Interview With GoDaddy’s Carolyn Clark, Senior Director of Internal Communications

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Mister Editorial’s interview series. Each month I’ll publish at least one interview with a senior internal comms leader, so you can learn how other teams operate and find inspiration for your own work.

  • 🗳️ Send your nominations for an interview to editorshaun@gmail.com

Carolyn Clark has spent nearly 15 years in the tech industry leading internal and HR communication at major companies like Yahoo!, Pandora, and Oath (now Verizon Media). In 2019 she joined GoDaddy where she is Senior Director of Internal Communications.

GoDaddy, a publicly-traded company headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, is the world’s largest services platform for entrepreneurs around the globe. They’re on a mission to empower a worldwide community of 19+ million customers by giving them all the help and tools they need to grow online. The company generated about $3.25 billion in revenue last year.

In this interview, Carolyn:

  • talks about how her team repurposes digital signage content for Slack
  • shares a tech tip on how to manage an editorial calendar, and
  • gives advice to those just starting their comms career (hint: “don’t put up with assholes”)
  • ⚡ In the lightning round, Carolyn shares a unique birthday gift idea!

I spoke with Carolyn by phone on July 29 while she was traveling to the North Carolina coast for a beachy respite. The following is an edited version of our conversation.

Describe what you do at GoDaddy.

I am responsible for internal communication and engagement with employees around the business. Our team’s motto is: to make sure our employees know GoDaddy, GoDaddy knows our employees, and we’re all connected (to each other, our customers, our mission). Whether we’re launching a new product, supporting a policy change, or simply celebrating company wins, our job is to make sure we communicate to our employees in effective and authentic ways. Including vendors, that’s about 10,000 employees.

What does the internal comms team look like?

We have 10 people in internal comms [IC]. I am the head of Internal Communications and Internal Brand. On the IC side, one person each is dedicated to corporate affairs, product and engineering, our customer care or service group, and international employees.

Uniquely, half of our team comes from what we call “customer care” jobs — that’s the customer service department. They started out on the phones and then transitioned to internal communications. They come with deep knowledge of the company and what our customers need, so they keep us in check and make us better.

What’s the current status of remote working at GoDaddy?

In April we transitioned 7,000 employees to remote work in 20 days — it was an incredible experience. In the U.S. we’re 100% remote and most of our international offices are closed too, at least until October. We committed to keeping communications about remote working to 60 days out on the calendar.

What is your editorial strategy at GoDaddy?

Our editorial content strategy is really a concept created by Shawn Pfunder, a comms leader at GoDaddy. It focuses on: 1) must know content 2) could know content, and 3) should know content.

  • Must know/do content is your important mass comms. If you don’t know what’s happening, in this case, then it can mess with your life or a customer’s life. In addition to normal channels, we target comms and use management and training to make these comms work. ​
  • Could know content is cool, cultural stuff. These communications have more personality. We want people to know, but immediate business success isn’t at risk if they don’t know. Customer and employee stories, minor updates, check-this-out, that kind of stuff. ​
  • Should know content is the bulk of internal comms. This is material we talk about in town halls, recaps, all-hands, demos, etc. We write articles about this stuff. Someone can do their job not knowing, but it’s easier and more rewarding if they do.​

How has Covid-19 affected your editorial strategy?

Covid-19 hasn’t affected our strategy all that much. We still support customers in the same way, that hasn’t changed. HR and corporate information changes a lot, as you can imagine. Since there’s so much information around HR and company operations, we communicate that info through town halls and Slack.

We did start a popular 24-hour open social line on Zoom about four months ago. Along with the Events team, we create four to eight hours worth of programming every day, such as sessions with any one of our employee resource groups, like the Black in Tech group, or a yoga lesson, or a meeting for working parents. When something isn’t scheduled employees can just open up the Zoom channel and socialize with each other.

A screenshot of some of the social rooms available on Zoom for GoDaddy employees

What’s one editorial series that’s gotten a lot of attention?

We have a series called “Customer Love” that used to publish only on our digital signage. Since nobody is in the office, we adapted the series for Slack. Customer Love features all kinds of our customers — from artists to plumbers — who are increasing their digital presence. We create a graphic that gives details about those clients and we blast it out in a broadcast [one way] Slack channel.

