Kim Clark knows all about compelling stories. As a documentary filmmaker, she sat in hospital waiting rooms with distraught parents as their prematurely born infants struggled to survive. She spent countless hours with ocean beach lifeguards, waiting for them to leap into action to rescue people in trouble.
Intense storytelling experiences like those, where she captured heart-wrenching moments of both sorrow and triumph, set the foundation for Clark’s philosophy as an internal communication leader.
“Employees are human beings, first and foremost,” said Clark, the Director of Culture and Communications at GoDaddy. “What is a company besides a bunch of people who are trying to relate to one another and invest their time in fulfilling work? We have varied upbringings. We come from different cultures. And we’re all mashed up into this corporate structure. So, let’s make sure our communication brings everyone together.”
Clark was a featured speaker at the inaugural Summit by Dynamic Signal conference on the topic of building what she describes as a “resilient culture.” She notes that full-time workers will spend more than 2,000 hours each year on the job. That’s often greater than the time spent with friends and family.
That’s why, in her view, communicators aren’t merely dispensing information in their organizations. They’re the conduits for building the kind of trust, transparency, and inclusion that makes that time commitment from employees genuinely worthwhile.
“We all want to feel recognized, empowered, know that we’re doing something valuable that matters, and that we can chase our dreams by being who we are,” she added. “I’m grateful to have a unique position that influences how people feel about coming to work every day.”
Her own career path has been a meandering journey that includes roles in teaching, writing, marketing, and filmmaking. She now makes use of all those talents in internal communication.
“If you look at my LinkedIn profile, it seems like a chaotic mess,” she said, laughing. “But it makes sense to me because it all has to do with people and storytelling.”
Clark has been around cameras as long as she can remember. Growing up, she was always sneaking into family videos – long before photobombing was a thing. Her parents encouraged that interest by giving her an 8mm video camera. By high school, she had advanced to a VHS camera when she persuaded a Spanish teacher to let her record a telenovela instead of writing a paper.
So, it probably wasn’t a surprise that one day she would work as a project lead for an agency creating Discovery Channel documentaries that included the award-winning “Preemies: The Fight for Life.” Her most fulfilling project, though, was a deeply personal feature-length film called “God and Gays: Bridging the Gap,” which drew inspiration from her own coming-out story.
In 2010, after a friend encouraged her to explore internal communications, she joined semiconductor manufacturer KLA-Tencor. She was pleasantly surprised to find that her storytelling background had been the perfect preparation.
“I felt like I had found this home where I could identify communication challenges and then use my skills to solve them, either through video, blogs, or images,” Clark said. “Whatever a director puts in the frame is what people pay attention to. I wanted to be like a documentary director and communicate what was happening at the company in creative and interesting ways.”
Since moving to GoDaddy in 2015, she has been part of a remarkable corporate image reinvention. The internet domain registrar company previously had been best-known for racy TV commercials that were harshly criticized as sexist. Today, GoDaddy is recognized as one of the most inclusive companies in tech and considered “a lodestar among gender equity advocates,” according to the New York Times.
That transformation has included an internal communication strategy designed by Clark that boosted trust in leadership by 13 percent in just six months, an employee engagement survey found. One of her primary tools was storytelling.
She created an 18-minute video for employees that told the history of GoDaddy. She worked to humanize company leaders in the way they communicate with employees. Clark also launched the GoDaddy Brave series where employees tell their inspirational stories. (She has shared about her life, too.)
“They’re very powerful,” she said. “It makes you really see the people who work with you in a whole new way and realize what we all have in common.”
Clark likes to say that culture happens with or without you. Her message to communicators: You better have a strategy to create a positive one. That way, you can help build a company where everyone wants to work.
Director of Culture and Communication at GoDaddy; instructor at San Jose State
Summit Speaking Topic: Co-creating a Resilient Culture
Family: Son Jordan (9), daughter Kaiyan (7)
Home: Santa Cruz, CA
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees from San Jose State
Career: Wide range of experience includes culture, communication, and marketing roles with NetApp, PayPal, and KLA-Tencor; video producer at Cisco; independent filmmaker
Interests: Playing softball, hiking, telling stories that help bring people together
Favorite Books: A long list includes “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson; “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High;” and “Anything that Dan Pink writes.”
Favorite TV Shows: “Madam Secretary;” “Orange is the New Black;” “Grace and Frankie”
Favorite Movie: “Wonder Woman”
What to Know about Kim: Son Jordan is her hero. “My son has autism and is epileptic. He was in and out of hospitals for three years. He’s just resilient. He’s been able to take the hits and keep moving and stand up for the life he wants. It’s just very inspiring.”
Words to Live By: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi
Follow: @KimClark1 on Twitter and ProducerKimClark on LinkedIn
Five Questions with Kim
What is the most significant communication challenge facing organizations today?
“I would say the biggest is building trust between employees and leaders. Everything depends on that trust. How many of our leaders have been in the news for poor behavior? There’s skepticism out there. People only want to go to companies that have positive reputations. Yes, there’s a lot of pressure and accountability on communicators today. But there’s also a real opportunity for communicators to be influential in how their companies communicate trust and transparency in a way that’s real, authentic and human.”
Where do you see Employee Communication and Engagement heading in the future?
“I think it goes back to that point about being more influential. But we’ll need to take responsibility for that power. When we push ‘send’ on an email, some of us are hitting 250,000 employees. A human being’s attention is the most important asset that anyone can give you. If somebody is willing to give you five minutes of their time to read something, you better deliver value. If we just dish out corporate-speak without any humanity, emotion or humor, then people will not read it. It will be wasted effort. Time is precious. Communication has to be solving a problem, providing value and nourishing an appetite.”
If you could share one piece of advice with communicators, what would it be?
“My advice is to be conscious. Be super aware of what you’re doing and the influence you can have on how employees think about their company, their job, and their leaders. Yes, we may be sending emails out about open enrollment. But how are we also using communications like that to build relationships? Those open enrollment emails are simply another way to create a stronger culture.”
Why is it critical for communicators to be gathering now?
“Conferences can be group therapy sessions. So many of us are out there by ourselves, sinking or swimming. Then when we get together, it’s like, ‘Oh my god, everyone is having this problem!’ You don’t feel alone. I typically say at the end of my sessions that you should take advantage of the network that you’re building here because when you go back to your office, you’re by yourself again. But right now, there are probably 50 people in this room who are the same boat as you. Build your network. I really believe in hearing what other people are doing so you can take it and customize it to your own culture.”
Why are you most excited to be attending the Summit?
“It’s really interesting to see a focus on being ambassadors outside of the company. Over half of our employees have always been vocal externally about how great GoDaddy is. They were doing it on their own. Now we’re building a strategy around it. So, to have a conference where you can see how other companies have taken advantage of that is great. I’m looking forward to hearing more about how other companies are doing this.”