Toilets, mobile phones and at-home DNA tests surprised Bill and Melinda Gates in 2018


51902523_10156009969561961_166770036755660800_nTalk about surprise and delight. Bill and Melinda Gates have delivered another inspiring letter to the world outlining key areas for action for philanthropists, business, government and anyone interested in improving the world. It’s also an excellent example of creative communications in action!

I always look forward to reading the dynamic duo’s annual letter and was delighted to see it pop up in my LinkedIn feed during a late-night social media trawl. What first caught my attention was a video featuring a surprise game of “Guess this word” between Bill and Melinda.

So, before I jump into the letter, I wanted to highlight this creative use of video on LinkedIn with a surprise “guess this phrase” game between the couple. They used the game as a gateway to converse about a range of social issues including improving women’s lives around the world and the grand challenges of climate change. Watch out dinner party guests: I’ll be expecting cute card games at our next round-table!

While this creative approach may not suit every situation, it’s worthwhile considering the next time you’re launching a new initiative or even just releasing your company’s latest annual report and getting your senior leaders to play a game!

Now back to the compelling content of this latest correspondence from Bill and Melinda. In their ‘his and her’ style letter, the well-known philanthropists share some of the things that have inspired them over the years and how these surprises are moving them to action.

From the opportunity to use at-home DNA tests to help prevent premature birth, to the desperate need to find an economical and environmentally-friendly solution to the toilet, the letter outlines a range of opportunities for the world to begin solving major social issues.

While I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to read the letter, I’ve also curated a couple of the most interesting points below:

  • Connectivity is a solution to marginalisation and mobile phones are most powerful in the hands of the poorest women, including millions of Indonesians making a living through Go-Jek, a popular mobile platform for rides, food deliveries, and other services AND the country’s first Unicorn company!
  • An entire NYC will be built around the world every month and if we’re going to solve climate change, we need to get to near-zero emissions on all the things that drive it—agriculture, electricity, manufacturing, transportation, and buildings
  • A project involving at-home DNA tests has led to a simple blood test that could be the answer to minimising the risks associated with premature births; but what’s most surprising is why is there so little attention given to something that impacts 10% of the people in every part of the world?

There are nine surprises in total and each gives cause to pause and reflect. As well as inspiring plenty of action, the letter also includes some excellent ‘explainers’ and simple evidence to begin discussions with colleagues, friends and family.

Once you’ve had a chance to read the letter, let us know what surprised you the most  by leaving a comment below.

Going online for offline engagement


DrKaren2019What does it take to educate the next generation of communicators about social media? Find out in this week’s Communicator’s Corner with Dr Karen Sutherland from the University of the Sunshine Coast. When she’s not helping local businesses and non profits maximise their social media engagement, she’s educating students as the Lecturer, Program Coordinator and Discipline Lead – Social Media and Public Relations at USC.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

Helping others is my objective, professionally and personally. I aim to achieve this by educating and/or connecting others. I would describe myself as a Social Media Educator, Researcher and Consultant. My background is in marketing and PR. I began my career 20 years ago and have worked in a range of sectors and roles over the years. Currently, I am a Lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast where I lecture and coordinate the Bachelor of Communication (Social Media) (new for 2019) and lead public relations as a discipline. My research is focused on social media in the non-profit sector, in Higher Education pedagogy, as a tool for offline engagement, and explores its impact on employability. I love delivering social media workshops within my community and I also provide social media consulting and coaching services to businesses in Australia and overseas.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

It always begins early. After my daily yoga practice, I catch up on the developments that I have missed while I have been asleep. I have some amazing contacts in the U.S. and U.K. so I like to see what they are up to and answer any emails. My days are usually spent working on research, course development, helping students and clients and doing pro bono work. I also create my own social media content. I am a firm believer in leading by example. I can’t expect my students to take my advice when I don’t follow it myself.

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

I have had a love of reading, writing and storytelling from a very young age. It was never a conscious decision to work in communications. I think it has always been part of who I am and it all unfolded for me naturally.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

I have a few: Dr Joy Chia, Assoc Prof Karen Freberg, Dennis Yu, Madalyn Sklar, and Gary Vaynerchuk. There are many others who have helped me over the years who I am deeply grateful to for their support.

