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 cellophane@thecword.com.au if you’re interested in being part of our weekly Q&A.

From #MeToo to #RiceBunny: how social media users are campaigning in China


A fascinating article by Meg Jing Zeng from the Queensland University of Technology, which was originally published in The Conversation.

File 20180205 19956 wib0w4.png?ixlib=rb 1.1
In Chinese, the phrase “rice bunny” is pronounced as “mi tu” and has become a nickname for the #MeToo campaign.
Marcella Cheng/The Conversation NY-BD-CC

Meg Jing Zeng, Queensland University of Technology

Rice bunny says, “the only thing I want for the coming Lunar New Year is anti-sexual harassment rulings… You can take my plate away, but you cannot shut my mouth.”

So reads the opening line of a discussion page for the #MeToo campaign in China, posted on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.

“Rice bunny” (米兔), pronounced as “mi tu”, is a nickname given to the #MeToo campaign by Chinese social media users. The #RiceBunny hashtag, accompanied by emojis of rice bowls and bunny heads, is used by Chinese women to expose sexual harassment – often in conjunction with other Chinese hashtags, such as #IAmAlso (#我也是)and #MeTooInChina (#MeToo在中国).

Using emojis to circumvent censorship

A sign used to protest sexual harassment posted on Weibo.

The adoption of nicknames and emojis is not just a public relations strategy designed to increase the popularity of the campaign, it also serves as a tactical response to circumvent online censorship.

Similar practices of using homophones and images are widely used in China as a form of coded language to avoid censorship on social media.

“River crab” and “grass-mud horse” – both invented by internet users – are two cases in point. Because of their pronunciations in Chinese, the former is used to indicate censorship and the latter refers to a Chinese obscenity.

Internet censorship is a major challenge for the #MeToo campaign in China. Internet users have reported numerous instances of posts and chat pages relating to the topic being removed.

Around January 19, the primary hashtag of China’s #MeToo campaign – #MeTooInChina – was temporarily blocked. In response to this, Weibo users launched the alternative hashtag #RiceBunnyInChina to continue the campaign.

How #MeToo came to China

On January 1, Luo Xixi – a Chinese citizen who now resides in Silicon Valley – decided to bring the #MeToo campaign to social media in her home country. She began by publishing a 3000-word post on Weibo, revealing a secret she had kept to herself for 12 years. While studying for her PhD at Beihang University in Beijing she was harassed by Chen Xiaowu, a renowned professor and Luo’s former supervisor.

Luo’s post received millions of views, and was widely circulated through both state media and social media. The university and education authorities quickly responded to the scandal by sacking Chen Xiaowu.


Encouraged by the triumph of Luo’s allegations against Chen, more women from China broke their silence and shared their own accounts of sexual harassment at the hands of university professors.

According to a recent report, students and alumni from over 50 colleges have signed online petitions, demanding their schools develop mechanisms to prevent and deal with sexual harassment on campus. In solidarity, professors from over 30 universities also reportedly signed an open letter, calling for educational institutions in China to strengthen regulations and institute a reporting system for sexual harassment claims.

Why universities are ground zero

It is no coincidence that universities became China’s first battleground in the fight against sexual harassment.

The institutional power structure of universities leads to a power imbalance between students and their advisors. That disparity is particularly problematic when the education system is opaque and corrupted.

From primary school through to university in China, gift giving and bribery are common practice among students and parents to secure opportunities. This culture is ripe for abuse.

As several victims of university sexual harassment have revealed, predatory teachers often used coursework scores, scholarships, and even the outcome of degrees to lure or blackmail students.

A university library in China.

But mistreatment is not unique to male professors and female students. In late December, a male PhD student Yang Baode was found drowned in a river in Xi’an. His girlfriend later published an open letter on social media claiming that Yang committed suicide after years of abuse from a female supervisor. According to her statement, and the results of the university’s own investigations, during Yang’s PhD study he was forced to become a servant to his supervisor, watering her plants, going shopping with her and picking her up from parking lots.

