Career Capsule: Sharon McIntosh Builds the Case for Careers in Internal Communications

Sharon McIntosh

Sharon McIntosh

I did not go quietly into internal communications.   

I fought it almost every step of the way, but was convinced it was a career box I needed to check. I previously had worked in corporate communications, media relations and investor relations and knew I needed internal comms to become the communications “generalist” that everyone recommended. Fortunately, it all seemed pretty easy. All I had to do was write a few newsletter articles, right?  

Oh, how wrong I was. Internal comms was one of the toughest jobs I ever had. And, yet, it was a blast. (Still is, by the way.) It wasn’t long before I thought, “I want to do this forever.”  

Internal communications demands diversity of thought, talents and action. You wear multiple hats: journalist, editor, project manager, speechwriter, influencer, IT specialist, social media expert and culture champion, among them.  

What’s more, it’s a job in which what you create can change lives – some working thousands of miles away, some in the next cubicle, even your own. The most energizing days involve engaging employees to help tell the company’s story. The saddest days are when you have to help execs tell colleagues that they may not have a job.  

Sometimes it’s a strange mix – frequently within the same day. One morning at PepsiCo my team and I met with the division CEO and strategized about the communications plan for the next year. In the afternoon, in support of the annual United Way campaign, I found myself stuffing an employee wearing a seven-foot Chester Cheetah costume into a six-foot-tall elevator. 

It’s been a weird, wild ride – and our industry continues to evolve. Today nothing is ever exclusively internal or external. As the lines continue to blur between inside out and outside in, every communications professional needs both disciplines. And the challenge is to decide what you want to do first, remembering you can’t do one without the other. 

Here’s a quick look at my career path so far:

  • Director of communications at Missouri Dental Association – 2 years
  • Communications manager and director of media relations at Waste Management – 7 years
  • Communications manager and director at Sears, Roebuck and Co. – 7 years
  • Communications manager, director and VP of Global Internal Communications at PepsiCo – 10 years
  • And Then Communications, President – current

8 comments on this post.
  1. Ally Bunin:

    Beautifully said! Thanks for telling your story. I too love the field and can’t imagine doing anything else…inspiring employees makes a difference!

  2. Jason Anthoine:

    Nicely done! Helping employees connect their skills and passions through their employers is meaningful work that has an incredible impact on people’s lives. The same can’t be said for other communications disciplines. At the end of each day, I can see the fruits of my labor and know that I’m making a difference.

  3. Sharon McIntosh:

    So true, Ally and Jason. I also don’t think many students coming into the comms field knows about IC. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  4. Clare Purcell:

    Although many executives say their employees are their greatest asset, few recognize the importance of a strong Internal Communications team — for the employees, the culture and the business. Kudos to you for pointing it out!

  5. Sharon McIntosh:

    Unfortunately, that’s true, Clare. But I also think it’s back on the internal comms pros to make sure they’re showing measurement that gets noticed by execs. Thanks for your great thoughts!

  6. Sharon Phillips:

    So true, Sharon. I have found internal comms the best seat in the corporate house to influence and impact positive change. Not to mention the most fun and fulfilling role in my comms career.

  7. Marci:

    How does one get started in internal communications? I work in the nonprofit sector in donor relations and stewardship and see a number of similarities between the two.

  8. Sharon:

    Marci, sorry for delay — just saw your post here. I’d love to chat more about this with you. Feel free to send me an email at sharon@andthencomms.com.

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