately to immediate requests. 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From GR to Corporate Communications: Building the Skills That Support Both Functions

From GR to Corporate Communications: Building the Skills That Support Both Functions

Avery Dillon (00:04):

Hey, everyone. Good morning, and welcome to our first session of day three. My name is Avery Dillon. If you just came back from a trivia, you might see a friendly face and background. And today I am joined with the lovely Suzanne Swink and Michelle Erbeyi. Michelle is the manager of Global Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at Mary Kay, Inc. Prior to moving into a communications role about eight months ago, Michelle was the Senior Policy Analyst in Global Public Affairs. And prior to Mary Kay, Michelle had held roles such as LoudCloud systems and National Math and Science Initiative. And we are also welcome Suzanne Swink as the Head of Content Creative Communications at BP America. She has been with BP for 11 years and held roles across the US government affairs, regulatory advocacy, and now communications. Prior to bp, Suzanne was a senior legislative assistant with the House of Representatives. She also was the immediate past president of the Women in Government Relations. Questions are gonna be directed to both speakers as we kind of go throughout this day. But starting off, welcome everyone, and Suzanne and Michelle, if you guys could start off with getting into the roles that you guys are in now. Suzanne, we’ll start with you.

Suzanne Swink (01:27):

Yeah, absolutely. Hi everybody. Really excited to be here with you. I hope the last few days have been great for everyone. I am curious, and maybe you can put in the, in the chat kind of, you know, who you are and are you in GR trying to get into comms? Are you in the communications team trying to do GR? I’m always curious about where our attendees are coming from. So my current role as Avery said is Head of Content and Creative Communications for bp. I’ve been in this role coming up here for almost two years. And the prior nine to 10 years of that, I was what I’d call, one of our friendly federal lobbyists for the company. So the team that I run really focuses on all the content that’s created to tell our stories here in the US. So the business writers report through me, we have our social and digital media team report through me. So kind of anything that you see either on BP America’s social media channels or on our bp.com/us website is a product of our team, and we also help create materials for our policy folks as well.

Avery Dillon (02:39):

Beautiful. All right. Michelle, what about you?

Michelle Erbeyi (02:42):

Hi, guys. It’s a pleasure to be with you today. I’m really excited to join and be in such good company. So I am currently the Global Lead for Sustainability and Environmental Impact on Mary Kay’s corporate communications team, where I lead our communications efforts for the company’s sustainability program and also build authentic long-term relationships with our stakeholders and thought leaders in the sustainability space. So right now I work with our internal business partners globally to develop and execute our sustainability strategies related to our commitments to deliver a decade of sustainable action. And part of this work includes managing our external environmental impact projects and our relationships with different organizations such as the United Nations Global Compact, the World Economic Forum, the McArthur Foundation, the Arbor Day Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy. And so it’s been a great learning experience so far, and I’m glad that I can be here today to share my hacks, tips, and tricks to making that transition.

Avery Dillon (03:47):

Wow, that’s great. You guys had such amazing, impressive careers so far, looking myself as a young professional and to the audience, anyone that this applies to, I would love to hear a little bit more about how you guys started the beginning of your career before you had all this knowledge. Where did that come from? Who did you look to all of that? Michelle, let’s start with you.

Michelle Erbeyi (04:08):

Yeah, sure. So I am actually not in the career that I thought I would be. And so when I went to college, I was a history major, so I’m a trained historian. And a lot of people assume that I would go into teaching or that I would be, I would become a professor. And that did not happen. But a lot of the skills that I actually learned as a trained historian are, you know, consuming large amounts of information, being able to synthesize that information into concise bullet points, and really figuring out the why of that information. And so when it was time for me to go into a graduate program, I ended up doing the professional route through Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service rather than taking the Ph.D. route. And I’m really glad that I did because you know, there were so many issues that I had not been exposed to and legislation and regulation that is really affecting the way that the world operates now and the way we do business.