Which tools can’t you live without?

The internet (of course), my iPhone, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, WordPress, WeVideo and Canva. These all make communication and content production so simple.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Most of my social media courses involve students working directly with real clients and with enrolment numbers growing steadily, managing these student/client relationships can be challenging. It adds a lot of extra work in terms of administration and liaison than the regular courses that I coordinate, but the results are worth it. The students can include practical work experience on their CVs and include real-world examples in their portfolios to show prospective employers. The clients receive fresh ideas, strategies, social media content and recommendations based on their social media performance data to assist their organisations. Some clients hire their assigned student as a freelancer at the end of the course, which is the best outcome possible.

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

Every campaign that I worked on during my time at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. These campaigns literally helped to save lives.

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

Keeping up with technology and the increasing flow of and demand for information. The fundamental communication, PR and marketing principles will not really change, but how we facilitate them is constantly changing. Also, information (and misinformation) can spread around the globe in a matter of minutes. Being across this and ready to respond can be challenging. Social media does not sleep, so monitoring what is happening and being ready to manage any crises and issues 24 hours a day is definitely a challenge; so too, is the constant hunger for new content and producing high quality pieces to keep up with this demand.

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

That’s a tough one. It would all depend on specific goals and objectives. Working in academia means that I don’t have a budget to cut. 🙂

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

Highly developed interpersonal and writing skills, passion, enthusiasm and integrity.

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

Associate Professor Karen Freberg’s Social Media for Strategic Communication.

It’s a shameless plug but I’m currently writing a book called Strategic Social Media Management – Marketing, Advertising & PR, which should be released next year.

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

Communication is rarely glamorous, but deeply rewarding.
Communication is a process not a product.
Clients can often tell you what they don’t want more easily than they can tell you what they really want.
Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

an ongoing respectful collaboration.

Courts, crime and communication


AmberWilsonIt would be criminal if we didn’t share this fantastic interview with AAP crime and court reporter Amber Wilson; so we’re proud to share her responses in our first Communicator’s Corner for 2019. Discover why Amber believes communication is an art form!

What’s your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

I’m a journalist covering courts and crime in Melbourne’s CBD.

Tell us about a typical day working in the media?

We keep a hawk eye on the news and court lists to find out what cases might be happening on a given day. The early part of the morning is dedicated to planning and then from 9.30am, we’re generally in and out of the Supreme, County, Magistrates and Federal courts chasing stories. We file over lunch, then we’re at it again until the court system wraps up for the day. We could be chasing anything from a high-profile terrorist plot to the murder of a beloved mother to chasing gangland figures in front of the magistrates court. Throughout the day, we’re in contact with our bosses at the bureaus in Melbourne and Rhodes, while liaising with lawyers and associates to find out details of the cases we’re following. Then we’re back at our desks meticulously combing through court lists after COB.

When did you first know you wanted to be a journalist?

I think I knew I wanted to be a writer first – from a very early age – and then I found my direction while I was at uni. It hasn’t been a linear ride though – I’ve segued and branched out – mainly into corporate communications and at one stage even into yoga teaching, before really finding my calling.

What communication tools can’t you live without?

I’m old fashioned. I love using my notepad and pen in my daily work life. Like everyone, I rely on email and social media and quick access to information on my phone. But as far as my mental processing and day-to-day organisation, I can’t go past a real life notepad, a real life diary, and a pen with freely-flowing ink.

What are the biggest challenges you face? And what are the biggest opportunities?

The media is under a huge amount of pressure in the current climate. That makes a lot of us journalists fearful of the future, preparing for the next five years with an “exit strategy”.

But of course the world is evolving, and the way we access news and information will hopefully catch up with the changes in the way we’re living. I think there’s a change in the perception of journalists as a representative of their masthead to being the product itself, and the news organisation the client. That shift in thinking makes reporters their own “small business” and a unique product, which makes them valuable beyond whatever their current job description is.

Tell us about the news coverage that you’re proudest of?

