Amisha Mehta in the #CommsCorner

QUT VC Awards 2016. QUT Gardens Point,  Brisbane on June 13, 2016. Picture-Patrick Hamilton

Amisha at the QUT VC Awards 2016 at QUT Gardens Point, Brisbane. Picture: Patrick Hamilton

Five years and six months after she first joined us in the #CommsCorner, we catch up with Amisha Mehta, an Associate Professor at QUT Business School, and get another insight into a professional communicator’s life.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

I’m an educator and researcher in risk and crisis communication at the QUT Business School who likes to bring the future into present experiences for students and research participants as a means to encourage change.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

Every day is different but usually involves a mix of teaching preparation or delivery, research design/analysis or reading recent publications, client and/or student meetings, and lots of coffee.

When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?

I knew I wanted to be a lecturer when I saw a student’s face light up as she landed on an idea for a public relations campaign. There is so much power in an idea and it’s a privilege to share that space.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

My communication hero, mentor and, gratefully, collaborator is Associate Professor Brooke Fisher Liu. Brooke is one of the top, industry-engaged researchers in risk and crisis communication, based at the University of Maryland. I admire the way she approaches work and life.

Which tools can’t you live without?

My mobile to keep me connected and my children to keep me on my toes.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

The single question that challenges me as an educator is also the greatest force for creativity: How can I create learning experiences that build student capacity for future environments where work is unknown?

Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?

I don’t often get to work on campaigns but I have the opportunity to design, analyse and make recommendations from research that has been used to prototype new products and services.

Which campaign do you most admire?

Every year, I read through the Golden Target Award-winning campaigns and one that stands the test of time is the Target 140 campaign, which was designed to reduce South-East Queensland households’ water usage during the drought in 2007. It cleverly integrated behavioural change models with communication to drive business and social outcomes. The other campaign I admire is the second version of ‘If it’s flooded, forget it’. This campaign uses clever messages to encourage smart decision-making during flood events.

What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?

Along with all things digital, we’re seeing value for interdisciplinary work and evidence-based decision-making.

If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?

Always keep or make space for research that guides strategy and not just confirms the problem.

What quality do you look for in your communication team members?

I like working with people who are creative and take the initiative to solve problems or find opportunities.

What’s your favourite brand?

Qantas and Canturi—both create and sustain connections.

What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

I like to read blogs from other disciplines/fields and one of my favourites is the Crew blog. It cleverly mixes design principles with work and creativity and I always take something away from it.

What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?

Numbers matter and go hand-in-hand with words to create meaning—data analysis and accounting are your friends. Do not avoid them.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

…a way to conquer uncertainty and unlock transformative thinking.

Copy cat


6509860769_b9e231e3c0_zWith a title like that you probably think we’re going to cover the 1995 thriller starring the fabulous Sigourney Weaver. As much as we could chat about that great film – copy cat serial killers do make for intriguing scripts – today we’re focusing on another copy cat.

Instead we’ll focus on something current and newsworthy: Melania Trump’s speech that appears to have parts copied or “borrowed” from Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech for her 2016 Republican National Convention speech in Cleveland. Melania was there as the keynote speaker and to support her husband. She has certainly managed to create some media attention around the event.

The public has criticised Melania Trump on social media, with many using the hashtag #FamousMelaniaTrumpQuotes to mockingly attribute the famous words of others to the prospective First Lady.

I think the best way to explain this is to look at a few of the great memes that have popped up on social media. The internet was and remains flooded with so many that have us laughing out loud.


As you can see the media and the public have really taken to this one. Stephen Colbert offered a great impersonation on his show: it was hard not to chuckle.

Is this a PR crisis in action? Donald Trump’s campaign manager defended Melania Trump on Tuesday saying her speech consisted of “common words and values”. He took the reactive approach, blaming the widely critical reaction to the speech on the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down,” he said. “It’s not going to work.”

We’re not here to judge, but the speech does have a striking resemblance to the 2008 speech of Michelle Obama’s.

Judge for yourself. Here’s the full speech side by side with Michelle Obama’s.