Michelle Erbeyi (05:13):

So I started retooling very early on in my career. I did a few internships with the United States Trade Representatives Office, the German Marshall Fund, and worked at a boutique consulting company for a few years, and then really switched over to primarily policy work. And so of course, I fell in love as everyone on the call knows, you know, this line of work is, is so fulfilling and it’s so interesting and it’s always changing, and there’s always something new and something going on to keep things interesting. And so that’s kind of my early career background in how I made that transition from a completely different field in terms of how I ended up at the corporate communications team at Mary Kay. So I have been at Mary Kay for about seven and a half years.

Michelle Erbeyi (06:07):

It’ll be eight years next May. And most of those years were working on the public affairs team, where I led the corporate cross-functional issues management project. And so really creating a framework for how we evaluate a broad range of legislative and regulatory proposals that potentially impacted the company and our global strategic business priorities. And so I had a lot of fun there. I learned from the best in the industry. And I think it was last December I got a call from a member of our executive team, and, you know, it was unsolicited. I really had no idea what to expect when I got the call, so I was like, Uhoh, this is it. You know, I’m getting the pink slip. And so you know, the opposite happened. She commended me for my work. She mentioned that there was an open position on the corporate communications team, focus on sustainability, and thought that I would be a good fit for the role based on my reputation for being a good partner, my ability to work across business units, and for really having taken the time over the last few years to really learn the business well and to, you know, dig deep into the issues and to help, you know, advocate on behalf of the company based on what issues were and what our positions were.

Michelle Erbeyi (07:24):

So that was a really great compliment to me. You know, and of course, I said that I was interested in exploring the opportunity. And so that’s really how it came about as far as the actual transition from teams at Mary Kay. And so I think that you know, being a good partner and having a reputation for producing high-quality work was really helpful in making this transition internally.

Avery Dillon (07:50):

Wow. Yeah. That’s amazing. And you clearly are gonna share lots of things that you’ve learned throughout this. So excited to hear more. Suzanne, if you could give us a little bit more about your starting off.

Suzanne Swink (08:03):

Yeah. so starting off, I was in a completely different field. Like I’m thinking back, you know, 20, 20 plus years to college, college, I, I did do a full science undergrad not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it. And then I went to the nonprofit field. So I worked for a number of nonprofits in my home state out in California where I went kind of in, you know, in between undergrad and grad school. And then ended up coming to DC and working in non-profits, women’s health nonprofits for a while. So I worked for Planned Parenthood, National Abortion Federation, et cetera. So completely different field, right? And then I decided that I wanted to do public policy. And at first, I tried to do public policy work kind of at the organizations I was in and was told as many of us are in our early twenties, that Hill experience is so important for that.

Suzanne Swink (09:01):

So it’s like, okay, well, I’ll go, I’ll go work on the Hill. So fortunately you know, two weeks later after I kind of, you know, had submitted my resignation, I’ve been to the Hill. I worked for Susan Davis from San Diego for a number of years. Loved her office. One of the problems with working with a great boss on the Hill is that nobody leaves, right? So, in the end, I left the Hill to come to bp because I kind of wanted to do that, that, that flip side of it, right? I had been the person being lobbied, the person being, you know, advocated too. And I wanted to really do that work. And being from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, and it was 2011 when I came over to bp, it was just both personally and professionally really important and really meaningful for me to come to work at bp.

Suzanne Swink (10:01):

So that’s kind of how I got to the company and then have had so many opportunities with, with BP to do so many different things. So again, it’s pull soon-ish that I’ve, that I’ve been with the company and I have been able to lobby for all of the issues that we’ve cared about across all of our business units, right? So the great thing about working for a large and highly matrixed company is that you’ll get lots of opportunities to do lots of different things, right? So anything from, you know, oil and gas development to renewables, to tax issues, to trade issues, to, you know, sanctions issues, I got to work on. And what ended up happening for my transition into corporate comms is that a number of years ago and I won’t fully segue in, in, into this part of it, cuz that’s a, it’s a whole other session is that as a younger professional I was kind of trying to make my way within the organization and part of an internal negotiation when it came to my next steps, I ended up being able to advocate for myself to have the company help me get a graduate degree.

