By Shayna Keyles
After 10 years honing internal messages for the multinational corporation Chevron, Jeff Rader is considering how best to leverage that experience in the next chapter of his career. He reflected on his experience at Chevron, shared his views on the nuances of communications, and discussed his strategies for looking forward.
You have experience in both internal and external communications. Which do you prefer?
I enjoy internal communications the most because I can help people proactively deal with the inevitable changes in their lives. When something needs to happen or when people need to behave differently, I find it incredibly rewarding to support people in figuring out what to do by designing and delivering on corporate strategies.
It’s true that you can still find a call to action in external communications, but, in my experience, external comms has been more about putting out information to support company strategies rather than actively creating those strategies.
What did you find to be the biggest challenge when doing internal comms for a multinational corporation?
Chevron is a giant corporation with many moving parts—it consists of 27 internal companies and five large divisions. With a company that large, it can be very hard to bring about change quickly. Compared to other sectors and smaller organizations where you might see change happen every day, you have to learn how to be patient and let the long process take its own pace. You have to keep your head on and support change wherever you can.
Another challenge of working with a multinational organization is that you encounter people from many cultures who may think or act differently than you do, which greatly affects the way you do business. What I view as a deadline, my counterpart may view as a guideline. I learned to embrace a much more collaborative attitude toward people I encountered because, despite cultural differences, we were all working toward the same end.
You were in charge of creating a communications strategy for the IT department, a famously non-communicative bunch. How did that go?
I was incredibly fortunate when I was the IT Media Relations Advisor in that the CIO was dynamic and enthusiastic about the project. Without such good leadership, it would have been difficult to implement such an all-encompassing communications strategy. Our joint mission was to take the IT department through a transformation, to rethink how IT worked with the rest of the company, and to redefine how department members thought about providing services.
Our main strategy was to highlight good behaviors to encourage other good behaviors. We would seek out “transformation moments” and then discuss how these behaviors supported the new IT strategy. By frequently showcasing positive moments, we created a snowball effect: more people produced the desired behaviors, which in turn made those behaviors available to others in the company. We were able to create a brand that emphasized “transformational excellence”, which fit in with Chevron’s overall ideology of “operational excellence”.
What led you to join IABC?
I initially joined IABC in 2006 to associate with others in the communications field and to take advantage of all of the chapter’s learning opportunities. I consider myself to be on a continuous learning journey, and by meeting with other individuals in the communications field or attending IABC events I find myself learning to become a better communicator.
You’re currently seeking new employment opportunities. How are you leveraging your network?
I’ve made great connections through my IABC membership, and these relationships are invaluable. By and large, IABC members are willing to share content, contacts, and information about their career journey. Even when I am meeting a member for the first time, the opportunity to speak with new people and talk to them about what they do is fascinating. I am able to constantly increase my network, which allows me to grow personally and professionally. In short, my membership at IABC helps me become a better resource for whatever company I will work for, and IABC might even lead me to that company.
What are your hopes for your new career?
I’m enthusiastic about looking for new opportunities in internal communications. There is no better profession for me than the one I have chosen. I love what I do.