Jack and the c word crew

Nikki Parkinson in the #CommsCorner

Nikki Parkinson of Styling You. Photo by Sarah Keayes/The Photo Pitch

Nikki Parkinson of Styling You. Photo by Sarah Keayes/The Photo Pitch

Former journalist Nikki Parkinson @stylingyou is the creator behind the style, beauty, travel and lifestyle blog Styling You. She’s a mother, a wife, a successful {full-time} blogger, a public speaker, a style guru, a Queenslander, and a published author. She has won a Queensland Telstra Business Award. Taking her love and tenacity for writing, mixing it with her love of all things fashion and forging a successful blogging career.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

I’m a wife, mum and former journo who accidentally landed in the world of blogging/social influencing. My platform is Styling You and I love being able to communicate my style tips to a highly engaged audience of women.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

There isn’t a typical day and that’s why I like it. There is always a writing and content but alongside that goes the communicating with my audience on Facebook, Instagram and my blog. Then, like any business, there is always forward planning and admin work to attend to. I may have meetings or launches to attend as well.

When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?

I’ve always been up for a chat and must have been so early on as my mum dressed me up as a windbag for my first ever fancy dress party. I wasn’t impressed but clearly it was indicative of my five-year-old self.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

Business Chick’s Emma Isaacs. I love how Emma has built a highly engaged and connected community of women – from around Australia and now the US – all while being an accessible and approachable person.

Which tools can’t you live without?

My entire Apple orchard. My iPhone 6 plus would be at the top of the list.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Keeping ahead of competition by coming up with new ways to connect and communicate with my audience

Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?

I’m ambassador for FRANKiE4 Footwear so it’s an ongoing campaign but I love the business story behind this brand. It’s exciting to work with them testing shoes that are still in pre-production stage and it’s exciting to be able to share the range with my audience when it’s released each season.

Which campaign do you most admire?

I admire iconic fashion label Katies for looking to harness social influencers as part of its marketing strategy. To me this is a huge step forward for fashion labels, understanding that their customers want to be marketed to by people who they can relate to – in age and size.

What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?

Technology. I started with a desk phone and a typewriter – no computer, no internet and a strong need for people to answer and return your calls!

What quality do you look for in your communication team members?

I ask that they be themselves.

What’s your favourite brand?


What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?

Technology will change, ride with it – at the heart of it all it’s still about people connecting with others.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’ key to starting a conversation.

Half century of clocks, craft and children’s entertainment


BenitaAndDonLong before Dora went exploring and a pig called Peppa ruled our screens, there was Play School. Good old trustworthy Play School.

It’s Play School’s 50th anniversary on July 18th and time to celebrate 50 years of clocks, circular windows, craft-time and cuddles.

Each day thousands of parents around the country rely on Big Ted, Little Ted, Humpty, Jemima and all their friends to entertain thousands of Aussie children … and who can forget the Rocket Clock – who is going to tell the story today? And will we look through the Round, Square or Arched window? Communicating messages to a young audience can be difficult at times, but Play School has managed to reach children over and over again for 50 years and counting.

It’s such an iconic part of the Australian Culture that the Australian Mint has designed Play School currency for the show’s anniversary.

The ABC had a dedicated program to reflect back on 5o years – it showed the wide array of Australian actors who have graced the colourful set. And it gave Sally from Summer Bay a chance to test her Play School presenting skills.

Many of us grew up watching Playschool. Watching the people teach us how to craft and create magical objects out of everyday household items – cue the toilet rolls.

Among those teachers is Benita Collings, one of Play School’s longest-serving presenters who appeared on the show for 30 years. Some actors say it’s one of the best gigs you can get. We all have our favourite. Here’s a look at some of the names over the years 

A lot of people think that screen time is bad for kids. But there is a brand-new study showing that with a lot of thought the “right shows” can even “ease aggression in young children”.


What is it that makes Play School so good and helped the show along on its half century journey? Well there are people with games….

  • It’s got the perfect cocktail for preschoolers. The show has just the right amount of talking, singing and dancing.
  • It mixes up the sorts of subjects: science, history, literature, art and emotional skills (it’s ok to be sad) and also helps teach kids the difference between right and wrong.
  • It educates children with all the good things disguised behind catchy lyrics and movements. Children are watching and being educated without even knowing it.
  • Play School is engaging and consistent – if you’ve ever had to entertain a 5-year-old you’ll understand this can be difficult. It’s a show that encourages little and big to play.
  • Different actors, talking straight to the camera –making it seem like it’s just you, the TV and the characters. Children love this.

The faces changed over time, but the Play School tune has stayed the same. And the rocket clock is still there. It may be digital now but it’s still a clock that connects Australians.

