Australian science shines during 18th National Science Week


Last week Australia celebrated its 18th National Science Week, an annual celebration of science and technology with thousands of individuals – from students to scientists and chefs to musicians – taking part in more than 1000 science events across the nation.

As the particles settle on another stellar week putting science in the spotlight, we thought we’d celebrate the vital role communication plays in science helping the public receive and understand complex information.

At the c word we get the opportunity to work with a range of scientific organisations including our client veski who bring scientists and researchers to Australia, our friends at the Australian Synchrotron who shine brightly, and our most recent addition to the c word family, the Centre for Personalised Immunology.

Like any organisation, scientific organisations need to share stories of their innovative work with the public.

Communicators in these organisations help scientists share the results of their research with everyday citizens – demonstrating the importance of innovation and discovery.

A few weeks ago in our #CommsCorner we spoke to Gretta Pecl a marine biologist and science communicator. She said that the “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”.

The team behind National Science Week have done a great job engaging the public with a range of interactive events, speeches and panels encouraging a large audience to have a look into the world of science.

It’s integral to have an informed public, and to keep them engaged in the science and technology issues that inevitably affect us all.

On that note, we’ll leave you with Alan Alda. Alan came to Australia for the inaugural World Science Festival in Brisbane last year, and announced a partnership with the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at ANU.

Daniel Tisch in the #CommsCorner


BlogPosts-Dan-Interview-Nov-2015Daniel Tisch is the President and CEO for Argyle Public Relationships, one of Canada’s largest independent public relations firms. Dan worked at senior levels in government before embarking on a 20-year consulting career in which he has advised CEOs, boards, government leaders and marketers for some of the world’s biggest brands. From 2011 to 2013, he was the Chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management. He led the Global Alliance to unprecedented growth and co-chaired the World PR Forums in Melbourne in 2012 (where we first got to work with Dan through the PRIA) and Madrid in 2014.

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

When I started out working for a minister in the Canadian government in the early 1990s, PR was all about ‘staying on message’ and delivering that message mainly through news media channels. We had the luxury of long news cycles: we would prepare the message, do the interview, and not see or feel much impact until the evening television news and the next morning’s dailies. Today, communicators have less control over the message than ever before, as it is adapted, influenced and spread by many voices; so communication has become even more about the building of relationships with stakeholders and influencers, and stewarding those relationships both in person and online.  To do well in the long term, you need a higher level of transparency and authenticity – plus an ability to know when you’re wrong, to say so quickly, and to back up your apology with tangible, measurable action. And whatever you say or do, it’s on the internet forever. The higher stakes, higher speed and eternal legacy of communication have changed the business forever – and generally for the better.

Tell us about your typical day in communications.

There is no typical day! One of the joys of consulting is never knowing exactly what the day will bring. I may interact with a corporate CEO about his or her leadership communications; I may meet with government officials, consumer marketers or pharma executives — often all in one day. I might generate wild ideas with colleagues in the Argyle Brainstorming Room at our Toronto office, and then consider how we would implement the best one across the country. I’ll post some stuff on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter. I’ll join a volunteer board call. And if it’s Tuesday, I’ll take my younger son to Cub Scouts that evening.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

…a social good, and a business imperative. Too many businesspeople still see PR as something to do when they want publicity or face a crisis. Ask yourself this: In an environment where most of the value of a brand lies in intangibles such as reputation, are relationships more important or less important? The answer is obvious. Every organisation needs an ongoing strategy to build and invest in those public relationships — for mutual benefit.  The best communication achieves mutual understanding, and is aligned with the truth, the public interest, and social harmony.

Communication lessons from #Rio2016


For more than 100 years, the modern Olympic Games have been celebrated as a testament to human physical achievement and power. On another scale the games are also an opportunity for peaceful cooperation between nations. They’re also a huge global marketing opportunity. With the world watching, the right mix of communications can make or break an Olympic sponsor. With the large audience and participants involved in the international event, there has been some form of controversy in nearly every Olympic year since 1906.

5591054268_40c2a4b3ce_mEven before Rio had its official opening ceremony there was controversy surrounding it. One such problem affecting the Rio Olympics — not to mention the rest of Brazil — is the spread of the Zika virus, which was declared a public health emergency earlier this year. There was the slumping Brazilian economy and let’s not forget the water tests that showed the public that Rio’s Olympic waters were heavily polluted with human sewage; not to mention an alarming number of disease-causing viruses and bacteria that were present. These were all handled with poise by the respective Olympic representatives.

