Our alumnus Nilla Hietamäki: Communications expert finds inspiration in topics that spark emotion
Nilla Hietamäki describes her career path as a more or less determined process of seeking roles that suit her profile. Duties related to media, interest group and image management feel particularly close to her. That being said, Nilla admits that coincidences have also contributed to her journey.
As the basis of her expertise, Nilla holds a master’s degree from the University of Tampere where she studied Journalism and Mass Communication, English Philology, French, International Politics and Public Law. Having worked for a variety of work communities and expert organisations, she finds that her studies have provided an excellent foundation for the various phases of her career.
“As a journalist, you learn about a variety of topics. You learn to be fast, find information and provide the essential details in a concise form. Popularising complex topics is also a useful skill, since you shouldn’t dump too much information on the target audience,” Nilla Hietamäki says.
Alongside the high-quality teaching and inspirational group work, she also appreciates the lessons learned through her involvement in student politics. Among other duties, she served as the chair of her student organisation and was involved in the department council, the Student Union and European student activities.
“The studies provided me with a very broad education and deepened my understanding of us humans and society at large. Internationality has also been a key element in my career. My studies gave me two solid cornerstones, communication skills and the English language, and practical work has then taught me further,” Nilla describes.
Messenger, coach and guardian for a distraction-free workplace
Colleagues have come to know Nilla Hietamäki first and foremost as an energetic and easily excitable person. Energy is something her work requires in spades, as the duties and interest groups of a communications specialist and director are extremely diverse. Among other things, Nilla sees herself as a messenger, a coach and a guardian for a distraction-free workplace for her team.
“A communications director juggles a wide variety of tasks. The duties include communications planning, media and interest group relations, image management, as well as negotiating and communicating with other departments. I also find it important to ensure that there are no extra distractions disturbing the team’s work. Everyone needs time for thinking and creativity,” Nilla says.
Sparring with the management and other experts is another important part of the work. As an example, this means supporting specialists in preparing and publishing materials related to their own work, as specialist contents can be fairly difficult to understand. The experts have no shortage of strong competence and useful views, but they may lack the courage to raise public discussion. The communications department’s coaching on traditional and social media provides support and tools for communicating about one’s own work and specialist field.
Fireworks and happy taxpayers
At the beginning of April 2022, Nilla started as Director of Communications and Customers at the Finnish Forest Centre. For the preceding five years, she worked for the Finnish Tax Administation’s communications department, where her last area of responsibility was managing the organisation’s daily communications. Nilla says that she was slightly wistful when leaving behind the Tax Administration but also highly confident in its skilled team and efficient, forward-looking organisation.
At the Tax Administration, Nilla managed wide-ranging tasks from social media communications and media releases to the organisation’s image and emergency preparedness. Nilla has been asked to talk about the Tax Administration’s oft-praised and award-winning communications in many contexts and events. The launch of the new and bold approach in autumn 2018 was partially a coincidence and partially the result of determined efforts.
“The fresh communications mindset was made possible by the Tax Administration’s forward-looking management, culture of experimentation and efforts to bring together the strengths of various experts. Coincidence was involved in the form of successful timing. We launched the ASMR tax whisperer just before tax card processing was transferred to the MyTax service. We were genuinely nervous, but the audience was very receptive to our humorous and soothing themes,” Nilla says.
An important part of successful communications was basing the light and entertaining social media contents on useful and informative goals. A funny social media post has often sparked a discussion involving both humour and fact. The comment thread may provide someone with a convenient opportunity to ask the customer service about travel expenses, for example. Nilla actually thinks that the “comment reels” running alongside the social media posts have been an integral part of the communications content.
Nilla Hietamäki wide interest in communications has driven her to a variety of work positions. Over the years, she has worked in specialist positions at the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency Tukes, UPM Metsä and Ahlstrom, and with international trade at UPM Raflatac. Earlier on, she worked as a journalist for several newspapers, as a travel guide abroad and taught writing at the University of Tampere.
Nilla identifies her enjoyment of working with things that spark emotion as a common thread in her career so far.
“My work at Tukes pertained to areas such as consumer safety, chemicals and fireworks, which obviously all spark emotion. And the same goes for taxation. Now I am back to forest-related matters, and every Finn obviously has a strong emotional connection to forests,” Nilla says.
In her new position as Director of Communications and Customers and member of the board at the Finnish Forest Centre, Nilla is off to a running start: The Forest Centre’s organisation has been recently updated and substantial changes are taking place in the operating environment. Security of supply and domestic sources of energy and raw materials are among the current hot topics. In addition to communications, Nilla’s new responsibilities include information services and customer experience management. In Nilla’s opinion, these areas fit well together and require close cooperation with both internal and external interest groups.
Nilla is very familiar with customer-oriented thinking, thanks to her time at the Tax Administration, where taxpayers were seen as customers to be provided with a positive customer experience. The Finnish Forest Centre’s customers include forest sector operators and nearly 600,000 forest owners. The organisation is an expert at forest-related matters, but there is still some room for improvement in information use and customer centricity.
The Finnish Forest Centre supports forest owners’ decisions and the entire forest sector by providing open forest and nature information and unbiased services. Finland has the world’s largest forest resource database, which is managed by the Finnish Forest Centre. The Forest Centre also oversees forest legislation, grants support for managing forests and nature, and promotes wholly sustainable forest use that acknowledges the many values of forests.
“In a way, I made a return to forested matters and interest groups. A forest is a living element linked to myriad aspects, ranging from economy and livelihoods to logistics, nature and the environment, recreation, sustainability and responsibility. The forest sector is keenly aware of its inherent opportunities and challenges. That said, there is still plenty to communicate to customers and interest groups within and outside the sector,” Nilla notes.
The centre’s head office is located in Lahti, but the operations are nationwide. Nilla intends to continue living in Tampere.
“I consider myself to be quite firmly rooted in Tampere. My home and family are in Tampere, and I find the city to be pleasant and convenient in terms of its atmosphere and scale,” Nilla says.
Nilla greatly appreciates her role as an alumnus of the University of Tampere and sees her student years as an amazing period in her life.
“Human interaction has always been important to me, and I certainly met a lot of people at the university. The place itself enables a wide and varied range of encounters. The stairs and benches of the main building are wonderful for spending time, and the Alakuppila Café is of course legendary. I also particularly like the main building’s impressive lobby area. It gives you enough space and air to breathe in,” Nilla says.
Who: Nilla Hietamäki
Position: Director of Communications and Customers at the Finnish Forest Centre.
Degree: Master of Arts (English Philology, Journalism and Mass Communication, French, International Politics, Public Law)
Other: Chair of the Julkisen alan tiedottajat JAT association, member of the Council of Ethics for Communication (VEN)
Quote: “My work is extremely varied, but my leading principle has always been human interaction. I work most of all with people and for people. In my priorities, people always come first, before any matters or work tasks at hand.”
Text: Tiina Leivo
Picture: Jonne Renvall