#50over50: Amanda Hepton-Patchett
About the author
Ann is a co-founder of PR Academy. Her special areas of interest are internal communication and project communication. Ann leads the CIPR internal comms certificate course. MSc, Dip CAM, MCIPR
Language, words, communication – they are part of Amanda’s DNA.
But she didn’t start out in a communication role, her early career was as a PA. “It was a brilliant way to learn about business” she explains. “I worked for some very senior leaders in a variety of industries and you get a real insight into how an organisation works, plus you learn a lot about good (and bad) leadership behaviour. It taught me the importance of good communication because you are often speaking on behalf of the senior leader that you are representing.
“It is a demanding, sometimes undervalued role that I really respect and in my career I have always built a good relationship with the PA of the senior executives and that has really helped me.”
For Amanda it is about taking the time to get to know people, to listen a lot and never assume that you know everything. “Some of my most useful insights have come from unexpected sources” she says. “It is about giving people the time of day, building relationships and treating everyone with equal respect.”
Amanda fell into her first real PR role while she was working in an agency as a PA/coordinator. She was helping to organise a nationwide series of celebrity roadshows for Ford and when the PR person she was working with went on holiday, Amanda was asked to step in and write the press releases, found she was good at it and never looked back. She went on to hold senior positions in London PR agencies.
Amanda came to internal communication later in her career after building a successful PR practice for a leading regional advertising agency Ware Anthony Rust in the 90s. She had built the function from scratch and this earned her a seat on the management board which she combined successfully with a young family. It was here that she realised it was possible to combine family with a senior role – but only if you had an enlightened employer. “I was able to work first three then four days a week and it was that flexibility that made it possible – it was unusual back then”
From here she stepped across to an in-house role with Budget Group Ltd (now BGL) where once again she set up something new – this time their internal comms function. She joined as Corporate Communications Manager and left as Senior Internal Communications Manager. She then joined Cambridge Assessment, part of Cambridge University, where until recently she was Group Head of Internal Communication and Engagement. After a short sabbatical to study for a qualification in executive coaching and fulfil a long held ambition to visit Japan, she has recently taken on an interim role (her first) as Director of Internal Communications for a major company in Cambridge.
That is typical Amanda, always learning and doing new things. She went back to university later in life and did a Masters in TESOL and Applied Linguistics where she was the oldest in the class. She bagged herself a distinction after studying on top of a full time job and with a two hour daily commute.
Amanda has also done professional study too, she took the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma with PR Academy and now returns to teach other practitioners. “I love the idea of being able to give something back, it’s really enriching” she says.
“Studying not only stretches you, but it puts you in touch with your peers in a different way. You are adding to the body of knowledge about your field – things move so quickly, it’s important to keep learning. Studying for a recognised qualification also shows that you are serious about your craft.”
Amanda’s career has certainly adapted over the years – from agency PR to strategic internal comms, including engagement and diversity and inclusion. “Sometimes circumstances outside of your control influence your career and misfortune can strike at any time. When this has happened to me I have tried to think laterally, to seek out something new. I don’t think careers are linear. The world changes, your career path changes, your interests change. When I first found internal comms and employee engagement, it was something new and exciting for me.”
The next new thing for Amanda is being able to apply the learning from her soon-to-be-achieved coaching qualification in a communication role. “Research has shown that a coaching style of leadership is the most effective, my aspiration is to use my new found skills with leaders to help bring about positive cultural change and, ultimately, business success.”
A few things about Amanda that you may not have expected… she writes poetry and flash fiction and still sends ‘old fashioned’ letters to her friends. She was one of the Anglo Austrian Players in Vienna and played roles including Lady Bracknell in the Importance of Being Ernest and she has performed on stage in German with Anglia Ruskin University (she is a fluent German speaker).