By Julie Ford on August 30, 2023


Listen to this episode to learn:  

  • How to leverage communication tools to make an impact on your business  
  • Why segmenting and targeting is critical for successful corporate communications
  • How to harness the power of your workforce for internal communication
  • How to create an effective communications strategy to reach deskless workers
  • Why it’s important to use data to make the case for change in your organization
  • And more! 

Hosted by Julie Ford.


About the Speakers

Dionne Ligoure-wepg


Sparrow Connected October 2022 Webinar copy 2-wepg


Dionne Ligoure
Head of Corporate Communications
Caribbean Airlines

“Corporate communications is in-fact a strategic function with tactical arms for application. It’s not about going to cocktail parties, or writing speeches, it’s actually about honing the narrative of the organization stemming from its strategic objectives.”

Mike Klein
Founder of #WeLeadComms

Mike chats with Dionne, a true corporate communications leader with two decades of experience, about why internal comms pros need to step up and prove their value in order to be recognized as the strategic leaders they truly are.




Julie Ford 00:00 

Welcome to the IC connected or ICON podcast. This podcast will challenge conventional thinking about internal communications. It will force you to think differently, consider bold ideas and step outside your comfort zone through real, unscripted insights from some of the best internal comms pros and subject matter experts in the world. But most importantly, this podcast will help you elevate your career, and together will elevate the internal comms profession to the C suite. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, wherever you are in the global world of internal communication. My name is Julie Ford, and this is the ICON podcast, the Sparrow Connected, #WeLeadComms podcast with Mike Klein, founder of #WeLeadComms, and Dionne Ligoure.  


Dionne is a senior communications and marketing practitioner with over 25 years of professional experience. She is currently the head of corporate communications at Caribbean Airlines. It's an airline that is based in Trinidad and Tobago with an operational base in Kingston, Jamaica. Dionne has a keen interest in entrepreneurship, and she engages in private communications consulting. She is also an active mentor who provides career and business startup guidance. The honest join by Mike Klein, the founder of #WeLeadComms and our Sparrow Connected senior strategic advisor. Today's podcast is sponsored by Sparrow Connected, the internal communication platform that is accelerating business performance and elevating the world's communication leaders. 


Mike 01:25 

It's great to be here with you and to be sharing Dionne's insights with #WeLeadComms in the broader communication communities. As many of you know, #WeLeadComms has been conducting a global communication leaders survey. And I've actually had a chance to look at Dionne's answers to that survey. And they've given me some really good insights into some of the questions that we'll be discussing today. And they really raised some interesting topics for conversation more generally. And I guess just to start to steal a question from the survey itself. Dionne, what do you see as the three biggest opportunities facing the communication world at this point in time? 

Dionne 02:04 

It is a pleasure to be here to immediately get to Mike's question. Of course, communications, as we know, is a strategic function. Three of the biggest opportunities that would be facing us as practitioners at this time, I believe, are centered around opportunities to leverage on communication tools. So, for example, engagement, measuring engagement, and properly segmenting and targeting all communication bases. Another opportunity coming off of that, the use of technology tools, centers around virtual workspaces, while they, of course, have limitations as well. There are opportunities because we are not restricted by movement, and perhaps the costs that come with movement.  


We have a greater measure of flexibility with respect to virtual. That brings me into the third point of the biggest opportunities, and that is global collaboration. And this is an example that we have today, in completing this podcast, an example of global collaboration. Whereas communicators, I am here in Trinidad, in the Caribbean, the sunny Caribbean, Mike is on another continent, as is Julie, but we are able to collaborate to bring this podcast together today. So those are some of the opportunities; of course, that list is not an exhaustive one, but an idea of where we have opportunities at this time. 


Mike 04:19 

You said a lot of great stuff there. And I have to admit that when you said the word segmenting and targeting, my smile meter just went up just a little bit because that's something that I've been talking about, particularly in internal communication for years. And it's a subject that a lot of people resist in our profession, particularly not as much internal comms professionals but a lot of our stakeholders. A lot of them see employees as you know as a, what's the term, a lot of them see employees as a mug knows about generous or at least a monolithic group and like to do one size fits all top-down old fashioned, tell people what to do and have everybody feel the same way. It's also reflected in the whole concept of employee engagement scores. You spoke about the engagement of people. I assume you're not necessarily meaning getting high across-the-board employee engagement scores; you're looking for something that's a little bit more nuanced and a little more strategic than that. Is that a fair assessment? 

Dionne 05:30 

Yes, it is. And to your point of segmenting and targeting, I see where the pain may be. But if we view internal comms and our internal stakeholders just as we view our external stakeholders, because research has demonstrated clearly that one of the most powerful tools that an organization has is its workforce. And so, it stands to reason that if you expend, if you expend energy into segmenting, targeting, and positioning your messages for the external public, then, for me, it's an easy fit and easy migration to do the same for the internal public. As a matter of fact, it makes sense to have that information internally. And, of course, then you have a migration externally. So I almost want to flip the focus and utilize your information on your internal stakeholder and utilize that to leverage the communication to create an even greater impact for the external stakeholder. 