Suzanne Swink (11:26):

Yeah more, more on that. If you ever want, you know my school was

Suzanne Swink (11:35):

not fully paid for, but BP has great benefits. So I had kind of seen a trend both at our company and across other companies that functions were combining their government affairs side with their public affairs and communication side, right? To kind of really provide comprehensive advocacy campaign support. And so I thought, okay you know, I’ve done lobbying for a while, I’ve worked on the Hill. What I don’t have is what I’d call a more traditional background in communications, right? Not a journalist, never worked with the press, you know, except do background interviews on policy. And so I got my graduate degree at Georgetown as well in public relations and corporate communications. And then a few years later, so this would’ve been in early, in early 2020, we had a change in CEOs and once he came into office, he announced a kind of complete corporate reimagining of, of our, of our entire corporate strategy, right?

Suzanne Swink (12:42):

So I wouldn’t expect anyone here to be following BP enough to know what I mean. But we kind of transitioned as a company into really focusing on being a net zero company by 2050 or sooner. And that had lots of repercussions both externally and internally in terms of the entire company truly being reinvented and reorganized in a lot of ways. So when that reorganization moved its way down to our function there was an interest in having our communications and our government affairs team be much more linked up and really having some more focus on policy communications and ensuring that the kind of corporate reputation pieces that we’re doing also support our, our policy goals. And so there were a couple of us that ended up being asked to kind of switch teams if you will. So a communications counterpart of mine is now over in the state affairs government affairs team.

Suzanne Swink (13:41):

And I was asked to come over and lead our content and creative team to kind of bring that political acumen, if you will in, into the team to kind of, you know, combined forces, if you will. So that’s kind of how I got there, is both because I had seen a trend externally in terms of, you know an ultimate goal of, you know, being head of a DC office at some point, right? When you’re looking at those levels, what they’re really looking for, it seems as comprehensive both in GR and comms. So back in the day, that was kind of what my thought process was in doing that, but it has ended up also really benefiting me where I am now by being able to come over and do communications work for the company. So I’ll stop there cuz I could, I could talk about this all day, but that’s, that’s how I got here.

Avery Dillon (14:32):

No, that’s a really amazing journey you’ve got there and, and so many points of, of just contention and also knowing where you’re gonna go and, and thinking like, this is what you want. It’s just really amazing. So in the chat, we have Jeanette asking to talk about lobbying. Very excited. So I will start off with this question for both of you. I guess we’ll start with Suzanne. What are the relationships between lobbying and public affairs and corporate communications in your respective organizations? Suzanne, you talked a little bit about this, about communications completely switching more than that. Can you explain the day to day? Are there collaborative partnerships, separate departments, same departments? How does, what does that look like?

Suzanne Swink (15:21):

Yeah, so our sorry, you broke up a little bit, Avery. So I hope I’m coming through clearly, but our function is actually a combined function. So as opposed to having a communications team and a government affairs team that reports it, three different people, all report to the same function. So as communications, the external affairs what that looks like day to day is very cohesive. So it’s not just about the structure, it’s also about the behavior. So across the teams, we’ve adopted behaviors where we are always collaborative, right? Whether it’s the policy team meeting, or a certain fact sheet that’s written a certain way with a certain kind of core message, right? The skills across GR and comms are so similar, right? Cause it’s about your audience and what you want them to do, whether it’s believed a certain thing about the company or understand a certain thing about the company, hear about this new great thing that your company is doing, or with the policy side, sign onto this letter or, you know, vote for this bill or put this language in, right?