I enjoyed covering the Rebel Wilson defamation case against Bauer Media. Covering the murder case of Melton mother Simone Quinlan was another big one for me – it was deeply sad and a shocking look into domestic violence and the everyday tragedy and violence that surrounds us.

What’s been the biggest change to the newsroom since you began your career?

When I started off as a news cadet, we filed stories in centimetres to a print edition that was the cornerstone of life in that little Tasmanian community. We’d file by 6pm and the locals would read the paper over their Vegemite and coffee at 7am the following morning. It’s just not like that anymore – news is immediate. As soon as an event breaks, we need to file digitally from the scene and update as the day progresses.

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

Documentaries really inspire me – they’re such an in-depth look into issues, and the medium of long-form video is so powerful. A lot of my friends are crazy about podcasts, but for me there’s nothing like delving deeply for hours into a fascinating, intriguing documentary and the issues of social justice that they explore.

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

The best advice I ever received when I was young, and still as an adult believe now: stick at it. Perseverance is powerful.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

…an art form.

Content clusters



Our collaborators at Burning House wrote this great article about content and content clusters, with some great inspiration to get your video content out to a wider audience.

You can read the original article here.

Content Clusters recognise that the content you create, is in itself an opportunity for multiple content ‘events’ across your channels, extending the life cycle of your marketing beyond a single content execution.

Take for example a client creating a single piece of video content (as seen in the diagram above). Naturally the release of the video is a content event, but there is a micro-system of other opportunities that can be explored for promotion and cross promotion around the video.

Prior to the shooting, an announcement can be made on Twitter creating expectation of intended shoot and content.

On the shoot day itself social post of On-set stills, Gif’s or video snippets can be shared as Teasers, building on the momentum of expectation.

When the content is published, short promotional cut downs should be released across social platforms, essentially acting as advertising for the audience to view the longer content, extending the reach and promotion of video.

Finally, in the period after the content has been released and consumed, a ‘Behind the Scenes’ video can further prolong the audience engagement.

This Cluster approach is ultimately an amplification of your content efforts and should assist in bolstering your content calendar.

To learn more about how you can leverage Content Clusters in your next campaign, contact Charlie Porter at Burninghouse.

Who’s your comms mentor?


Who is your communications mentor? It’s a question we ask communicators from around the world when they sit in our #CommsCorner. Here are some of the answers we have received over the past 8 years.


Paul Price, Group CEO, CoCreative

PAULfinalI love film so I think of some great directors. Orson Welles was amazing – he created masterpieces in every medium he had access to. He was a great creative director, probably the greatest. Likewise Stanley Kubrick who made a masterpiece in every major genre.

I had the privilege of working for DDB when it was awarded the world’s most creative agency network three years in a row and we all believed in Bill Bernbach’s vision as one of the first great admen.

Sally Branson

Sally Branson

I’ve been blessed to work with many amazing people. I like to think I have taken lessons from each person I have worked with – even if the working relationship was a challenging one.

I have a long term mentor Hayley – she works in education and community development in a rural area. No matter what she does, she recognises the importance of thoughtful interaction. Each and every communication she makes is considered and timely. Even down to the post-it notes.

A “mentoring” experience I enjoyed was the Australian Rural Leadership Program. I spent two years studying with a group of 28 people from the extremes of rural and regional interest. The lessons I learnt about communications from an agronomist, a CSIRO scientist, a Doctor of Marine Science, an aboriginal community worker and a manager of an abattoir are ones that influence me each day I work. During a presentation I remember once thinking “as if I can learn from someone with two PhD’s in science…” and then shocked when he did it a) better and b) in a new way than I had. I was witnessing something new to me; who knew? It was humbling, and reminded me to always respect and surround myself with people with different skills, values, ideas and methods than mine.

Del Irani, ABC News

DelHeadshotI really admire Christiane Amanpour who has worked her way up from an entry level desk position to being the Chief International Correspondent for CNN.

Emily Passer, Quartz’s director of communications

Emily5Hard to choose here. I admire a lot of what Judy Smith has done. And Hilary Rosen as well.

A global celebration of women


This time last week, we joined millions of people around the world celebrating International Women’s Day.