Julie Ford 07:08 

Dionne, there's something that really stood out to me that you just said, and it was one of the most powerful tools that company has is its workforce. I really thought that was interesting. And we're getting into a conversation around internal and external communications, employee advocacy, and so on. Mike, what are your thoughts on that? 


Mike 07:30 

Well, it's interesting that you asked that because I wrote an article on the subject earlier this week that was actually based on another podcast that I did as a guest. Where people need to really start owning the idea that employees the internal communication is really the engine of your external communication, and I can imagine that if you've got an airline in an island society that, you know, certainly we've got, you know, I live in Iceland, which is another island society with a very significant airline. The people who work in that organization are the most credible spokespeople and the most sought-after spokespeople in Iceland. Everybody wants to know what Iceland here is up to. And every employee is the fact of the spokesperson in Iceland here. Is that similar to what you face? And, you know, with your experience in Trinidad and Tobago, and also, in your broader world? 


Dionne 08:35 

Yes, Mike, that you're spot on in that regard. Because it's an island state that belongs to a chain of islands, the Caribbean, of course, is an archipelago of islands. And so, by land space and numbers, the numbers are not large. But because of our very close-knit history, the employees actually, once you say, for example, you work at Caribbean airlines, and you become a go-to person. My point about the employees being your perhaps most significant advocates comes from the fact that let's break it down.  


Employees are already a paid resource. I think the opportunity arises and exists where guidelines be put in place, and there becomes structure to how an organization can best leverage the employee workforce. So it is not random. What a company can do is to create a framework For employees, guidelines that allows them to be advocates in a very structured way. And the fact is that the employees do it anyway. So why not? Why not take that very powerful tool and put a structure to it? And you put a structure to it. So it is not as if it is their voice? Yes. But it is their voice, with the expertise of a framework and guidelines, that really can be a very powerful statement for the particular brand in question.   

So, you see, the airline, for example, what I have found in my almost three decades because I went into the airline business immediately out of university, and I went to university at a fairly young age. So immediately out of university, I found that there is a characteristic of persons in the airline. And one of those characteristics is an enthusiasm and a passion for the industry. And you find, in some industries, persons have a natural passion for advocacy. And so the organizations, therefore, have a very solid foundation upon which they can build to leverage that. 


Mike 11:42 

Well, it's interesting that you say that I've worked in the airline industry as well. I handled the merger communication for EasyJet when they acquired go airways at the turn of the century. And there's really a couple of things to jump out on what you said. One is the concept of structure and guidelines. And I think when you have structure and guidelines, the one additional element is messaging and or information.  


Because obviously, you know, when you've got people out there as advocates, they need to know at least as much as the press does or as anybody else who's speaking externally does, but the other thing is the concept of natural enthusiasm, we call the jet fuel in the veins, and you could tell who had it and who did and, you know, do you have a good command over you know, who within the organization particularly has the most enthusiasm either towards engaging their fellow employees or engaging the public on your behalf? Or is this an area where you can see some opportunity as well? 


Dionne 12:54 

There is opportunity as the company spokesperson, I have well, one is the company spokesperson and to being naturally curious about. I have very broad oversight and interest in particular areas, and what I have found in going into the various areas, so for example, the lesser known but critically important area of quality assurance, for example, or behind the scenes, but absolutely needed 24-hour Systems Operations Control Area, which is essentially where the flight dispatches are placed and so on.  


You have a tremendous amount of expertise in those areas, and perhaps not on the functions that are immediately understood or viewed by the public. Because fortunately, I sit in a place where I can speak on these issues, but they have subject matter expertise. So you have a play where your internal public is now being used to filter information in a very structured way. So it is not as if they will face the media and have to face the onslaught of those random or hard-hitting questions, but you still can take advantage of the information that they possess within their respective rules. 

Mike 14:44 

One of the issues that keep coming up in our work, as you know, as strategists around tools and technology, is the concept of the deskless worker. And I know a few other industry, so they have more different kinds of deskless workers than the airline industry. You got cabin crew, you've got baggage handlers maintenance, you've got people who are out doing stuff and who need to be communicated with, and they don't live on a Microsoft license. How do you see that as an area of opportunity? 


Dionne 15:20 

Mike, it is an area of tremendous opportunity. And while our focus, of course, is not just the airline, the airline, by virtue of its regulated and structured environment, actually provides us with a wonderful platform from which we can build and use as a guide and blueprint for other industries. So, for example, with respect to the cabin crew, we have a special app that can be used for the cabin crew. There is an area we have a crew room, and within the area of the crew room, the computers that are placed in the crew room.  