Suzanne Swink (16:30):

Like, there’s, there’s always something you’re asking people to do, whether it’s something that’s super tangible or not, right? So it’s your audience. It’s about crafting the right message and kind of understanding the behaviors and the background of that audience to know what the right messages are to reach them. So it’s super similar and had a lot of the same skillsets coming over, but we have cross-functional teams that work on campaigns. So if we’re doing a policy campaign, for example, there are our policy folks sitting on the team. There are communications folks sitting on the team including our press people, so if there’s something we need to amplify with the media or questions, we may get from the media, right? We, we come to for us being an international company, there’s another layer where we need to bring in kind of what I’d call our mothership <laugh> our mothership from London. So we have them involved in certain things too. So it’s, it’s all about you know, you can have a structure that doesn’t work because you’re not demonstrating the behaviors necessary. So it’s really important, and has been a great learning experience for all of us to be an increasingly cohesive team.

Avery Dillon (17:41):

Yeah. Well, that’s amazing. All right, Michelle, what about, well, Mary Kay, what does that structure look like over there?

Michelle Erbeyi (17:48):

So, at Mary Kay, our structure is actually separate. Both teams, the public affairs team and the corporate communications teams report through the legal organization. But we are not as integrated as Suzanne’s team is at bp. There were actually a few years where corporate communications continue to report through legal, and then the public affairs team reported through our chief operating officer due to the number of legislative proposals and regulations that were impacting our products and supply chain. But as of the end of last year, public affairs is back under legal. And I think one of the reasons for bringing me over to the corporate communications team was to create a better bridge between both teams so that we can become more integrated in the future. Although our teams have been collaborative throughout the years, I think it’s, there are definitely still some silos.

Michelle Erbeyi (18:50):

It’s not as integrated as I mentioned. For example, when I was on the public affairs team I would, you know, call upon the CorpCom team, you know, to provide me with different assets, you know, in, terms of our boilerplate language you know, how we talk about the company publicly. And then I would also ask for information related to our verbal response statements or any prepared documents on our company positions on different issues. And then we would integrate that into the public affairs work. In terms of the corp com influence on our policy communications, there wasn’t a whole lot of that in the past. It was, it tended to operate separately. But I think when our organization reaches a point where we’re putting out more policy communications publicly to a broader audience beyond policy stakeholders, I think there is gonna be a lot of opportunity for us to really collaborate and integrate and just deepen our relationship. I would say right now it’s not quite there you know, for us, but we do enjoy a good relationship. We share information and you know, we’re all on the same team.

Avery Dillon (20:14):

Yeah. Yeah. That’s amazing. Coming from a team that just had a huge integration, we’re going through a lot of that now, and it’s just really interesting to just come to people as they are people. And that is a big part, just as both of you had mentioned. So feel free to our audience to put in a chat. If you guys have questions for our amazing guests, you can use the Q and A feature at the top, right. Or just chat in on the live chat feature. But I’d love some interaction from the audience and get the full knowledge that you guys are looking for going forward. I would want to know, can you tell us a little bit about the skills that prepared you to make the leap from lobbying to corporate communications? You’ve all talked about these little steps here and there, but I wanna know about the nitty gritty between those steps. What were some of the lessons that you’ve learned? Anything that was super influential for you all, Michelle, start with you?

Michelle Erbeyi (21:07):

Sure. so yeah, I mentioned some of the skills a bit earlier but just to, you know, reiterate those. I think the big skills that serve both functions are number one, understanding the business that, you know, for the organization that you’re in and their strategic priorities and how, you know, the team aligns with those priorities and serves to help further those priorities. Another big area is working collaboratively across the business units and with your internal partners. I think in both instances, you can’t really build your messaging. You can’t really put that out to the public until you have figured out what that messaging is. And oftentimes input from your internal business partners, especially in on the public affairs and the lobbying side. You know, often as a lobbyist, we don’t have the technical expertise on a specific on how legislation specifically impacts the company.

