AECOM brings together internal, external comms teams

The engineering company has dispersed its internal comms team across its functions.

Heather Rim
Heather Rim

LOS ANGELES: AECOM is bringing together internal and external communications staffers across all of its functions.

Instead of having a separate silo for internal comms, the construction giant has dispersed the 15 employees who made up the group across its comms functions to form new teams, said Heather Rim, chief marketing and communications officer.

"Over the past three years, we looked at the programs we implemented that were impactful, and there was one thing they all had in common: they draw upon the full strength of the team," Rim said. "We felt it was the right time to implement a new model."

Internal comms previously oversaw functional comms, employee engagement tools, and HR comms, while external comms had oversight on PR, financial and corporate comms, and corporate responsibility, said Jason Marshall, AECOM’s senior director of global comms.

"I first want to emphasize that this was not only an internal communications team shift," Marshall said via email. "Leaders from both the external and internal communications teams have integrated remits and broadened their focus areas."

Global communications and corporate responsibility now has oversight in enterprise programs, functional and change communications; PR and editorial content; financial, corporate and digital comms; and corporate responsibility.

The brand strategy function was broadened to include employer brand, which "encompasses much of what was part of HR communications within the former internal communications team," Marshall explained.

No layoffs resulted from the restructuring. At the time the model was implemented, AECOM’s three internal comms leaders reported to Rim. Mark Crowley, VP of internal communications, moved to Boston. He has been working as VP of corporate comms at Fresenius Medical Care North America since June.

Senior director Katie Butterfield oversaw enterprise programs and corporate functional communications; director Tom McAloon oversaw employee engagement tools; and director Annjanette Isorda oversaw HR comms.

Now, within the global comms and corporate responsibility function, Butterfield oversees enterprise programs, functional, and change communications; Marshall oversees PR and editorial content; director Eliot Rebensdorf oversees financial, corporate, and digital comms; McAloon supports Rebensdorf on platforms and tools; and director Grace Chung continues to oversee corporate responsibility.

Isorda oversees employer brand within brand strategy, which still encompasses much of what was part of HR comms.

The restructuring also eliminated heads of internal and external communications, and created the global communications and corporate responsibility function.

AECOM has 70 staffers housed within its four corporate functions. An additional 400 team members make up comms for business units and geographies. Rim has four direct reports: VPs Stephen Getzug, Harriet Hindmarsh, Brendan Ranson-Walsh, and Tara McAdam Kassal.

The groups most affected are those handling global brand strategy and the recently named global communications and corporate responsibility team, respectively led by McAdam Kassal and Ranson-Walsh.

Ranson-Walsh’s function was previously known as global external comms and corporate responsibility. With a new internal perspective, global brand strategy is focusing on turning employees into brand ambassadors, Rim said.

On the corporate responsibility front, AECOM is taking cues from its employees, shaping the function around how employees view the company’s philanthropic efforts. It rolled out a travel grant program, subsidizing volunteer projects for employees. The Blueprint Travel Grant program is part of its larger corporate responsibility program, Blueprint for a Better World, which launched last year, Rim said.

"We’re not leading with the channel," Rim said. "We’re leading with the impact of the work and how that plays out across the channels."

Global strategic marketing, overseen by Hindmarsh, has rolled out tools to employees such as an internal networking platform called Wheel of Services and a thought leadership platform called Without Limits. Meanwhile, executive communications, led by Getzug, has always had an internal bent, Rim said.  

Along with the internal-external convergence, comms staffers were given what Rim called a "discipline-agnostic career framework," designed to increase career mobility.

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