After years of preparation, what a party so far: the venues have turned out to be amazing, despite the original hiccups.  The sport has come first (mostly), Rio2016 is now in day 5. Listed are 5 communication lessons we’ve learned and reviewed so far.

1. Practice makes perfect

The opening ceremony had to be planned just like any event. Brazil kicked off this year’s Olympics with a low-budget opening ceremony that was full of colour and a Samba bear. Throw in some dancing and some preaching about environmentalism for good measure.

The ceremony seemed flawless until it was leaked to media that Brazilian supermodel Gisele made a mistake in her walk – she was too fast (ironic at the Olympics really).  Her walk in a thigh-split silver sequined gown (amazing) led to a 1,850% rise in Google searches for her name in just one hour. Richard Lawson, of Vanity Fair, said: “Gisele literally just walked across the stadium and it was an event.”

2. Watch your P’s and Q’s even in the pool

When the Mack Horton scandal erupted a few days ago, many Australians had never heard of the young swimmer. The 24-year-old was at the centre of controversy three days before the Olympics began when Fairfax Media revealed that a Chinese swimmer had tried to disrupt Horton by splashing him at the training pool in Rio. Horton responded by saying he had “no time or respect for drug cheats”, a jab at Sun’s positive drug test two years ago. Sun served a three-month doping ban in 2014, which the Chinese federation kept secret.

Earlier this week, Chinese fans took the grudge into their own hands, attacking Horton on his various social media accounts using the hashtag #apologizetosunyan.

“Your parents and whole country should be shame [sic] on what you’ve said,” one user wrote on Instagram.

Another wrote: “You even won the match, but you are still a loser, you don’t deserve to have an Olympic gold medal.”

Many other trolled Horton’s accounts with snake emojis.

Horton hasn’t taken to social media, and is charming the media, he claims his comments have been taken out of context and was quoted saying “what controversy”. It’s now up to the fans to decide as everyone looks towards the 1500m final – both of the swimmers main event.

3. Monitor your social…

London’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games had an official social media following of 4.7 million users across all platforms. Two years later, Sochi’s had gone up to over 5 million across two platforms alone: Facebook and VKontakte, the most popular Russian social media site. @Rio2016 is sitting at more than 500K followers on Twitter. Thinking beyond the official channels, and only five days in, the potential impact of social media on the games is endless.

4. Advertising and brands can make the most of any event.

Westpac put together a montage of Olympians’ family members attempting their sports. It’s funny, adorable, and leaves you feeling nice and warm.  Susie O’Neills mum doing the butterfly stroke is cute. Lacoste for team France anyone? Rio 2016 marks the fifth time Ralph Lauren has dressed Team USA. Stella McCartney based the looks she created for Great Britain’s athletes on the signature silhouettes that commonly feature in her fashion designs.  We saw Puma in the opening ceremony looking after Cuba’s team, but it is rumoured that Christian Louboutin has helped create outfits for the closing ceremony on 22 August. The Olympics gives these brands a whole new platform to expose themselves to a larger public.

5. Has Channel Seven’s Olympic coverage controlled and changed the way we can watch sports.

Channel Seven has decided to broadcast the Olympics solo. No Foxtel partnership. People who want to watch Gymnastics live for example have to pay for it via a subscription app. This has already upset the public. Why should we have to pay for an event that is broadcast for free in other nations? The Conversation explores this in a deep analysis.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

Briar Lloyd in the #CommsCorner


BriarHeadshotThis week we chat with @briarlloyd who is the Project Coordinator for our client the Shared Value Project. Briar moved across the Tasman from New Zealand and completed a degree at the University of Melbourne before forging a career in corporate social responsibility, communications and technology. When she’s not working, Briar can be found working on independent Australian films, or participating in conversations at the Henley Club. Briar is particularly interested in digital and new economies, cities and urban development, mobile banking technologies and access to services, and intraprenership and advocating for younger generations.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

I’m a hard working and determined third-culture kid working as part of the Shared Value Project team to change the role of business in society, and drive adoption and implementation of shared value strategies among leading companies, civil society and government organisations.

