Beyond the brand | Trudy Lewis | I’m convinced that most organisational challenges can be addressed by improved communications

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Trudy Lewis is a communication consultant, executive coach, and founder and director at Colinear Ltd. She has a passion to help leaders, professionals, and their teams to develop influence and create impact as they master effective communication. In ‘beyond the brand’, she shares her career, business and personal insights.

The industry

Why did you pursue a career in public relations and communications?

Getting into PR and communications was very intentional. I started out from the hospitality industry where I was pursuing a career in hotel management. When I realised that the long hours weren’t for me, I started to explore what I really liked, what matched my strengths and the difference I wanted to make. This made me realise that I loved finding ways to help people to communicate and engage in the best way possible. Improving their ability to express themselves, build a reputation and reach their audiences. Public relations came out as the perfect career to let me do that and so much more. As a result, I re-trained and after some work experience decided to focus on strategic internal communications. This allowed me to work closely with leadership and employees while supporting how the organisation communicated. I am so glad that I made the move to this industry as it’s been a very rewarding career so far. 

What areas within the industry are you most interested in (currently)?

Right now, I’m focused on leadership. Leaders face complexities and uncertainty, they are expected to be good at handling everything. The thing they need is support and I’m convinced that most organisational challenges can be addressed by improved communications. So, what I do in this area is so important at this time, and as an industry we can play a big part in transforming leaders and their level of impact as they communicate, connect and engage.

I’m also interested in senior communication practitioners and where I can help to develop them to be better equipped and relevant to leadership within the organisation, so I’m exploring that. 

And finally, I am an advocate for getting the industry more exposure with directors and boards within business as I believe our industry should be present in the boardroom. So it’s about raising our profile and the value we can add in those places. 

How has public relations and communications changed since you first started working in the industry?  

When I started, we were still trying to validate ourselves as a strategic function. We were seen as fluffy and not taken seriously. Interestingly some of those perceptions remain but a lot has changed in terms of our positioning. There’s a wider awareness of PR and communications and what it can achieve. 

I also think now there’s more of a demand on us to operate from the business’ perspective – bringing our unique skills and knowledge to establish the benefits of strategic PR and communications. And we are responding to this as we see more development and efforts towards achieving a higher level of professionalism. We have a long way to go, but I am optimistic that we will see change in the future if we continue to show up and influence within the organisations we support. 

What trends are you seeing that pose the biggest opportunity or threat to the industry?

A trend I’ve seen, that is a threat, is where leaders are engaging in other functions to achieve what PR and communications can do at the strategic level. This includes HR and external management consultancies outside of our industry. This could be because it’s easier to keep our discipline at the tactical level or because we aren’t as visible or haven’t demonstrated well enough that we can be the trusted advisers that can guide leadership. We also need to increase how we promote ourselves and the industry – a bit like doing some PR for ourselves. 

That said, we have a great opportunity to come alongside leadership to cover challenging themes like inclusion, climate change and hybrid working. This is where I believe we can shift the threat I mentioned and show our relevance at the strategic level.   

Leadership and management

What do you believe makes a company a great place to work in? 

The biggest thing is having an inclusive culture. Linked to that is an organisation that champions being purposeful and makes the effort to engage people, so they see the part they play in achieving the vision. 

I definitely think those companies that focus on their people by creating meaning at work and ensuring they have safe and inclusive environments will be the best to work in. I have worked in some that don’t have great cultures. I’ve also heard from people about other similar companies and their experiences haven’t been good. I find when companies don’t hold these things as important it can wear away any motivation or passion employees have for the job and drains energy. Sadly, this is the best way to lose good talent. 

Do you work in an office, remotely or have a hybrid model? What is your preference, and why?

I currently work remotely most of the time and might go in to see clients or work from a serviced office. My preference is definitely hybrid – as the flexibility works, and I also like the times when I can interact with people.

I thrive on interaction so a role that is 100 percent remote wouldn’t work for me. I find it important to spend time with people and keep connected with what’s happening outside of my bubble, so within a week I allocate time to meet with people, especially if I’ve spent longer periods of time working remotely. 

What is your leadership or management style?

Looking at the official styles of leadership I’d say my style is Affiliate – that is a social type of leadership that builds community and trust. So, to keep that going I have no issues dealing with conflict or difficult conversations and work towards developing people through involvement. Plus, involvement supports creativity and innovation. 

As a coach I do also tend to use a coaching style when leading and managing people but try not to go into coaching mode too much. I like to deliver results so although I use these inclusive styles, I can be firm when it comes to getting things done to a high quality. I always hope that those working with me are looking to achieve the same thing.   

What key skill or characteristic do you look for when hiring new people?

Outside of the core skills for the job, what impresses me is when someone can demonstrate that they are curious and a continuous learner. Also, that they have confidence and are able to openly share who they are, what’s important to them and what they’re good at. Someone who is open to learning and is adaptable will even make me excuse a lack of a specific skill in some cases. I uphold character and values in a very high place and look out for that when hiring new people.   


What is your favourite book or movie?

‘Year of Yes’ by Shonda Rhimes – she’s a great writer and her story is inspirational in a way that can wake you up to taking charge of your life. Despite being a very successful writer/producer of shows like Grey’s Anatomy she wouldn’t allow herself to embrace her success and be seen – her year of yes changed all that. I do recommend it to people I coach or talk to as it has something for everyone. 

Would you welcome a digital detox for a week or approach it with caution? 

That’s a tough one, I would welcome it, but I would find it really hard to do. I sometimes feel my phone is attached to my hand – so that would be challenging. I can see the benefits of it and applaud those who have managed to do a detox, but I’m currently trying to leave the phone in the other room at night but that hasn’t happened yet. 

Do you prefer sun holidays or city breaks?

I actually like a bit of both and having lived in a country (Jamaica), where the beach was a big thing, it was always great to drive out of the city for a weekend to the coast. My favourite recent holiday was to Barcelona where we were in the city, but the beach was also close by. Most of the time I will go for a city break because you learn so much about the people’s culture and history – both of which I love. Some years ago, I spent five months in Toronto, in the city, where I fully immersed myself in the culture and had the best time. 

If you won the lotto what would you do?

I would give a lot away to charity, friends and family to support them. After investing a bit I’d purchase a retreat house in a great location like Italy or the Caribbean or a really cool building that could be converted into a coffee shop, work and event space. Spending it these ways would be the most fun, so I’d have to win a lot of money.