Calls for anti-harassment mechanisms in educational institutions have been supported by the Ministry of Education and state media, but this success might not be easy to replicate in other sectors of Chinese society.

Feminists as ‘trouble-makers’

Unlike its Western counterpart, the #MeToo campaign in China lacks the freedom to turn into a large-scale movement due to inevitable government intervention.

For the ruling party, online campaigns that seek to mobilise large swathes of the population are like wildfire that can easily spread out of control. At this stage, those exposed are mostly relatively low-profile figures, such as university professors, but it is not hard to imagine the scandal escalating up to those in positions of power.

Popularity is the the kiss of death for any civil movement in China. The Chinese government is known for preventing online activity from growing into collective action – especially demonstrations – no matter how politically innocent in nature.

In 2015, five women’s right activists were arrested by Chinese authorities for “provoking trouble” for organising protests against sexual harassment on public transport. In 2017, Zhang Leilei, an activist based in Guangzhou city, made similar efforts. Zhang attempted to crowdfund a nationwide anti-sexual harassment advertising campaign. But it was eventually rejected by local officials, and Zhang herself was asked to leave the city.



The ConversationIt is naive to expect women in China to follow a Western trajectory to achieve gender equality. But as the #RiceBunny hashtag on social media shows, even under political pressure activists continue to use their creativity to circumvent the system. So long as these fighters do not cease “provoking trouble”, we can feel optimistic about a safer, more equal future for women in China.

Meg Jing Zeng, PhD candidate, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Collaborate in our #CommsCorner


It’s time to begin a new series of conversations with communicators for our #CommsCorner.

To get the process started … and our creative juices flowing … we thought we’d seek your ideas on the questions to put to the communicators in the #CommsCorner.

Let us know what you think of the questions below? And add a comment with any other questions or people you think we should feature! Feel free to email us at cellophane@thecword.com.au with your ideas. Thank you!

For your consideration…

  • Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?
  • Tell us about your typical day in communications?
  • When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?
  • Who’s your communication hero/mentor?
  • Which tools can’t you live without?
  • What are the biggest challenges in your role?
  • Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?
  • Which campaign do you most admire?
  • What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?
  • If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?
  • What quality do you look for in your communication team members?
  • What’s your favourite brand?
  • What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?
  • What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?
  • Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

Bird brainstorming – an internship with a difference


As 2017 draws to a close, we thought we’d share this story of collaboration … and birds … to end the year!

the entire team

“The Nest”: Courtesy of Ross: L-R: Stacey Maden, Vanessa Ambler, Liz Thompson, Jack Walden, Yulia Zaytseva, Dominique Queivana, Charlie Osborne, Mavis Boamah

In October 2017, BirdLife Australia and the c word collaborated with Deakin University to deliver a unique internship opportunity for Deakin PR and communication students. The students worked alongside staff from both organisations in a ‘Communications Command Centre’ at Deakin Downtown to develop and deliver a comprehensive national communications campaign for the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, one of Australia’s largest citizen scientist projects.

Chief of Staff Liz Thompson shares highlights from the program as Deakin University students discovered their inner twitchers.

Senior Lecturer Ross Monaghan’s Twitter channel, @TheMediaPod has generated dynamic and interesting Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities for Deakin students. Earlier this year, Jack Walden, of the c word agency, was so impressed by the student projects he had seen via @TheMediaPod, that he approached Ross with an internship proposal. This ultimately brought Deakin University, BirdLife Australia, the c word agency and six Deakin students together for an intensive two week internship collaboration.

The internship brief was to create a team of communications students to coordinate the promotion of BirdLife Australia’s Aussie Backyard Bird Count. The students were allocated roles according to areas of interest – media and social media co-ordinators, content creators, and a chief of staff – to create the Aussie Backyard Bird Count Communications Team. This team worked under the guidance of Stacey Maden, BirdLife Australia’s Communications and Events Coordinator, and Jack Walden, CEO of the c word.