From social media conversations to powerful storytelling at events, here are some highlights of how women and organisations around the world marked this important day in 2018.

Companies #PressforProgress with featured content

Companies of all sizes celebrated International Women’s Day around the world, and many used it as an opportunity to engage their female customers. From curated content by companies like LinkedIn, to the launch of special initiatives like #InspiredbyHer by M Gallery Hotels, companies played an important role in raising awareness of #IWD.

Celebrities #PressforProgress at events and on social

Movie stars, talk show hosts, authors, singers and politicians all joined the global conversation on International Women’s Day. Their social media channels were full of updates celebrating inspiring women and raising the profile of important issues around the world.

And we couldn’t forget this little controversy….

Clean-up controversy at Oxford

A tweet from the UK spread around the world, when a female cleaner was photographed cleaning up IWD graffiti at Oxford.

How will you celebrate International Women’s Day in 2019? And how will you celebrate stories of inspiration women throughout the year?

A typical day for a communicator in the #CommsCorner


What is a typical day for a communicator? Is there one? Over the past eight years we have asked a range of communicators this question and here are some of their answers.

Catherine Sekulovski, Media & Communications Officer, Australian Made Campaign

CatherineSCommunicationsIsMy typical day in communications involves a little bit of planning and a lot of reactive response, but no matter what day of the week it is, you can find me writing or building our online communities. I enjoy internal communications but thrive on media relations and have a lot of fun on social media – I’m lucky, because my role offers a great mix of all of the above, every day.

Slavica Habjanovic, External Communications Advisor, HASSELL

Slavica Habjanovic a cool communicator from HASSELL

Ha! A typical day doesn’t really exist at the moment as there are so many different tasks that pop up. Generally, my work involves collaborating on marketing collateral, maintaining the practice’s website, working with the media, writing news articles and developing campaigns.

Diana Gibson, Head of Membership Development and Communications, BirdLife Australia

dianagibsonMy day starts with checking in with team members to see how they are travelling, checking in on media exposure and bird and conservation stories of the day, and tracking how our supporter and new member campaigns are going. Then it gets diverse…it might be running a consultation on strategic directions for BirdLife Australia’s two scholarly journals, finalising a partnership with the likes of Aurora Expeditions and arranging for a project staffer to accompany their passengers on an Antarctic adventure, working with our scientists to select icon birds to headline a campaign, talking priorities with a volunteer branch committee member.. and on the odd occasion I might even get out to a BirdLife Australia observatory or project, spot some local birds (with lots of help…I’m no expert!!) and see firsthand  what is so important about bird conservation.

David Taylor, Public Records Office Victoria

NY_Times_and_me_by_dpt56It starts over breakfast, reading The Age and watching the Today Show, and continues on the train deleting junk emails from my BlackBerry. At the office it’s the usual email checking, especially any media items of interest or concern, then working my way through any number of projects that I need to juggle. These might be event management, working with colleagues interstate and overseas on joint promotional initiatives, editing articles and publications, preparing a media release, managing a small but terrific team etc etc.

Natalie Collard, Clean Energy Council

FTA4dairyMeet with MPs and government stakeholders, manage resolution of constituent issues, internal cross-BU strategy input and execution and CEO visit planning and attendance, internal cross-functional Board meetings and that left-field thing that keeps me on my toes.

Emily Martyn, Corporate Affairs Lead at Hostplus

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.32.54 pmI roll over to my 6am alarm and check the day’s latest news clippings – what’s being said about the business, our industry, the sectors we serve and our competitors. I’ll identify if there are any opportunities to leverage coverage and promote the business; or potential risks to manage and protect its reputation from. Outside of media relations, my average day consists of several touchpoints with different business functions on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) and investments-related matters, new product launches, community relations, marketing and sponsorships. I also work closely with the CEO’s office and Group Executive, and support industry lobbying and advocacy on a number of external committees. To wind down from my day, I enjoy walking around Albert Park Lake (whenever I can), playing tennis, painting and cooking up a nutritious feast at home.

What’s your typical day in communications? Add a comment or share your story by taking a seat in the #CommsCorner – email if you’re interested in being part of our weekly Q&A.