Blending internal communications with customer service: Martha Watt [Profile]
Martha Watt is an internal communications specialist who puts customer service front and centre. Working as the Communications Coordinator, Ministry and Employment at the General Council Office for The United Church of Canada, Martha is responsible for communicating ministry and employment information to lay employees and ministry personnel, as well as to leadership volunteers. This represents a very large, national audience, since there is a United Church in almost every community of 5,000 people or more in Canada.
“The United Church leads the way in a number of areas, including acceptance and recognition of women as clergy, same sex marriage, gay clergy, human rights and justice for all,” describes Martha. “It was the welcoming nature of the United Church that led me to accept a position with the organization, even though I’m not particularly religious.”
Martha’s role is somewhat unique in that it combines corporate communications (including writing two newsletters and an annual report) and customer service (direct fielding of inquiries). She faces a number of challenges common to large non-profits, including ‘anti-head office’ or in this case, ‘anti-Toronto’ sentiment from her audiences.
Martha’s approach is to ‘humanize’ the Toronto office by providing excellent customer service. “The opportunity,” explains Martha, “is to dispel the expectation that ‘those Toronto people just don’t have any idea’ by making real connections. We have been slowly mitigating that sentiment through the openness and responsiveness of our office. I think that one can’t be too sensitive to the needs of people to let them know that they are heard.”
Martha came to the United Church in 2007 and this is her first role in non-profit. At the time, she also upgraded her skills by completing a Certificate in Corporate Communications at Humber College. Martha found the program useful in terms of covering the basics of communications, but she also benefitted from meeting younger communications professionals. For example, at the time, social media was new even for the program’s faculty. A fellow student with a strong handle on social media helped everyone navigate the new landscape – student and instructors alike.
Recently, Martha was pleased to be involved with communicating a significant change to the organization’s pension plan. Her approach of a tailored yet consistent message through individually addressed mail (a channel reserved for very important communications) was a success. “The communications were well received, well understood and concerns were met with calm reassurance. This was in part because we found a balance between sharing a consistent message across the whole organization, while customizing our communications for each internal audience.”