50 years on television is not a just a great achievement it’s a rarity. Play School is an Australian television icon and that’s why we’re c = celebrating.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

Danielle Johnston in the #CommsCorner


When she’s not cross-country skiing, Danielle Johnston is part of the c word’s communication crew. She has been a communications consultant with the agency since 2011, and is currently spending time in Clayton at the Australian Synchrotron. Danielle is one of the c word’s strategic thinkers and coolest problem-solver. Prior to joining the c word, Danielle DanielleJohnstonwas general manager of a not-for-profit sustainability consultancy in Melbourne following five years as business director at the Committee for Melbourne where she managed the Climate Change Taskforce, a leadership program for top performers, and internal and external communications.. Danielle has also worked in publishing, human resources and marketing, in London and San Francisco. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) from RMIT and a Graduate Certificate of Business (Marketing) from Swinburne.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

Plan, execute, capture any lessons, close the file, repeat…

When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?

When I was 12, I fell in love with storytelling. When I was 15, I did work experience at the “Sun” newspaper and followed journalists around their Melbourne beats for a week. At the end of Year 12, journalism was my #1 study preference. Fortunately, the grand plan came off.

Who’s your communication hero?

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese social democratic stateswoman, politiciandiplomat and author who serves as the First and incumbent State Counsellor and Leader of the National League for Democracy. When she speaks, I listen because her communication style is always wise and measured, never inflammatory and most importantly, effective.

Which books do you think every communicator should read?

Manufacturing Consent”, by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman; “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk JR and E.B. White; and “Politics and the English Language” (1946), an essay by George Orwell.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’ 

What the ‘c’ in the c word stands for!

Continued count concerns campaigners and country


The campaign may be over but the counting continues and the country and the campaigners await a result.

While we wait to find out who the latest PM is, let’s have a look some lessons we can learn as communicators from the latest election campaign.

Memes seem to go hand in hand with politics now. If you don’t know exactly what a meme is (think #choppergate) here is a great explainer. It shows just about anything can be summed up in a picture.


Communication lesson #1: Educate your public. Donkey votes were at an all time high and received a chunk of media attention. If the public were interested and educated these number might drop – adding to the count.

A word that is widely used– plebiscite.  It sounds like some sort of bacteria.

Plebiscite: The direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question (Collins).

Lesson #2. Know your message and keep your brand consistent: Don’t forget that personal connection. People who know you are more likely to buy from you or vote for you. Who could forget how the media took to Malcolm Turnbull’s grandson. Trustometer up.

C= cute.

Lesson #3. The public is always ready to pounce. Bill Shorton was trending when video of him eating a sausage sizzle took off. He obviously doesn’t shop at Bunnings on the weekends.

This trended (briefly) more than #mediscare

Lesson #4. Keep your friends close and social media closer. We thought we’d see more of the Australian Federal Election on Snapchat – like we have seen in the US.  Turnbull and his side had a snapchat lens developed. Julie Bishop took a couple of good snaps and applied Geo Filters when was overseas. Young people are huge potential political audience – next time the parties should get snapping.

It’s only your imagination that can stop you. Look’s like we’re not the only one’s hitting Snapchat for a little political fun – see the Christopher Pyne bunny:


The twittershephere was littered with election conversations. Some serious and some silly.

And the conversation continues…with #Australiawaits. Now the twitterati has turned its attention to who will form government and what it will mean for the country. This election was meant to be a fresh start, an end of to a period where we have had four PM’s in the space of three years. If the election was based on social media followers alone, then there would be a clear winner. Look at these figures from a few of the social media platforms.


Malcolm Turnbull – 629k followers

Bill Shorten – 147k followers


Malcolm Turnbull – 298,656 likes

Bill Shorten – 140,671 likes


Malcolm Turnbull – 61.6k followers

Bill Shorten – 8908 followers

Interestingly, even Tony Abbott has more Instagram followers than Bill Shorten! And he thought the internet was invented in 1992.

Social media might have been their only shot to convince some people of their argument.

Too late now.

With the final votes rolling in and being counted I think we can agree that it’s important to watch your Ps & Qs.

Social is a platform, like a soap box. With the right tactics (or wrong!) it has the potential to spread a message, to reach millions of people, and in politics, that’s half the battle. With the plus of real-time images and video which in itself is more engaging than drawling political debates or chunks of text.

