Joan Wainwright on breaking out of the marketing m
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Joan Wainwright on breaking out of the marketing m

Aarti Shah

No matter how much PR pros advocate for measuring the business impact of the discipline, it’s still relatively rare for communications pros to move beyond the marketing function at their organizations. Yet, last month Joan Wainwright went from being SVP of marketing and communications at TE Connectivity to becoming president of channel and customer experience. Taking a look at her corporate bio, before her promotion her responsibilities were fairly standard for the top comms role: leading internal and external comms, corporate branding and reputation, as well as government relations and philanthropic programs. Added to this, she had some responsibility for the company’s e-business and customer service. Now, she leads a team of nearly 1,000 sales, customer care, pricing and marketing professionals who are responsible for growing TE’s revenues, market share and relationships with about 300 global distributors. I asked Wainwright about how she -- and the top comms role -- became a contender for a leadership position without the words "marketing" or "communications" in the title. “I’ve been very fortunate to work for a company so open-minded and progressive. When I joined in 2006, my challenge was to build a communications and marketing function,” Wainwright said.  “[CEO Tom Lynch] knew, given my background, this would only keep me challenged for a while. So then, he added on e-business and then he asked me to lead a task force looking at our channel distribution network. At the time, we had 17 business units going to distributors on their own. He wanted someone as head of the global channel group and since I ran the task force and came up with the recommendations, he asked me.” Any advice for communications professionals looking to emulate a career that blends marketing with business operations? “I’ve seen some cases where communicators shy away from numbers, not wanting to get involved and know the business. But that is absolutely critical. I got a degree in communications and went back and got my MBA. I wanted to know how to read a balance sheet and income statement. We need to be better at being involved at this level. That’s the key - you have to be curious about the business and really dig into the numbers. In addition to knowing the business and thinking about it from a P&L standpoint, view yourself as part of the business and not as someone who simply communicates about the business. If you change your mindset and show you have the business acumen, it all follows."
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