The Commonality in Communication: The Journey of Andréa Maria Cecil Topper into Internal Comms

We all have journeys in life. Rarely do these plans go as expected. Some people fight the direction, believing that the only goals for their life and career are those precisely mapped out with extreme detail. When life throws them a jolt, it can be disconcerting. Some people fall apart. Other people like to take the path that comes to them. People like Andréa Maria Cecil Topper, Director of Internal Communications at Guardant Health,

Andréa understands that taking the non-traditional way of finding work can create an eclectically diverse experience, garnering expansive knowledge. But that does not mean she did not have an action plan, goals, and achievements at each new place of employment. Andréa’s contribution to her news roles was partly due to a 22-year diverse career and her gift for storytelling. 

In Simpplr’s 11th Cohesion Podcast, Amanda Berry, Manager of Corporate Brand & Communications and Head of Internal Communications, sat with Andréa. They discussed her ideas behind a range of jobs and how Andréa uses internal communications to motivate, inspire, and influence company culture.  

Not on Purpose

Andréa’s professional journey is a fascinating, non-traditional path into corporate communications. She started as a journalist in the news world and stayed for about 12 years. From there, she migrated into content marketing. Though, she didn’t know that was actually what she was doing. It was similar to journalism, and she is a storyteller at heart. It was a natural evolution for her. Then, Andréa found another great love—CrossFit.

According to the website, CrossFit is “a lifestyle characterized by safe, effective exercise and sound nutrition.” The workout style and methodology were developed by Greg Glassman, who cofounded the CrossFit business in 2000. It involves mixed functional movements conducted at high power, pace, and intensity. CrossFit greatly inspired Andréa. She began writing journalistic-style articles and magazine-length feature stories on the exercise regimen. Andréa didn’t realize at the time that what she was doing was really content marketing.

After she left CrossFit, Andréa was recruited for a position at the Silicon Valley company Agilent Technologies. They make instruments and consumables for biotech industries. Ironically, one of Agilent’s customers was Guardant, who drew her away from Agilent, engaged her, and that is where she is currently.

Andréa does not see her career journey as a combination of elements of a great strategy. “Yeah, my path has been very untraditional,” Andréa explained. “It wasn’t part of any kind of grand plan scheme or anything like that. At first, I saw that as a negative when I started, especially when I started at Agilent.” That is when she discovered a two-part approach that can be applied to communication in every environment.

The Words You Choose

It was her first time being in a typical corporate environment, and Andréa realized that there is a commonality in the world of communication. Becoming integrated into the content marketing field included acclimation to words that were different from her usual vocabulary. She admitted that she “didn’t understand the parlance or the lingo.” For example, in the newsroom, an editorial calendar is referred to as “a budget.” However, she did find universality in all of it. The first part was vocabulary. Learning to master the interchangeability of words is something everyone can benefit from.  Though it may not seem fields compatible, they indeed are.

In communications, you’re thinking about like, well, that path doesn’t seem linear, or how can I get there? The basics are the same, right?”

Inadvertently, Andréa discovered that there was power in the words we choose. They may seem singular, but they are always equivalent terms that relate us to our subject matter and audience.

Who is Your Audience

In content creation and editing, you need to tailor your writing to the audience. Andréa said that is naturally something every human does. She explained it in the way people change the manner in which they speak to various people.

“You talk to your mother differently than you talk to your significant other, than you talk to your sibling, than you talk to your friend, right? We have that in us already. So, all that is the same as identifying an audience. How do I resonate with this audience?”

Her ability to identify an audience in any setting and the flexibility of language helped her write and create content. That is when she learned there should be no difference in internal communications. The nuance of ICs is determining whom you are communicating with and for—and then learning to speak their language.

Guardant is a very fast-moving, young company. According to Andréa, there is still much to learn about communicating maturely and creating processes. There are questions surrounding what they should do and why. There is even a need to explain the role of internal communications. Through it all, Andréa provides continuity, consistency, and especially why a company needs to communicate throughout its organization.  

Andréa has mastered the transition from journalism, fitness, marketing, and now internal communications. There is no doubt that she will succeed in establishing the processes and content for Guardant and anywhere she goes in the future. Most of all, Andréa has shown that a range of experience and flexibility not only has a place in internal comms but it is also the future of ICs. It can influence everything about a company, from the employee experience to company culture. 

To listen to this compelling podcast in full, go to Simpplr’s Cohesion Podcast site, Spotify, or Apple Podcasts.

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