Michelle Erbeyi (22:11):

So we have to rely on our friends and coworkers, you know, at our organizations to really understand how that works and how it would impact the business. So I can’t stress that enough. I think that’s part of what has led to my success here at Mary Kay. I think also getting to know your internal stakeholders is important, and that it is just as important as understanding who your external stakeholders and your external is. And so that, that would be the third big skill, you know, understanding our stakeholders and an audience. I think being able to synthesize large amounts of information, you know, specialized in technical knowledge into bullet points, into compelling stories, and being able to share that with a diverse range of stakeholders, whether internal or external is important. I think you know, that that’s something that I’ve had to really fine tune as, as far as my skills you know, not just being able to synthesize that information, but make it more compelling, make it more fun, make it more creative as Suzanne mentioned earlier. So I think those are the big, the big four things.

Avery Dillon (23:33):

Yeah. All right, Suzanne?

Suzanne Swink (23:36):

Yeah, I mean, I, I won’t repeat what Michelle said cause I think that those four pieces are extremely important and fully agree with all of it. The two that I, that I would add to that is one <inaudible> credibility. For those of us who either are or have been lobbyists, you know that that’s kind of your currency, right? Its being a credible voice on behalf of your organization or your company or your client. But I’m thinking through when you’re working inside a company, you have, you have got to not just develop credibility externally, you have to develop credibility internally because if your business partners internally don’t trust you and trust the recommendations that you’re making, so you’re kind of explaining, this is why we wanna know these things because we want to communicate it for x, y, z purpose.

Suzanne Swink (24:35):

And that will help you in x, y, z way, Right? If you’re not able to convey what the real meaning of this communication is for them, they’re not gonna be as excited to partner with you, right? Because from the business point of view, they’re thinking about their, you know, their p and l, right? They’re thinking about like, what is, what is the business objective that we’re trying to get to, right? And so when you’re focused on either policy matters or just pure kind of corporate reputation, like why does having a stronger corporate reputation on different, you know, ESG issues or, or whatever they are, like, how does that actually help you and your business? Is there <inaudible> able to convey to your business partners? Yeah. Right? The other skill I think is really important to develop is thinking about what I’d call your channel strategy when it comes to communications about where, where your audience is learning where your audience is getting their information and how they want to receive it, right?

Suzanne Swink (25:41):

Is it in the news? Like, should you be more focused on earned media, or is it, you know, a five or 15-second, you know, quick hit ad before a YouTube video right? That they’re watching is where you can get it, right? So really thinking about what audience your, or what information your audience needs or wants versus what you want to tell them, and make sure those are aligned, and then find out where and how they’re getting that information, right? And that can really help you be the most effective communicator that you can be.

Avery Dillon (26:16):

Yeah, absolutely. Well, we’ve got some really great questions coming in. First off from Dana, our trivia winner of today. What tips do you have for folks working to strengthen their writing muscles in order to improve the speed and efficiency of distilling the issues for stakeholders? So a little bit more into that communication speed. Yeah, Suzanne?

Suzanne Swink (26:42):

Yeah, I, yeah, so this is a really tough one, and this is something that we have really worked on <laugh> at the, at the company for anyone who is familiar with Axio Smart Brevity. We were a very early adopter of, I know, right?

Suzanne Swink (27:03):

There’s a book out now, apparently, I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t, I can’t say anything there. But we have very specific smart brevity trainings that the communications team provides across the entire company. Cuz part of what that smart brevity style does is it focuses on why does this matter, right? Like, what is the cocktail version of this and not the cocktail version where you’re talking to a think tank expert in dc what’s the like backyard barbecue version that you would talk to your aunt about, right? If she had a question, like, how are you explaining this in a way that both people can understand it and see why they should care about it, right? Like, what’s the, you know, so what mm-hmm. <Affirmative> answer, right? So that’s what we really focus on. Yeah.