The thing with social is it’s uncontrolled media. Once it’s out there, there’s no taking it back – however misconstrued your message. Think #faketradie, #mediscare … and so the list goes on.

We can’t debate that social media can keep the public informed. Almost instantly. This certainly has to have an impact on election outcomes.

This analysis might not be the most exciting thing since sliced bread (which was first produced commercially back in July 1912) but it’s certainly on most people’s minds.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew.

Gretta Pecl in the #CommsCorner


This week we chat with science communicator Gretta Pecl, who has the skills needed to communicate effectively with the public, government, the media, and others outside of her field. Gretta is an Associate Professor at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at The University of Tasmania (UTAS). A self-described ecological detective (marine ecologist), much of her work focuses on finding out how our marine ecosystems might be changing, and in helping to establish what practical things we can do to make the best of climate change impacts. Gretta is passionate about science communication and engages the public in aspects of her research. She tweets as @GrettaPecl and is active on sites such as RedMap – encouraging Citizen Science

Gretta recognises the importance of good communication and scientific research. Perfecting the art of storytelling can transform dry, technical information into compelling and relatable content that everyone wants to (and can) read, watch, listen to and share.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

I started off as a marine ecologist interested in how animals, populations and ecosystems work the way that they do. However, since researching effects of climate change on marine systems I’ve realised that more often than not, lack of scientific knowledge isn’t our biggest barrier to making progress and taking action – it’s effectively communicating the results we do have to people, communities and governments at various levels. I’m now very passionate about science engagement and communication.

Tell us about the role communications plays in your typical day?

The bulk of my work is still research-based, however I factor some form of communication and engagement into every project I do, and I strongly encourage my students to get involved in science communication as well. Most importantly, I see science communication as a two-way process, with listening to the perspectives and experiences of (in my case) fishers and divers and others that use or are interested in marine systems, as critically important. I run a few Facebook pages aimed at the public and help out with some Twitter accounts so most days see me interacting with the public in one way or another. Most months I would have a public, community group or school talk or event to attend and usually some interactions with the media as well. One of the projects I run often receives emails from the public with questions about particular species they have seen, wanting to know what the species identification was or if something was unusual, so I spend a lot of time with one-on-one emails as well.

When did you make the transition to say “I’m involved in science communication” rather than just science in general?

I led a report on the effects of climate change on the rock lobster fishery in Tasmania in 2008/2009 and one of my colleagues involved ran a component of the work interviewing the fishers. It turned out that 80% of the fishers didn’t think climate change existed or if they did, it wasn’t something that would affect them. It really struck me how useless our research would be in this case if the fishers, who have a role in decision-making around the fishery, didn’t understand or accept the science around climate change in general. Shortly after that I started a marine citizen science project that was aimed at ecological monitoring for climate change impacts but also then using that information to communicate back to the public (ie a two-way knowledge exchange between the public and the scientists).

Were you always passionate about combining science and communications?

Looking back, even though I started seeing science communication as an imperative in the context of climate change in the late 2000’s, I’d always been involved in writing articles for public media and giving science presentations at schools and other local events. But early on in my career I was interested in science communication because I just wanted to explain to people how cool science was and try and get across how and why our natural systems were so fascinating and important. Now though, I can’t see us making it through the next century without us somehow creating a more scientifically engaged global population.

Which communications tools can’t you live without?

Social media!

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Time. I need a stunt double.

Tell us about the most interesting thing you’ve had to communicate to the public?

How giant squid have sex.

Which writer do you most admire?

Ooooh, tough question. I like lots of different writers for different reasons. I particularly admire writers that can get kids and teenagers interested in reading.

What have been some of the biggest changes to science communications since you began your career?

I feel like over the last few years it’s gained a lot more respect from colleagues, and that institutes now see it as a much more valuable and worthwhile endeavour. A few years ago it was ‘How do you have time for THAT, shouldn’t you be focussing on important things’. But now it’s expected that everybody does something to communicate what they do in some format.

What communication quality do you look for in your colleagues?

Passion. Almost everything else can be taught, but you have to have that initial love and excitement about what you do.

What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?

That you get better at it pretty quickly, you don’t have to be perfect at it and generally the public isn’t that scary and they appreciate you having a go. Use stories and experiences to connect with people – scientists learn and communicate through data, numbers and graphs etc but often the public needs a story to remember or a situation they can relate to.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’ a basic part of our job as scientists, we shouldn’t see it as optional.