Nesters R Monaghan

During the two weeks, students developed short movie-clips, blog and social media posts and popular Instagram polls that generated lively engagement with followers. The students also developed and circulated partner program collateral that successfully promoted engagement with universities, schools and libraries. Media releases were prepared and circulated to media outlets which generated a schedule of interviews that the students also coordinated. One of the students attended the filming of an interview for ABC News Breakfast with BirdLife Australia talent at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.

ABC botanic gardens jack 3

The work-ready learning opportunities extended beyond the implementation of the communications campaign. They included challenges such as administrative and information management procedures, daily schedules, and even the creation of the actual workspace. Given that the team included students from four different continents, a large map of Australia was the first of many documents that adorned the walls of the “Communications Command Centre” AKA, “The Nest” at Deakin Downtown.


Ross negotiated to use the space at Deakin Downtown, which he says is a fabulous resource for industry-based projects such as this.

bird watching Julia

The benefits for students are numerous and well known, and WIL also keeps staff up to date with industry needs.  Ross said: “I encourage other staff to get involved in these projects for first-hand knowledge of what industry is looking for with graduates. The bonus is that industry gets to see the great work that our students are doing. There is no better PR for Deakin.”

nesters at lunch - julia

Jack Walden also reflected upon the success of this internship from an industry perspective: “The collaboration between BirdLife Australia, the c word communications agency and Deakin University not only delivered a great learning opportunity for a group of talented communications students, it also provided a significant boost in coverage for the Aussie Backyard Bird Count via traditional media and social media. Two million birds counted – what a great result”.

Harry & Meghan: PR dream come true?


HarryxMeghanHis Royal Highness Prince Harry is about to get hitched to American actress Ms Meghan Markle, in what promises to be a global wedding extravaganza. The future Duchess of Sussex is a 36-year-old biracial American divorcee previously best known for acting in lightweight television fare.

But don’t compare her to the last divorcee to rock the royal family. Back in the 1930s, King Edward VII, as head of the Church of England, could not marry divorcee Wallis Simpson. The looming constitutional debacle resulted in the ‘The Abdication’, which saw the king renounce his throne, handing the reigns to his brother, who became George VI (father to QEII).

Even Harry’s own great Aunt, the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, who fell in love with the married Captain Peter Townsend, was at the mercy of harsh religious and royal strictures. Margaret faced the choice of forfeiting her royal title and income and leaving the country for five years, or breaking it off with Cpt Townsend. Under significant familial and social pressure she ultimately chose the latter.

How things have changed. Kensington Palace sources have already confirmed that Harry and Meghan will have a full church wedding. In fact, the Archbishop of Canterbury has given his blessing and while no date has yet been announced, the nuptials will most likely take place before June next year.

So it bears mentioning that this most stuffy and conservative of institutions has done a remarkable job of modernising itself in recent years. Prince William’s 2011 marriage to C= ‘commoner’ Kate Middleton, was one huge step away from the stricture for royals to marry from their own class. Although, let’s face it, Kate with her glossy hair and svelte silhouette, isn’t a massive imaginative leap from well-to-do upper middle-class to princess.

Ms Markle is yet another step in the direction towards modernity. Not only is she divorced and American, but she’s also had that most un-aristocratic of things, *gasp* a career. Yet, despite all that atypical background, this future royal is a PR’s dream. Obviously the brains of the operation, she’s beautiful, stylish and poised, as well as possessing serious philanthropic and feminist bona fides. It’s almost as if she’s been auditioning for this role for years.

It seems former wild child Harry could not have picked a more suitable applicant to re-inforce that modern cool prince vibe thing he has going. In fact, his choice of bride is almost a savant level manoeuvre. She ticks all the boxes required to conform to Modern Royals™ house brand, while gently bringing some totally on trend social justice flavour to the party.  It’s a transatlantic marketing masterpiece.

So while we all await the next season of The Crown (to find out what happens to Princess Margaret), we can all have a bit of fun squealing about the latest royal dream couple.