Michelle Erbeyi (27:49):

All right. So, so I’ve developed a less scientific way, <laugh> a less structured way to get creative. So it was interesting because I have a colleague on my team who is a really good writer, but he also has just this great talent for making writing fun. So there was one assignment that I thought I was working on it. He thought he was working on it, and then it turns out there were two versions that were developed. And so when I saw mine and I saw his, you know, I called him and I was like, Michael, how do you make things sound so fun? I don’t understand this, you know, I just, can’t bring myself there. I’m working on it. And so he replied, you know, you just gotta go to your happy place. And so I kind of thought, no such place exists, <laugh>.

Michelle Erbeyi (28:44):

I think you really have to like, change your frame of mind. And you really just have to like, get a little silly and get a little happy with it. I mean, I really don’t know how he does it, but that’s something that I’m working on, you know, trying to make things approachable, make things accessible to people. One of the things I did start doing was, you know, just consuming more social media in terms of, you know, different influencers, different brands, and, just seeing like how they position things, how they make things relevant to people, how they like, hook people in into a dialogue and, you know, and you can see that through their engagement on their posts mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so I also, you know, had a conversation with our VP of brand here at Mary Kay.

Michelle Erbeyi (29:36):

And he has a, a really great he’s had a really great career where he’s worked with beauty companies. I mean, he used to work as a magazine content creator and for grunge, a rock magazine back in the day. And so I just saw how he did those how he made those transitions in his career. And so I, I reached out to him and it’s like, Hey, Steven, like, I’d love to talk to you about how I can be more creative. And so he’s he you know, shared some tips and basically, it’s just, you know, making yourself more open to to the content that you’re consuming and, and how to make things more accessible to people.

Avery Dillon (30:24):

Yeah. The quote about consuming more social media is a contentious one.

Michelle Erbeyi (30:29):

I know it’s and for me, you know, I think I am always skeptical of any information that I receive or, you know, I can kind of look at something and say, Okay, this is what they’re trying to get me to do. And so I just, you know, I approach it, I approach everything with a very skeptical eye. And so I’m having to turn that off sometimes. Yeah. And say, it’s, it’s okay if I can’t provide a footnote, an MLA format, you know, to this <laugh>.

Avery Dillon (30:59):

Yeah, exactly. I love that all. A question from Meredith. What are some tips when different groups or people are in disagreement about a position or a response? And then when a decision is made, what are some ways to ensure that there’s still trust among these groups to continue the collaboration approach?

Suzanne Swink (31:24):

So yeah, I won’t say that I have or may ever cracked the nut of quick decisions and approvals. Again, kind of speaking from sitting in a large company, there are a lot of stakeholders. And then you add on the, you know, you add on being a multinational company, and there are lots of people who either want or need to see things and make decisions. And it is very hard <laugh>. So I commiserate with everyone who, who kind of deals with that. What we’ve tried to do to help streamline that is developing like RACI models, if you will, RACI, right? Like, who’s responsible, Like, who is the decider, right? Cause sometimes that’s my ultimate question, like, are we doing decision-making by consensus, or are we having a discussion, and then there’s somebody that’s making the decision based on all of that information, right?

Suzanne Swink (32:30):

And those are two different ways of doing things. And I’m sure there are many others, right? Again, we’re not perfect, but that’s where I really try to drive people who is, who is deciding, right? And then who are the people that, that need to weigh in on that decision, right? Like, who needs to provide input who just needs to be made aware, and who needs to be consulted, right? There are all of these different layers of involvement and participation that you have to work through. So at the beginning of a communications campaign, for example, I attempt to kind of get that laid out at the beginning. So we all have an understanding going into it, of, you know, what to expect, right? I was given some really great advice within the first year I think of, of being a lobbyist.