So, either before or after a flight, engagement persons have that opportunity. There are electronic screens and boards. And, of course, we also have internal, very specifically targeted email groupings, where information goes to the cabin crew only. So again, we get back to that question of segmentation, targeting, and therefore leveraging upon that to position supported by the utilization of tools, the technology tools, so I would have mentioned their use of an app, I would have mentioned use of the computer, I would have mentioned use of electronic screens. So you see where there is a very logical process that can be utilized to reach what we term to be the absentee workforce. But your term I find to be far more, it is a softer term of the desk less worker. 


Mike 17:22 

No, That's excellent. Let me skip a couple of questions down the questionnaire and ask you the question. If you had a magic wand, which of your day-to-day challenges would you make go away and? I recall you had some rather blunt answers, what would be those day-to-day challenges as you would disappear, 


Dionne 17:45 

And I would have to be very direct. With this, if I had a magic wand. One of the things that is irksome that when it is irksome are persons who do not apply the capacity to think; now let me step back. We all have everything that we have here in our heads, starts with a thought. So everything emanates from a thought. However, there's a difference between critical thought and which is more structured. And if we had, for example, a greater application of critical thought, that would move to the next bit, where I would wave that magic wand, to facilitate and enable a deeper understanding of the role of corporate communications.   

So, for example, corporate communications, in fact, is a strategic function. It is a strategic function with tactical arms for application. So corporate communications is not about going to cocktail parties and having drinks. It is not about writing speeches only. It is actually about honing the narrative of the organization, stemming from the strategic objectives to ensure that the narrative and content of what is here my language well, what is facing the internal public, and what you will then put as your public-facing narrative, to make sure that there is a level of seamlessness and integration.  


So, for example, what is inward-facing is amplified and projected outwardly. What that enables is uniformity of message. However, within that, when you have a level of laziness when you have a bit of unwillingness for persons to understand the strategic nature of communications, that injects noise and friction into a process, which otherwise can actually be very powerful for any brand, universally. 


Mike 20:30 

No, it's very interesting that you say that because the gap between what organizations say outwardly and what they do internally is actually, in my experience, the largest source of suffering that you have in an organization. You basically make promises, and then you make it impossible for employees to act as if those promises might not be so doable. Even if they aren't, you created, not just not just noise and friction, but you could even create an internal dishonesty around that around those issues. And how have you seen organizations overcome this? I mean, this is this is your site. This is a magic wand. What if there was no magic wand? How could we actually fix this? 


Dionne 21:24 

If there is no magic wand, and unfortunately, there isn't, we can go to the issue of authenticity. And authenticity or authentic communication really requires knowing what a brand stands for. And beyond that, clearly, and consistently and correctly delivering that message to the internal and the external market. So that will involve, from an internal perspective, focus groups, it would involve from an internal perspective surveys, and really the employment of tools to better understand what the pain points are. I will use the term process because all of these things are part of a protracted process. One that is the other thing we cannot, and this is not going to happen overnight.  


So in all of that, expectations have to be managed. So in the absence of a magic wand, we go back to good old basic communications, where you have your audience, you have an understanding of the audience. And to get that understanding, while there may be assumptions that you can use, to get an understanding really involves a deep dive into the pain points and hear me well, a commitment and authentic commitment by those who can to actively address the pain points, not by frivolous words, and the employment of optics, but by hard actions. So at the end of the day, your actions would support your argument. 


Mike 23:42 

So hard actions instead of empty words are cheap optics is what you're saying basically? 


Dionne 23:47 

Correct, because hard actions where the pain of employment is utilized, you would find in the medium to longer term would be far more effective than the plaster of optics. 


Mike 24:04 

Now that makes absolute sense. Is there anything else either of you would like to add? I think we've had a really robust conversation so far. 

Julie Ford 24:16 

There's one thing I'd like to ask Dionne. And it's the question that I've asked a few other internal communications pros in interviews with them. And I really love to hear what they say and to be able to share the insights with our audience. And that question is, what advice would you offer to your colleagues who are in internal communications, you know if they want to grow their careers, you know, make it up to the C suite? You know, essentially, what is the one piece of advice that you would give your colleagues today in internal comms, 


Dionne 24:51 

I would go and lean upon Pareto, The Pareto principle. 80% planning, 20% execution, and allow me to expand on that. One has to be okay. Sometimes persons fall into a career, almost by accident or happenstance. And you find that for this small percentage of persons who achieve a particular level of success in their own careers, when questioned, there are some prevailing circumstances. And one of them that has stood out is planning—and being very clear about the direction you want your career to take. With an idea of a goal in mind, Now, mind you, goals are subject to change.  


