I always knew I wanted to work in a creative industry. At an early age, I found that I could paint and draw pretty well and I won several art scholarships, so there has always been that creativity there for me. But I have also always had an interest in journalism, current affairs, debate and discussion, throughout school and university I wrote for the student newspapers and ended up doing a politics degree. It was when I started working for Virgin Atlantic that I discovered I could combine all those passions in one career. An advert for an Internal Communications Officer caught my eye – it was a six-month secondment and it involved communicating with crew and pilots. I knew I wanted that to be my future, so I worked my socks off in the role and six months became seven years and several promotions at the airline. I was appointed IC Business Partner, and then team manager working across airports, head office and with Virgin Atlantic’s international teams. It was great to have had that opportunity to get involved at the heart of the business, learning the industry within such an innovative, customer-centric brand.
I have always loved fashion and retail, and it was important to me to work for brands that meant something to me, as a customer. I find it really motivating to work for a company that I admire, that I can be proud of, knowing that I am part of something special. After Virgin, I moved to Burberry as I wanted to experience a new industry with different challenges. I thrived being surrounded by all of those creative ideas, communicating in new and innovative ways and with that strong sense of community. That role led me to Selfridges Group nearly eight years ago as Communications Manager. I’d always been impressed by Selfridges — it’s ability to reinvent, provoke debate and present a different point of view, and ultimately be more than a place that just sells things. Selfridges Group was starting to establish itself and, the opportunity to work with our teams in the UK as well Ireland, Canada and the Netherlands was hugely appealing. I love working with so many amazing and talented people, helping to communicate who we are, what we do and the things we care about.
In 2016, I moved to focussing on the Selfridges business in the UK and really enjoyed the opportunity to focus on some specific projects, whether it was communicating our Masterplan programme and the opening of extraordinary new destinations like our Accessories Hall and Duke St entrance in London or helping to get Yammer — our digital internal communications platform — established across the business. I was then given the opportunity to head up the Selfridges Internal Communications team. I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve together, taking the best of what we’ve delivered, and learning from our industry colleagues. The collaboration across the business is really impressive, and every year we keep learning and building.
Harry Gordon Selfridge coined the phrase ‘there’s no fun like work’ and people do really enjoy what they do here – I certainly do. It’s fast paced, inclusive, friendly and it’s a place you can truly be yourself.
The beauty of working in internal communications, and for Selfridges Group, is that no two days are the same. Wherever possible I use the morning to get inspired. We’re such a creative business that giving yourself that time to let your mind explore, solve a problem or come up with a new idea or proposal is key. Of course, that’s not always possible and the nature of our work means that very often there is a message that needs crafting, a comms plan to create, or an event to host. As well as considering the big strategic questions, it’s also about making sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed! You have to work very quickly sometimes and think on your feet, reacting to an evolving situation (something we’ve got very used to in the past year and a half!). We get to work with so many different stakeholders and parts of the business, building a picture of what’s happening and planning ahead, making sure our message is consistent with our vision, and that we’re engaging people in the right way at the right time.
Harry Gordon Selfridge coined the phrase ‘there’s no fun like work’ and people do really enjoy what they do here – I certainly do. It’s fast paced, inclusive, friendly and it’s a place you can truly be yourself. We have a network of communities — any team member can set one of these up — from the green warrior community, women in tech and digital community, values ambassadors, to our Diversity Board. It really feels like you can bring your passions and interests and whole self here. It’s dynamic, creative and a really inspiring place to be. We are not only thinking about what our customers want right now, but what they might want way into the future — and that’s incredibly exciting.
I think given the pandemic and how fast everything is moving, we have to be more thoughtful than ever as we go about our business. The experience of the past year and a half has been different for all of us, and we’re likely to be feeling all sorts of emotions. It’s important to recognise those feelings, while also providing that customer focus for people. We are here for our customers and making sure that commitment runs through everything we do is critical. More and more, we are becoming facilitators of conversations, story sharing and helping people to both listen and have a voice, communication has to go two ways and we are constantly looking for ways to help people express themselves. Yammer is a fantastic platform for enabling people to post updates, celebrate successes and engage with each other’s work. We have digital live events which are increasingly being hosted and ‘owned’ by our teams, and we also have new discussion forums like our ‘Chats for Change’ where team members can talk about topics that are important to them. Helping people stay connected, especially with how working life has changed now and is likely to change in the future, is a really important focus for us.
More and more, we are becoming facilitators of conversations, story sharing and helping people to both listen and have a voice, communication has to go two ways and we are constantly looking for ways to help people express themselves.
At the beginning of the year, we launched our new Vision and Purpose across Selfridges Group. Given the tumultuous times we’ve been living through of late, this was a key moment for our business, providing that north star that we can all unite behind. Our vision is to reinvent retail and our purpose to is to imagine and create a sustainable future for our customers and each other. Never has this been more important. Our work is focussed on bringing these driving principles to life in everything we do, through our events, discussions and activations in our day-to-day work, and ultimately for the customer.
Creativity and innovation are fundamental to who we are at Selfridges Group. We are proud to be more than a shop, and we don’t rest on our laurels. We thrive on the challenge of ‘what’s next?’, and how we can keep pushing the boundaries for our customers. The collaborations, the events, the takeovers and the changing up of our stores and digital channels never stops. The right and left side of the brain are well represented at Selfridges and everything in between, and I think that diversity of thought and ideas is what will continue to keep us at the forefront.
We continue to make big strides in sustainability and I’m really proud that we’ve made it core to our purpose as a business. That speaks volumes but there has to be substance behind it. Whether it’s our science-based targets, our commitment to greater inclusion and diversity across the organisation, or the launch of initiatives like our rental platform, Resellfridges, I feel we are genuinely changing the way we shop and do business. More of this can only be a good thing.
We talk a lot about our stores and digital channels being social centres. A place where you can come together, enjoy shared experiences and make amazing memories. Our Managing Director, Andrew Keith, often talks about Selfridges being a destination where you can spend a whole day and have a magical time and, that’s a good test! Where else can you take a SoulCycle class in the morning, rent an outfit, have lunch in the sun on top of the store, catch a movie in the afternoon and enjoy cocktails and an amazing dinner with a diamond encrusted Pegasus flying overhead — all under one roof? We are social creatures at heart, and while I think people will continue to want the ease and convenience of digital shopping, being in our spaces is an experience you can’t get anywhere else.