Suzanne Swink (33:27):

But this is good advice, not just for the lobbying side, but also for the communication side. But at a certain point in what we do, sometimes all you could do is make your recommendation, and then the business has to decide, right? So I think if you make your recommendation, you have the data, whether qualitative or quantitative, to back it up, right? That’s sometimes the best you can do. Not everything is that difficult. Not everything gets that structured, but there are some really complicated things that companies and organizations that everyone has to work through. And ultimately, you know, your recommendation may not be taken up, right? And that’s not a failure on your part. It’s that you’ve made your best recommendation and there’s, there’s been a decision if that’s okay, right? But those are the kinds of things I would encourage people to think through and try to put maybe a little bit of process. I hate process for process’ sake, but I think the process can sometimes help things be more efficient. So if you don’t have some of those processes it might be a good idea to kind of think through what that could look like to help you get ahead of the messiness of approvals in the future.

Avery Dillon (34:48):

Yeah. I’m sure that really helps with burnout, just general management, you know, getting emotionally tied to your work every single day and then having it rejected or whatever is really hard to not take personally. <Laugh>, at least for me, <laugh>. Okay. Cool. So we’ve got a lot of great chats. People are giving some other feedback. And one of the questions here is a key component of getting out good content. Do you have an example of an effective group editing process? Hi, Michelle, let’s start with you.

Michelle Erbeyi (35:25):

Sure. Well, I am still pretty new to the team but what I’ve learned is that you know, nothing that we create only has one set of eyes on it, you know, know. Typically what we do is create the content and then it goes to a review process by the corporate communications team. Typically, it’s our strongest, strongest writer who kind of takes a look at it and, and makes sure that, you know, it matches the tone, matches the style that we want to have. And then we also have a legal review process that takes place. And that’s where the content is edited to mitigate any potential legal risk. So that’s something that has been really helpful, especially on the product side. I think on some of the softer content that we put out, you know, related to our partnerships or our impact projects, there’s not as much risk there, but whenever we’re talking about a product or entrepreneurship or something that might have an economic impact, then you know, that think that the legal risk, the legal review for risk is, is a lot more important in those instances.

Michelle Erbeyi (36:41):

Yeah, I think when I first started on the team, there was a lot more redlining. I’m getting a little better, and I think it’s been a humbling experience for me. I think that part of the editing process is, you know, just realizing that one person can’t do it all and that every member of the team brings their own unique talents and abilities to the table, and that makes the content that we create much stronger in the end.

Avery Dillon (37:11):

Absolutely. Collaboration is key, The sounds like to be the thesis of this session. What’s going on? All right. Suzanne, what about you? Your editing process?

Suzanne Swink (37:23):

Yeah, I mean, I’ll start with kind of the tools that we use. So we use Microsoft Teams a lot for document control, right? Version control, because if you’re looking to get edits from, you know, 10 different people, what I don’t want is to send a Word document out and get 10 different edited Word documents back, because that’s, that’s a personal nightmare, right? So just in terms of technology, right? And making things easier on ourselves, we definitely use teams. There also happens to be a team’s approval process function. We don’t use that, but we just use it kind of for, for editing. I’d echo pretty much everything that Michelle said about, you know good editing and, you know, lots of eyes on things and input can make content really strong. My overarching not necessarily caveat that to that would be that sometimes when you do that you end if people are not looking at the content as a whole, you will get what I call word spaghetti, because people will be editing the particular phrases they want in there, or they’ll be adding in a sentence because they care about that, but that may not make sense for the entire thing, right?

Suzanne Swink (38:35):

So once you have all of that back, again, I have kind of my main business writer what he ends up doing is after he gets all of this feedback, then he kind of sets back, takes a look at it again, reads through it to make sure it still makes sense, that it is stronger. And sometimes on certain pieces, we work with an external agency, we have a communications agency that we work with to kind of bounce it off of them as well and, and get additional eyes on it.