I love meeting new people and building strong relationships, often need to restrain myself from joining committees in my spare time, and am an enthusiast for arts and culture, international relations, reading, writing, cooking for my annoying food intolerances, working on my calendar al la Leslie Knope, and the Oxford comma.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

I’m definitely a morning person so like to get straight into things – first up checking for any urgent emails, news stories, or social media issues or conversations that need addressing, and then straight into some big ticket important tasks that might need a lot of clear-headed energy like writing copy, reports, project plans, or really important emails that might need some thoughtful words. I try to get any big important things over and done with first and then the rest of the day I’ll work on a range of tasks from managing events and campaigns, liaising with our member organisations, scheduling social media, meeting and liaising with media, writing briefings, managing our website, and other day to day tasks for the organisation, and then plan my next day. However it can be completely different when a lot of energy needs to be going into a big campaign or project, or when those days pop up where you need to be really reactive and responsive to unexpected issues or occurrences. Classic comms.

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

Growing up I was always obsessed with any form of media, whether it be magazines, books, TV, film, current affairs and pop culture, or just the internet in general. When I was studying media and communications, journalism, and politics and international studies at university, I really came to understand the importance of media and communications as a means to transfer information and knowledge, and shape society. From then on I knew it was important to be able to be to utilise communications in my work in some way, as it’s something than is relevant and important to all industries and sectors.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

I really admire/enjoy career stalking: Audrey Gelman – CEO and Co-founder of The Wing, previous press secretary to New York Comptroller Scott Stringer and champion on his campaign, re-launcher of the Downtown 4 Democracy political action committee, and spokesperson for Rock the Vote amongst many other things. Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr – co-founders and co-CEOs of Clique Media. Zoe Foster-Blake – author of books and columns, of which Channel Ten is adapting her book The Wrong Girl, Founder of Go-To Skincare, and general sassy social media extraordinaire. Mia Freedman – co-founder and Creative Director of Mamamia for her leadership, no filter, and the suite of excellent Mamamia podcasts. I am also really loving what Chelsea Handler is doing a the moment with her show Chelsea on Netflix, combining politics, current affairs, comedy, pop culture, and learning in an accessible, ‘big picture’ way.

Which tools can’t you live without?

My Apple Calendar synced across my various devises, can’t operate without it, I am crazy for planning and scheduling so that I can get the most out of each day.

Hootsuite for scheduling and planning social media content ahead of time across numerous channels.

The Skimm, a fantastic app, as they say definitely making it easer to be smarter by breaking down current affairs and what’s going on in the world into fresh daily editorial content, along with excellent recommendations into the latest books and long form articles to read.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

I think finding the balance between being strategic and reactive is always a challenge, so it’s a matter of being conscious of it and trying the best you can.

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

Apart from my current work, a really stand out opportunity I was lucky to have early on in my career as an intern, was working on the ‘This is GREAT Britain’ campaign. This was an amazing global campaign initiated in 2012 around the timing of the London Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and I really enjoyed the international relations component, which is one of my major interest areas. It was great to see this play out in an Australian context working on one of the events here around the Grand Prix. I really enjoyed the mix of stakeholders involved in the occasion where you had British Minister’s next to Hamish and Andy, Russel Howcroft, Jackie Stewart, British Consulate representatives, along with a British rock bank. I think this is what made it such an engaging campaign that is still continuing today.

 Which campaign do you most admire?

I am fascinated with Obsessee at the moment, developed by the aforementioned Clique Media targeted at Gen Z, and exists solely on social media as a content brand and community, no website. I’m older than the target market but really enjoy all the Snapchat content, and seeing how the model works for monetising branded social media content is incredibly interesting.

Locally I think Zoe Foster-Blake has been amazing with Go-To skin care. Not only a sensational product, but every step of customer interaction has incredibly witty messaging from their website, social media, packaging, and delivery notifications. It’s only available online, but the brand is fantastic at building relationship with customers.

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

There are so many more channels to navigate especially with social media. When I started there was a huge emphasis around Twitter and ‘words’ still, and now we have evolved to so much more imagery, video, and interactive based content such as with Instagram and Snapchat, and then completely new things like virtual reality which one of the organisations I work with is trialing to engage with customers. There has also been a similar change for journalists who are now expected not just to write articles but also various other forms of content such as videos and click-worthy images for social media, so if you are working in PR it’s a matter of being conscious of how you can really package a story or pitch. On a side note I’ve also really enjoyed the return of the podcast.

