Young Professional Spotlight: Corporate Communications

Stephanie Tarbet, Manager of Executive and Management Communication at Michelin North America

This post is the first installment in our new blog series Young Professional Spotlight, which will profile a variety of young professionals (some alums, some not) working in fields of interest to Davidson students.

Here, Stephanie Tarbet shares her experience working as Manager of Executive and Management Communication at Michelin North America in Greenville, S.C.

What is corporate communications?  How does your field of internal communications differ from public relations?

Corporate Communications means a lot of different things within different companies and may be called something different within companies as well. For example, within Michelin, it is referred to as Communication and Brands. Our department encompasses Internal Communication, Public Relations, Community Relations and Image & Brands. A widely accepted definition of Corporate Communications would simply be the communication issued by a corporation or organization to all its publics or internal and external audiences. This sentiment is true within Michelin as our Communication and Brands department is responsible for engaging people in Michelin’s story both within the company with our employees and outside of our company with the community, our shareholders, the media and local, state and federal governments.

Internal Communication differs from Public Relations because we focus on two different audiences. Within Internal Communication, we focus all of our communications on our internal stakeholders which includes our employees, and Public Relations focuses on all of our external stakeholders. We all have a common goal to engage people in Michelin’s message, but the intended audience is the differentiator.

What does your job entail?

I am responsible for executive and management communication. Under executive communication, my main responsibility is to provide communications support for our Chairman and President. This support includes developing presentations, speechwriting, planning his annual site visits to all of our facilities and plants (here you can read a recent article that features this communication practice), and executing his monthly Coffee Break meetings with employees as well as his quarterly Town Hall meetings. I also work closely with him to develop our company’s annual priorities and develop the communication package that is sent to all of our sites to reinforce those key messages. There is also some event planning within executive communication. Each year, our Chairman and President hosts over 150 managers for a full-day meeting to discuss the company’s priorities for the year. I am responsible for the content development for the meeting as well as the support details including the agenda, invitee list, catering and meeting logistics. In addition, I collaborate with my colleagues in Public Relations, Government Affairs and Community Relations to develop the annual strategy for executive communication and identify the communication priorities for the fiscal year.

I am also responsible for management communication, which is focused on helping managers communicate with their teams and equipping them with the necessary tools and information they need to keep their employees informed. Michelin is a manufacturing company with close to 70 percent of its employee population consisting of wage employees who spend the majority of their days on the shop floor. Management communication is extremely important within our company because managers are an integral part of the communication process and have the responsibility to cascade messages to employees on the shop floor. Therefore, it is my responsibility to develop the strategy and communications for managers to help ensure that all messages make it to our employees on the shop floor.

What do you like most about your job?

This question is a difficult one to answer because there are so many things that I love about my job. Although my responsibilities all fall under the communications métier, I am constantly working on different projects and tasks, which makes each day different and exciting. One of the highlights of my job is getting to travel both domestically and internationally to places like France, Germany, Nova Scotia and Mexico to name a few. One of my favorite parts of my job is accompanying our Chairman and President on all of his site visits and getting to tour all of our plants and meet with employees. Although I am located at our headquarters facility, it is extremely important for me to spend time in our plants so I fully understand the communication process at each site and the challenges they experience.

How did you land your first internal communications position at Michelin?

After working for four years and gaining real-world experience, I decided to go to graduate school full-time to earn my masters degree in corporate communications. I attended Clemson University, which is located within close proximity to Michelin’s North American headquarters in Greenville, S.C. I wanted to stay in the Upstate South Carolina area because it is a thriving place with a strong international business presence. I had identified Michelin as the number one company that I wanted to work for in the area, so I completed a profile on their careers website and continued to look for communications positions available within the company.

What recommendations do you have for an undergraduate at a liberal arts college like Davidson who is interested in pursuing a career in corporate communications?

Get experience! I cannot express how important it is to get relevant experience within your field of interest. Even if it is in the form of an unpaid internship or volunteer work, gaining that experience will pay off big time in the long term. Learning theory and developing necessary skills and knowledge within your undergraduate studies is an extremely important foundation. In addition to building that foundation, you must be able to demonstrate that you can apply that knowledge and put it into practice. The key is getting relevant experience that directly relates to what you want to do.

Michelin HNA is located in Greenville, South Carolina, located less than two hours from Davidson.  What does this city have to offer to young professionals?