For the Customer Love series, team members in Marketing, Public Relations, and IC work together to find clients to highlight. For example, we discovered a single mom who was frustrated that she couldn’t find a quality treatment for her son’s eczema. So she created the product herself, set up an e-commerce website with GoDaddy, and word got out. She’s now so successful her products are sold in places like Target.

What’s more, once per quarter we buy products from one of our GoDaddy clients and we give the items to employees. It’s just another way to show our customers how much we value their business. I love the Customer Love series and so do our employees. It shows how being customer-focused is ingrained in our nature at GoDaddy.

Two examples of Customer Love assets that are shared on Slack, alongside more info about the GoDaddy clients

Do you publish a newsletter?

Our team is responsible for five newsletters to specific departments. For example, our EMEA newsletter, a customer service newsletter, and so on.

We have a primary global newsletter called In Case You Missed It (ICYMI), which is stripped down and has no branding. [editor’s note: sound familiar?] It’s the basics of what you want in a newsletter: informative, witty writing, no fluff. We highlight one customer and three or four things employees might have missed during the week. Links drive employees to a Microsoft Stream [video content] or to our intranet, which is a SharePoint site.

The newsletter is very popular. It’s not sent from an alias; it’s sent from an actual person, Isaac. So the whole company gets the ICYMI newsletter from Isaac. It doesn’t feel like you’re being marketed to. It’s super simple. Clever. Clean. This is why it has such high engagement.

An example of the ICYMI newsletter

What’s one tech tip that makes your team efficient?

We use Airtable as our editorial calendar and project management tool. When I started we were using Excel. Having an editorial content calendar built for internal comms folks has been incredible. You can see what other people are working on; the transparency is so helpful. I love it.

Here’s another one: Noah, a genius on my team, created bots in Slack for us. Once we do something, like publish an article on a new product or post information about a town hall, the bot lets our stakeholders know in various Slack channels: what we did, what they need to know about it, and why it’s important. It’s a tech tool that keeps our partners informed with what we’re doing.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone entering IC today?

One? I’ll give you three!

First, have other experiences before moving into IC. I started as a news producer, then moved to celebrity PR, then corporate PR. Remind yourself of your past experiences. All the audiences you previously engaged represent employees in different ways. If your only experience is in IC you’ll become jaded. So get some other experience first, whether it’s in your career or in life.

Second, GoDaddy’s IC team lives by the phrase “audience first, stakeholder second.” The latter is the loudest, most demanding; these are the executives, usually. We have to constantly check ourselves to make sure we keep the audience first. Too often IC folks can fall into the trap of being people pleasers. Be prepared to stand up for what you believe in, even if the people are more influential than you.

Third, don’t be an asshole. Be a good, smart, respectful colleague. Don’t put up with assholes either. They eventually go away. Jerks get weeded out in a supportive culture, like we have at GoDaddy.

⚡ LIGHTNING ROUND ⚡

You work at GoDaddy. How many web domains do you own?

Twelve! I buy them for people’s birthdays. I buy their name .com as a birthday gift. I just bought my nephew his name for a domain.

Which trait do you most admire in others?

The ability to admit mistakes. I respect people who can say “I’m sorry” in a small setting or in a big setting.

What’s your most-used app?

Instagram. I use it nonstop.

Podcast recommendation?

Dolly Parton’s America. I’m listening to it for the second time.

What’s your favorite room at home and why?

In my six-year-old daughter’s room there is a bookshelf that is actually a door to a secret playroom. I love it for so many reasons. For one, it keeps her stuff in one place! In that room she’s allowed to be whoever or do whatever she wants, and I can hear her having so much fun. I love being in the room with her and just playing. She’s my favorite person.

What do your parents think you do for a living?

Haha. My mom thinks I just talk all the time. Which is pretty accurate, honestly. She’s so impressed I get paid money to talk all the time.

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Many internal comms teams don’t have an editorial strategy. I’m here to fix that. Newsletter: https://mistereditorial.substack.com/.

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Mister Editorial

Mister Editorial

Many internal comms teams don’t have an editorial strategy. I’m here to fix that. Newsletter: https://mistereditorial.substack.com/.

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