Avery Dillon (39:03):

Yeah, I imagine at the, you know, the bigger your organization, you have more things to think about, Michelle on the legal side using, in having all these different editors and agencies. Yeah, keeping that original voice of the author is super, super important as well. I have a couple of extra questions that are under the lobbying umbrella. So a lot of lobbying can be under the radar, but corporate communications is much more public to customers, the press, and obviously a lot of this is the goal, but it adds to scrutiny. How do you handle this, how do you adapt to this? We were talking about work and all the things. This editing process takes months, weeks, you know, there’s a lot of things that go into it, a lot of people that go into it. And then when it is scrutinized at such a high level, how do you handle this as Suzanne? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Suzanne Swink (39:58):

Yeah, I mean, I guess my first comment would be that and this is kind of putting on my lobbyist for lobbyist hat, that although there is like, I get why there’s, you know, under the radar, like yes, and no because you’re still doing lobbying disclosure, right? And, that’s a high level there. There’s still that. And while you may not be getting group editing or legal sign-off on the individual words that are coming out of your mouth, what comes out of your mouth in a lobbying meeting still comes with risk, right? And I think we’ve seen that a lot in the news in terms of again, going back to your credibility, what you say gets remembered, and DC is a small town, and they will remember you or your company in certain ways based on your behavior, right? So even though you might not be getting line editing as you’re, as you’re talking, it’s still really important to keep in mind that what you say verbally is just as big a risk as having something in writing, right? So whenever I talk to my, my former GR team that I manage, or my current team, we always talk about the

Suzanne Swink (41:14):

is what you’re writing, whether it’s in an email, is that something that you’re gonna be comfortable being on the front page of, you know, what choose your news media outlet. Yeah, right.

Avery Dillon (41:26):

You broke up

Suzanne Swink (41:27):

A little bit.

Avery Dillon (41:27):

I was wondering if you could repeat that last sentence.

Suzanne Swink (41:31):

Yeah, I, I was talking about the front page test that whether you’re, whether you’re speaking verbally or you are writing something use the same front page test that, you know, would you want those words and would you be comfortable standing behind those words on, on the front page of, you know, whatever your preferred media outlet is?

Avery Dillon (41:53):

Yeah. Yesterday we had a poll and about 75 people who engaged with that poll did say that they get their news from Twitter. So with those things in mind and, and this question Michelle what about over at Mary Kay?

Michelle Erbeyi (42:07):

Yeah, I agree with you know, everything that Suzanne mentioned I think, you know, when you’re on the lobbying team, you know, a lot of the work that you’re doing is kind of person to person. And so you’re not really thinking about like relaying what you’re saying, but I think oftentimes we’ve gotten to a point where we’re comfortable with what our talking points are. And so we have to remember not to deviate too much from the script. I think also at Mary Kay, a lot of our advocacy efforts were not really talked about publicly. You know, we don’t have a channel for policy comms specifically in the way that other big companies do. So I think that kind of alleviated some of the stresses that we may have had with some of our advocacy efforts.

Michelle Erbeyi (43:01):

But on the CorpCom team, I definitely felt a lot more pressure, you know, early on in my transition because, you know, we are creating things specifically catered to a global audience mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, and that’s gonna be, you know, posted online immediately. So I think that there’s definitely a lot more pot potential for immediate scrutiny. And I think that’s why it’s so important that the content undergoes, you know, a lot of editing and the many layer levels of approval before it’s actually published. So I think one of the things that I’ve, one of the ways that I’ve kind of handled that situation is, you know, just I start tending to triple and, and quadruple check my work because, you know, the last thing I wanna do is go viral for a silly typo or, you know I think online there’s a tendency for people to be like wordsmiths, like, Oh, you use this, you know, incorrect grammar or you forgot punctuation, so you must be educated.

Michelle Erbeyi (44:06):

And so I think I have a fear of internet trolls. And so that has made it more stressful for me. But I think all of the processes that we have in place help alleviate some of that stress. And I, I would also add that, you know, I don’t work on crisis communications, but I’m sure that would definitely up the ante significantly. Suzanne probably has more crisis communications work under her belt, so she could probably provide more feedback on that. But I think I’m a little bit what’s the word? I’m a little bit safeguarded because all of our, of my communications are primarily scheduled, and so that provides a level of predictability and some flexibility. So I haven’t really been in a position where I’ve had to respond immediately to immediate requests.