The point I'm making is having goals because some persons do not have goals, and having a goal is one thing, but ensuring that they are active steps towards the specificity of the goal, having that a clear direction with respect to the pathway. And the pathway, of course, does not involve cutting down or harming others. That is sort of cut-throat, I find it to be a most distasteful; however, planning, seeing where you want your career to go, looking for or seeking mentors, keeping yourself abreast of activities in your respective field so that you are a subject matter expert in your particular scenario, and actively looking for opportunities, whether it be within your own industry, or outside of your industry. But those would be some of the points that I would lend to my colleagues in this absolutely dynamic business of communication. 


Mike 27:28 

What you said about research and about getting a sense of what the internal audience groups are thinking, that puts a much greater urgency on that. Because, you know, from my experience, sometimes you have people who run organizations on the basis largely of their opinions or on the basis of selected facts. And if you're able to present additional facts to them, it may have more impact on their speed at which they move in a different direction than trying to persuade them otherwise. 


Dionne 28:08 

Correct. And you speak there, Mike, to one of my favorite subject areas, which is critical thinking and the presentation of an argument. Of course, we know that when we say argument, we mean supporting your conclusions with data, supporting your conclusions with fact. It's one of the things I say to the media whenever they call me in search of sensation. I say to them, colleagues, mine is the business of dealing with the unsexy facts. And when you have information you would have coming on the issue of authenticity, I mentioned surveys and focus groups coming out of that. What you would have is a body of data. Now we can have data.  


But of course, the argument is, how do we utilize that data? And that, again, is another area that requires a particular amount of focus, how do we utilize the data that we have to inform the leadership, for example, that the organization is in parallel, that the organization requires a shift in order to not go over the cliff, so to speak.  


Mike 29:43 

Using the data, we have to make the case for change, be it a change in structure, a change in direction, or just simply a change in attitude. Now, it's interesting that you say that because I actually started teaching a course on the subject on how to use measurement to engage with leaders and put actual facts on the table. You spoke about surveys. What kind of surveys do you use? And do you think much of the current crop of employee engagement surveys versus structured surveys that actually address an organization's specific challenges. 


Dionne 30:23 

Within where I currently sit, we've actually had a very rigorous drive arising out of an employee opinion survey that would have been done. It'll be in 2022 now, in 2021. And coming out of that, actually sit on a committee, a taskforce that was put together to address the issues arising but more than address the issues, action items will, or there was a list of about 16 action items to be addressed. And I assure you, they're all in various stages of execution at this time. So, we have actually taken all of the pain points of the employees, even pain points as deep as the refurbishment of offices. And this is being immediately addressed.  


A lot of things are taking place in parallel, arising out of that an entire reward and recognition program is now in place—an employee program, where one of the references is cheers for peers. So you put structure into persons valuing and appreciating each other. So it is normalizing recognition, normalizing saying to someone, you did a good job. Thank you for that. 


Mike 32:10 

That is impressive. And it's impressive, not just because it conveys progress, but because certainly, in terms of what I've been seeing and hearing, it seems that you're very advanced and very responsive and very proactive in all of these areas. My last question is just, is there anything else you want to say? Is there anything else that we haven't covered that, that you think needs to be mentioned in this conversation? 

Dionne 32:41 

What I would say, in closing, is that podcasts like this one provide us with a platform. And far too often, communicators may be of the view that your struggle is an individual one. Whereas many of us face the same issues. And we can utilize the said technology. We can utilize the opportunity provided by virtual workspaces to encourage and to grow our global collaboration so that we can provide that network of support for each other, regardless of our placement in industry, regardless of our placement in the world.  


And this is the point that came to mind before. Because by doing this, and having, for example, ways that you can measure the success of your communication, there's a quotation by, I think, the CEO of Sparrow, if memory serves me correctly, which I find to be very, very powerful. It's a powerful quotation, where he says that he sees the future of communication leaders sitting alongside CEOs, CFOs, and CMOs, and that time quotation resonated with me because I want to opine that there is no better placement for communication leaders, but communication leaders must continue to step up to demonstrate and very clear, and here again, in very clear and tangible terms, our contribution to the success of the organization. 


Mike 34:58 

And that's precisely The way #WeLeadComms exists as well. Excellent. Thank you very much, Dionne. Thank you, Julie. This has been an excellent conversation. And I can certainly think of several people I know, particularly in the airline industry, that I'm going to send a link to this podcast, not because it's something that I think is great from my perspective, but it's something that's great from their perspective. 


Julie Ford 35:25 

Thanks for listening to the Icon podcast. This podcast has been brought to you by Sparrow connected. Head over to Sparrowconnected.com to learn more about the internal comms platform that is elevating the internal comms profession. And be sure to follow #WeLeadComms on LinkedIn. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast channels and tune in for the next episode. 

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