ING’s Melissa Kanter on the importance of a female comms community

Kanter shares what she gets from maintaining a support structure of other women and looks back on her induction into the Ragan Top Women of Communications class of ’23.

As communications function has changed drastically over the past few years, so too have the skills that attract people to become career communicators. For Melissa Kanter, head of communications and brand experience for ING Americas, this has proven especially true among the women communications leaders she counts as colleagues.

“The skills that attracted women to this you field —  high EQ, being great at listening, multitasking — all remians true, but as the industry has changed the strategic kind of know-how and our ability to direct and lead companies, whether at their best or at their worst has come to the forefront,” she said. “I think it’s a testament to how women have also evolved with this industry. And I think it’s pretty remarkable.”

Ahead of next month, Kanter reflected on what it meant to be inducted into the class of ’23, why being included among a community of women leaders matters, what wins she’s taking into the new year, and more.

A community illuminates shared challenges and opportunities

Kanter recalls nearly pinching herself upon being named a Top Women in Communications last year, but it also reminded her that there’s still always room for growth in an industry that never stops evolving.

“It’s so nice to be included, but I also recognize that there’s still much to learn, that you have to continue to evolve, try different things and not accept the status quo,” she said.

Women have their own kind of challenges that they must grapple with, Kanter pointed out, ranging from managing families alongside work to earning equitable compensation and breaking the glass ceiling.

“I’ve always craved the ability to speak with other women about those issues, and I’ve looked to connect with organizations that help me do that,” continued Kanter. “Not surprisingly, I’ve always been drawn to women who are in the same field as I am.”

The beauty of the communications field, she explained, is that it cuts across so many different industries so that it’s diverse by nature. This has allowed her to nurture relationships with other women who simultaneously explore how they can move forward in their careers while also solving complex communication challenges.

“Peppered in with that is also the reality that sometimes it’s just really hard to manage my day-to-day work with my family responsibilities,” she said. “So the communities that I have built that have been most valuable to me very often tend to be with women that are within the communications field, but are also going through similar life changes as well.”

Raising two daughters has taught Kanter about the merits of keeping a village mentality, and she’s brought that to her professional life, too. “I can think of 10 amazing women who have been in my circle since I began my career who are still part of my circle today,” she said. “We’ve grown up together within the industry.”

Maintaining community goals in the new year

Fittingly, Kanter’s biggest wins from 2023 that she’s bringing into the new year both center around community. Because ING Americas focuses on wholesale banking and doesn’t maintain a consumer business, Kanter’s team maintains a community-minded understanding of who its clients are and gets to know their CFOs, treasurers and other high-level finance professionals.

Over the past year, ING’s efforts have been focused on the sectors and industries these clients operate in. And while it involves a ton of external work, the efforts remind Kanter that ING’s client community, similar to the comms community, grapples with some of the same issues no matter what industry they are in.

“Our clients are ’ dealing with legislation, they’re dealing with sustainability requirements, they’re dealing with building their own teams and attracting talent, they’re dealing with generational shifts and talent,” she said. “We recognized that there would be  value in connecting our community around these types of issues in 2023

This prompted ING to bring a group together in 2023 around different types of content, less high-level than you might see at a large conference and more of a deep dive into the topics that are important to them.

“We asked them, what do they want to talk about?” remembered Kanter. “We were able to mix and mingle with this group that we already had great relationships with, and we wanted to leverage that and connect the dots.”

It wasn’t easy. Kanter’s team had to get internal agreement from other teams to e sure they were comfortable bringing clients together, including buy-in from front-office teams. All of this happened amid a big year at ING including a CEO transition, making this network even more needed.

With so much change happening both within the company and externally, the team also benefitted from building “a trusted sounding board internally to navigate those changes and make sure we’re hitting on the right issues,” she said, with open and authentic communication as a north star.

“People can rally around that,” believes Kanter. “Having that trusted sounding board internally while leveraging community outside of the company has been really, really helpful.”

Check out Kanter’s 2023 Top Women Profile here, and celebrate Ragan’s 2024 Top Women class ahead of next month’s celebration at New York’s City Winery.


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