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My first year at CPCS: Transforming how a global company communicates

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Benoit Laplante | June 4, 2020

The mandate CPCS gave me turned into the company’s biggest communications transformation in 50 years. Here’s my story and some lessons learned.

A year ago I joined CPCS as their first director of global communications and marketing.

If you don’t know, CPCS is a global management consulting company in the infrastructure sector. Think of projects related to public transit, electrification and public-private partnerships, to name a few.

Making communications a strategic lever

To expand its reach and advance its strategic objectives, CPCS needed someone to dust off, declutter and rewrite their communications and marketing playbook.

What they really meant was to put in place a strategic communications function, build a team, help instill a culture of belonging and make CPCS better at communicating and marketing itself.

“You’ll be driving the bus”, said my boss Marc-André Roy.

To be fair, it’s really more like driving a high-speed train. Still, I was ready to take up the challenge.

You see, I was ready to find a professional home that pays well and that lets you to do brilliant work without barriers or red tape.

A year later, I can testify that CPCS is all this. Here, you have ample room to grow in your role and gain altitude career-wise.

You also don’t have to fight your way through waves of bad energy just to be good at what you do. It’s simply good vibes.

This positive energy has taken my career to new heights, as if I was shot straight out of a cannon.

Leading as a strategic communications management professional

I started my career doing media relations for a few years at the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Later, I moved on to reinvigorate employee communications at the Royal Canadian Mint.

At the Mint, I earned what I call an on-the-job PhD in organizational communications, work psychology and change management.

That job was the perfect lab to modernize internal and manager communications and implement new practices and processes – all while adapting to different CEO communications styles.

Along the way, I went back to school to learn more about change management and work psychology. For instance, I completed leadership training in strategic communications and change. I also passed a globally certified test, earning the Strategic Communications Management Professional or SCMP® certification

Five years later at the Mint, I left wiser and smarter, with a new toolbox of tricks and a bag full of triumphs and lessons learned.

Solving business problems through effective communications

All this experience culminated in creating and leading the biggest communications program CPCS has seen in 50 years. Oh, and add the unexpected COVID-19 communications to the mix.

Here is an overview of what my team has accomplished in just over nine months.

A few results:

  • Shifted the business from information distribution to communications management
  • Made CPCS a better publisher; moving from content chaos to content strategy
  • Set new standards for effective internal communications
  • Refreshed and unified the firm’s visual identity
  • Boosted the firm’s visibility
  • Optimized the firm’s digital presence

Some early impacts:

CPCS saw a surge in job applicants, thanks to better HR marketing.

CPCS started earning media coverage soon after publishing thought leadership content.

Established a strong foundation, according to our 2020 Employee Engagement Survey:

  • 92% of respondents agree that employee communications are keeping them well-informed
  • 88% of respondents reported seeing positive progress in delivering corporate marketing and communications

There’s still much to accomplish, but it’s been a long time since I felt that jolt of satisfaction at work.

It’s gratifying to structure and elevate a communications and marketing function into a powerful engine of change in less than a year.

Lessons learned

Here are some leadership lessons I’ve learned since joining CPCS:  

Make decisions quickly and with conviction

Believing that you can always make data-driven decisions is a lie. Most of the time, you can’t wait for perfect information. An imperfect decision or communication is often better than no decision or waiting for the perfect plan.

Don’t let people put you in a box

You’re the CEO of your career, and you have more power than you realize. Don’t let corporate policies or a rigid corporate environment squeeze you into a little box. Instead, find that place where you’ll be valued, trusted and given the space to do your thing.

Be a purposeful troublemaker

Continuous improvement is key. I like to challenge conventional wisdom, disrupt how things are done and speak up tactfully. The real world is always in flux, and so is life inside organizations. It’s not a good sign if you can’t be involved in the decision-making process or to try new things.

Look for the energy flow in your workplace

It’s a red flag if you’re stalled at every turn. Fearful managers and linear thinkers will deplete your mojo. Trust your instincts and find a workplace that values your energy.

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