Internal communications manager
While reading for her BA in PR, Debra Forte completed internships at Rubenstein PR and Freud Communications, before graduating magna cum laude. Soon afterwards, she combined an executive role at PR Newswire with studying for her MBA.
After moving to the UK to specialise in internal communications, Forte implemented a global internal communications strategy for recruitment specialists Hydrogen Group and was solely responsible for internal communications at estate agents Savills.
Since joining professional service consultancy PwC just one year ago, Forte has played a pivotal role in transforming internal communications, according to director of internal communications Amanda Folkes. ‘Her astute, considered approach is unusual in IC managers with significantly more experience, and she simultaneously considers commercial objectives and client needs, while putting herself in the audience’s shoes,’ adds Folkes.
‘Her trademark is continuous improvement.’
At PwC, Forte has developed a new way of communicating financial results, turning complex data and jargon into dynamic visual content that helps people understand performance and the part they play in achieving that. Having tested the approach with partners and chief operating officers across the organisation, she ‘sold it in’ to a chief financial officer who was previously committed to publishing traditional accounts.
When PwC began trialling Google For Work, Forte was quick to spot the opportunities and benefits for internal communications. She persuaded the trial’s managers to allow the internal communications team to participate, and subsequently trained as a Google guide.
This action helped the team to collaborate more closely and effectively, and opened doors to conversations with senior leaders about the importance and value of internal communications.
Forte also worked with human resource on how to communicate a new approach to professional development. Using gamifi cation techniques, she helped deliver The PwC Professional Challenge, in which more than ten per cent of the organisation actively participated.
Folkes claims this is an ‘unprecedented achievement for a centrally led programme aimed at a staff group of 18,000 people’. Forte built on her success with a visually striking complementary cascade, which prompted conversations about professional development across the organisation.
Colleagues comment on Forte’s ‘positive approach’ and her ‘commitment to high level delivery’, while Folkes describes her as a ‘role model for IC professionals’. After a telephone interview with Forte, the judges found that she ‘demonstrated an integrated approach to her work, and was able to well articulate her ability to influence and shape the opinion of others and to cut through jargon to deliver clear, concise and engaging content’.