“My favorite thing about working for Facebook is the open and transparent culture,” says Netta Conyers-Haynes. “I feel like I have access to information to do my job, and that everyone values honesty and openness.”
Conyers-Haynes has more than 18 years of experience in public relations, internal communications, marketing and print journalism, and has been a PRSA member since 2004. Currently, she is internal communications manager for the world’s largest social network, Facebook. In this role, she is responsible for driving proactive communication efforts and programming around company values, goals and the corporate mission.
Previously, she worked in health care communications for both Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente, where she led internal and external communication programs, executive communications, and supported the launch of Blue Shield’s diversity program in support of women and African-Americans in the workplace.
Conyers-Haynes began her career in technology public relations on the agency side and worked for Marimba, Inc., and Legato Systems before starting her own PR business, Conyers Communications. She was also a reporter for the Silicon Valley Business Journal, SchoolSports.com and the Brentwood Press, and formerly served as the Chapter President of PRSA San Francisco.
She received a master’s in strategic communication and leadership from Seton Hall University in New Jersey, a bachelor’s in public relations from San Jose State University and a certificate in integrated marketing from the University of California, Berkeley Extension. Conyers-Haynes lives in Benicia, Calif., and is also an avid runner.
What was your dream job as a child?
To be a journalist — I wanted to tell stories about fascinating people and educate the world on the things that mattered. I figured if that didn’t work out, I would be the first female player in the NBA; little did I know the WNBA would be created.
How did you get your start in public relations and come to work for Facebook?
When I first entered college, I was studying journalism and public relations was not on my radar. While in school, I took an HR job at Navigation Technologies. I wanted to start a company newsletter and someone suggested I speak with the PR manager. After that meeting, I felt like I would enjoy her job because I could still write, but also be exposed to other aspects of the company. I changed my major to public relations and got an internship with Alexander Communications in San Francisco.
That internship opened my eyes to how public relations works and what it takes to be in the profession. I decided to continue along the agency path; my first full-time PR job was with The Weber Group. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to be the client, so I went in-house and worked for Legato Systems and Marimba, Inc.
Throughout my career, I’ve tried to diversify my experience by working in different sectors and picking up new skills. I spent seven years in internal communications before the job at Facebook. About a year ago, Facebook was looking to expand its internal communications team, and it turned out to be a great fit for both of us.
Describe your leadership style. Also, what makes a good leader?
My leadership style is participative. I like to roll up my sleeves and work with my team, but I’m also mindful that I have to allow team members to solve problems. I focus on empowering others and clearing obstacles so they can do their best work. A good leader understands the value of each team member and is able to help them combine individual skills to work collaboratively in achieving their team goal — similar to how Steve Kerr coached the Golden State Warriors to their recent NBA championship win.
What are the keys to implementing strong, strategic storytelling?
Storytelling is not only a basic form of communication that nearly everyone uses, but it’s also core to PR practitioners. It can capture an audience’s attention quickly and keep them involved, so it’s important to know your audience well and creatively tell your story in a way that appeals to them. Above all else, be honest and transparent.
What challenges do you face in your day-to-day job?
I’m focused on making sure that every employee feels connected to Facebook’s mission. The daily challenge we’re all focused on as an internal communications team is to make sure employees can easily access and understand company information.
What’s the best way to align, connect and inspire today’s employees?
Understand what motivates people, and that’s going to be different for each person. Company culture is a significant factor in determining the best way to align, connect and inspire, but transparent communication is critical.
Transparency builds trust, and when there’s trust between leaders and employees, and it’s flowing through the company, people feel more empowered and included. There are risks, but the good outweighs the bad.
How do you ensure that employees feel engaged and connected to the Facebook mission?
One way to engage employees is to have them share their personal stories of how they are experiencing the mission. Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and create a more open and connected world. It’s powerful when employees have positive stories to share about their company’s product or service and can see the mission come to life for them personally. That’s a connection.
Of equal importance is to help people see how the work they do every day contributes to the big picture of what the company is trying to achieve. If you can see yourself in that story, you have more purpose and meaning, which leads to greater engagement.
Why do you think it’s important to be involved in organizations that focus on networking and continuing education?
I was a member of PRSSA in college and found it to be a valuable resource, so it was a no-brainer to be involved once I entered the profession. Being a part of PRSA has helped me learn more about the functions of public relations that I had little exposure to and gave me an opportunity to develop my leadership skills while on the board of the San Francisco Chapter. Our profession is always changing and organizations like PRSA can connect you to people and resources that support you as your career evolves and the profession shifts.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your 18-year PR career?
The importance of building relationships with everyone around you — public relations is about building trusting relationships with the media, clients and other stakeholders. Often it’s those “other” stakeholders who are neglected, but still very important. I’d like to think that I’ve learned something about building and sustaining positive relationships that achieve results and make everyone successful.
What advice do you have for those looking to break into public relations?
If you’re looking to break into the PR profession, then you need a unique offering. Think about how your past experiences can be assets for the role you’re seeking. I recommend young professionals get exposed to the many functions of business and public relations early on, and pursue an internship at an agency or company to learn the ropes.
What trends do you see on the horizon for public relations and the tech sector?
A trend I’ve noticed is the emergence of a stronger partnership with internal communications when building trust and confidence in companies. Internal communications is not new, but I’m seeing companies invest in strengthening this capability. Another is the influence of social media. We Like, friend, un-friend, post, tweet and pin almost more than we talk — it’s growing and involving. I think we’ll continue to see this growth and experience some true breakthroughs on how we communicate.
Getting to Know…Netta Conyers-Haynes
Today, it’s “Jurassic World,” despite all of the product placements.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Be kind and be fearless.”
What are your daily sources of news?
Facebook, of course