RT: You have been at the forefront of change communications following the merger of Wabtec and GE Transportation to create a Fortune 500 company. What do communicators on the forefront of change and business transformation need to keep in mind?
DC: Open and transparent internal and external communications are the keys to a successful business transformation. As communicators it is our responsibility to help shape and drive the business strategy, not just be aligned to it, and it is our job to effectively communicate the organisation’s long-term vision and goals. Business transformation can be uncertain for employees and stakeholders, and in Wabtec’s case we merged two organisations into a Fortune 500 company. During times of great change, words and actions matter and those actions must match the words. My advice is to be honest and transparent, address the changes and uncertainties, and consistently lead and communicate with purpose.
RT: What goes into building a robust approach to culture communications and engagement following a merger?
DC: I learned early in my career that every communication is a trust-building moment. That’s why I feel very strongly that communications is an ongoing conversation, not an event. It’s the ongoing conversation that turns information into understanding. It’s the ongoing conversation that builds understanding and commitment amongst employees. And it’s the ongoing conversation that helped our communications organisation move with agility and communicate quickly as decisions were made to earn trust from employees at every step. This is the lens I apply not just to mergers, but to all milestone communications.
RT: You have led the internal and external communications strategy for the organisation. Which one is more exciting and why?
DC: It’s never one or the other, but both. Reflecting on where we are today, however, it is a particularly exciting time to be telling Wabtec’s story externally. As the world’s foremost rail technology company, we have a unique perspective on the global trends that are impacting our customers and other stakeholders, namely: climate change, automation and digitisation, and urbanisation. As such, we are committed to leading the way in creating a more sustainable freight and passenger transportation network. We have a great story and a proven track-record that I’m really proud of when it comes to reducing carbon emissions through innovative technology that truly moves and improves the world.
RT: How do you see reputation management evolving five years from now?
DC: In the next five years I expect to see a greater commitment from brands to drive societal change, and a greater willingness of business leaders to be out front on issues. 2020 has shown that consumers expect brands to not sit passively on the sidelines, but rather take an active stance on issues of societal and environmental importance. I believe that in the next five years it will be the standard, not the exception, for businesses of all sizes to lead on such matters.
RT: What should the communication professional look forward to in 2021?
DC: The pandemic has exposed a number of risks and vulnerabilities for organisations, and communicators will need to address these challenges. I think we will see the development of communications with CSR at the core, and a greater emphasis on data as tools become more mainstream and frankly, better. In addition, the pandemic has fundamentally changed how and where we work, while leaving many remote employees feeling like they are out of the loop. The role of internal communications will be paramount as companies look to drive effective cross-business collaboration, align the organisation on short- and long-term strategy, empower employees and engage with them, as well as foster a connected (yet remote) culture.
Deia Campanelli is the Chief Communications Officer & Head of Sustainability at Wabtec Corporation and is a Keynote Speaker at SPECTRA.
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