Greenville, S.C. is a thriving area for young professionals! It was recently ranked by Forbes magazine as one of America’s Best Cities for Young Professionals. Many international businesses have chosen Greenville as their North American headquarters location. BMW, General Electric, Fluor, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin and 3M are just a few of the companies in addition to Michelin that have established a major presence in Greenville. There are also many young professional organizations such as PULSE (Professionals United for Leadership and Social Enrichment) that provide networking opportunities as well as community involvement. Greenville also has a lot of fun activities going on such as festivals, the Peace Center for Performing Arts, a thriving downtown area with lots of restaurants and shops as well as a minor league baseball team. In addition, Greenville is a very active community and home to the Greenville Hospital System Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail, a 13.55 mile walking/biking trail that runs along the Reedy River connecting Travelers Rest with the City of Greenville.

Editing and Reporting Internships with Dow Jones News Fund

The Dow Jones News Fund provides competitive paid summer internships in business reporting (12 total positions available), news editing (80 positions), multimedia editing (12 positions) and sports editing (12 positions) for juniors and seniors.  Benefits include free pre-internship training at various locations (travel expenses covered) and $1,000 scholarships.  The application window is now open for Summer 2012 internships!  Deadlines begin November 1.

Interested students can apply for just one of the four programs or for all four, rank ordering them in order of interest.  Writing samples are required (the type of sample depends on the internship of interest), and all prospective interns must take a one-hour reporting or editing exam (I have received copies of these exams and will serve as the monitor for Davidson.)

Interested students should review the DJNF 2012 Brochure and visit the DJNF website for application instructions.

Using Twitter in the Communications Job Search

Are you interested in pursuing a career in communications?  Start tweeting!

A recent study indicates that 76 percent of American and Canadian communications professionals use Twitter daily, compared to 32 percent of the general public.  Twitter usage among these professionals has grown by 100% over the past two years.

If you are interested in a communications-related career–whether in marketing, advertising, corporate communications, nonprofit fundraising, or a host of other fields–we recommend using Twitter to network and learn from this growing network of professionals.

To get started, sign up for a Twitter account if you don’t already have one.  Do a search for “communications,” “public relations,” or other areas of interest.  Twitter will pull up “people results” on the right sidebar: typically industry experts who already have large followings.  These results will give you a place to start.  Once you find individuals of interest, see who they are following to get more ideas.  You should also follow the Twitter accounts of your favorite publications and news organizations.

There are some Twitter accounts devoted to informing the public about communications jobs:  follow @nyprjobs, for example, and get updates about PR job openings in New York City.  However, note that those who have the most success using Twitter as a networking tool actively tweet themselves, rather than simply following others of interest to them.  You want to build your knowledge base to the point that you are comfortable actively contributing to the professional community.  For example, if you run across an interesting article or statistic about your communications field of interest, you can tweet a link to it with a brief line of commentary.  This June 2011 U.S. News and World Report article  focuses on how to use Twitter effectively to change careers, but it also has some great advice for anyone looking to build a strong brand on Twitter by sharing expertise and resources.

Still skeptical?  Take a look at this blog post by Kelly Giles, UNC alum and Assistant Director of Sales and Marketing at a company called Optimal Resume.  I met Kelly at a recent conference, where she shared that by being an “active and authentic” blogger and Twitter user, she ended up with a fantastic job.  It’s a testament to the potential power of “140 characters or less”!

Internships with the Democratic National Convention

Fall internships with the DNC have been posted!  The deadline for applications is September 12, 2011.

The DNC is seeking self-motivated, results-driven and trainable students for this opportunity. A DNCC intern will have a wide range of responsibilities, such as acting as the first point of contact for a Department head in the offices of the CEO, COO, or Chief of Staff. Interns may assist with special projects in various departments such as Intergovernmental Affairs or Communication and Public Affairs.  They may prepare correspondence, assist staff with requests pertaining to the convention, assist with IT network systems, or help prepare memos as well as research important legal topics.

This internship is a minimum of twenty hours per week (flexible scheduling), beginning September 26 and ending December 16, 2011.

To apply, students must submit a resume, an application (includes essay questions), and three letters of recommendation.  Interviews will be conducted in two rounds.  The position description can be found in WildcatLink.  For the full position description and application, contact Brenda Harvey, our Recruiting Coordinator, at