Member Spotlight

Carrie Griffiths, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at InterGen

For this member spotlight, we interviewed Carrie Griffiths, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at InterGen.

You went to school for communications. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A singer! I grew up in a musical family as the oldest of five girls. As kids, we spent hours harmonizing and learning songs. Once I got a bit more practical, I thought that being a magazine writer sounded glamorous. So in college, I interned for a national magazine for teenagers, worked as a campus stringer for another publication, and my first job out of college was writing for a New England travel magazine. Having those years of intense writing, editing and proofreading experience really helped to hone my skills.

How did you break into the corporate communications world?

One of my early jobs was at a boutique employee communications firm writing benefits materials – summary plan descriptions, open enrollment brochures, etc. Tyco International was a client, at the time a Fortune 150 corporation with 250,000 employees. Tyco then hired me to produce employee communications.

You’ve successfully climbed the career ladder. How did you achieve that success?

By keeping a sense of humor. Of course, you have to be competent and have solid skills, but in the end, it’s how you get along with people. Every company, every department and every culture brings its own challenges and personalities. It’s how you handle them that will mean the difference between getting ahead and staying in place. Also, don’t underestimate the power of dressing for the job you want, not the job you have.

You currently strategize on global internal communications. How do you ensure success and alignment on a global level with different languages and time zones?

It really helps to have a dedicated person responsible for communications and/or human resources in each region or country. You have to be sensitive to cultures, languages and time zones or else your strategies and messages will miss the mark. A network of in-country experts can prevent you from missteps, help you understand nuances and amplify communications.

You also work on executive communications. Any tips for mastering the executive voice?

Ultimately it’s about trust. A successful communicator will have a seat at the table or frequent access to the executive(s) to learn what that voice is. You also have to bring strategic solutions and tactics to the team, which means you have to understand their challenges and be able to speak their language (having an MBA is a good idea). You also have to know what battles to pick. Will you allow your CEO to say “leverage our competitive paradigm” or will you dig in your heels?

What advice would you give on being a good manager?

Hire the right people based on their skills and attitude, set clear expectations based on company and department goals, provide regular feedback and encouragement, offer training when needed, then reward for performance. Above all, work hard and have fun.

What have you learned over the years that you wish you had known in starting out as a communications professional?

The importance of exercise. Over the course of your lifetime you can expect to work about 80,000 hours. Those hours sitting at work will take its toll on your body. Lift weights, get your heart rate up with cardiovascular exercise and stay strong. It will give you more confidence and stave off stress.

Why did you join IABC?

Joining an industry association of people who do what I do seemed like the right decision when I became a member in 1993. I haven’t been disappointed. From professional development and networking to the World Conferences, IABC has offered a consistent forum for best practices and innovative thinking.