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.