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

I think it’s incredibly important to carve out time and budget to make the effort to spend time with key stakeholders and meet them in person. Meet an important media contact for lunch or coffee. You can’t beat real life relationship building.

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

Someone who takes initiative, is interested and willing to build their knowledge, a good researcher, knows how to target the appropriate audience, enthusiastic, and is willing to go the extra mile.

What’s your favourite brand?

Uniqlo, Vanity Fair, Monocle, Wholefoods, Honest Company, and I really like how Go-To and Glossier have really evolved the beauty industry to focus more on real women in real life and customers giving life to products not the other way around, which is what the beauty industry has been based on for a long time.

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

Someone once prescribed me ‘Politics and the English Language’ by George Orwell which is worth the read, and re-read. I also highly recommend Contagious: Why Things Catch On, anything relevant to the industry or clients you are working with, and something hard copy like a magazine once and while as you can come across new information and content that you might not otherwise online.

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

A proper night’s sleeps makes all the difference to your ability to do good work – something applicable to all fields.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

…a means transfer knowledge and connect with others.

Cats and creativity


Not technically about communications, but two great c-words: cats and creativity courtesy of The Conversation.

Why Leonardo da Vinci would have aced the internet cat craze

Gabriele Neher, University of Nottingham

Leonardo da Vinci may have been ahead of the curve in aerodynamics, anatomy and mechanics, but he also possessed an incredible foresight for another modern staple: cat obsessions.

In some of the last years of his life, Leonardo sat down, perhaps at his desk, perhaps on the street, took out his pencil and absent-mindedly sketched a cat. The resulting drawing is of not just one, but over a dozen of them, grooming, playing and fighting each other, with a couple of stalking lions thrown into the mix and to top it all, a slinky little dragon sinuously twisting backwards and baring its teeth. Evidently he appreciated them for their personalities and characteristics: not such a jump from cat doodles to the ubiquity of cats on social media today.

Leonardo da Vinci, Cats, lions, and a dragon c.1513-18. Pen and ink with wash over black chalk.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

In the week that the latest blockbuster exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci, The Mechanics of Genius, opens to great fanfare at the Science Museum, a second, much smaller show is opening in Newcastle. The Laing Gallery’s exhibition showcases just ten of Leonardo’s best drawings from the extensive collections at Windsor, cats included. Whereas the Science Museum showcases the extraordinary mechanical genius of this remarkable artist, these drawings offers a more playful insight into Leonardo’s mind.

Cats were a commonplace sight in medieval and early modern houses, kept as pets to curb the mouse population. They sometimes left quite unexpected traces, such as the medieval moggy who marched over the still wet pages of a manuscript, much to the consternation of its scribe. And clearly they featured in more of an esoteric manner too: there are countless depictions of cats within medieval manuscripts, as featured in Nicole Eddy’s fabulous post on the “Lolcats of the Middle Ages”.


So it’s not so surprising to find Leonardo caught in the act of doodling. It seems as though Leonardo’s cats are drawn from life, attesting to his often commented on interest in first-hand observation. He lets his imagination run riot in the process of turning his playful cats into a writhing dragon.

What makes his drawing so charming is that ultimately, what he is interested in here is nothing more significant than the playing cats. He draws cats on other occasions, such as in some studies for the Virgin and child (with cat), but there the cat is drawn as an attribute, becoming a subsidiary accessory to the telling of the story. In the cat doodle, the purpose of the drawing is nothing other than to record Leonardo’s delight in the carefully observed play and movement of his feline companions.

A 13th-century image of a cat beating a cymbal, from the margins of the Book of Hours.

There’s a rich history of associating cats with imagination and creativity, as well as more negative connotations with heresy and wilfulness. This is especially true of medieval imagery. Cats, with their noted reputation for autonomy and independence, provide a bridge between the unruly and uncontrollable chaos of untamed nature, and the quiet, submissive, orderly domesticity of a well-ruled household. A cat can function both as a symbol for obedience (and is often depicted as such, for example as a companion to devout women) as well as a sign of heresy, in the shape of a witch’s familiar.

So cats are not inherently good or evil. Instead they appear to reflect the moral character of the household they interact with: in accordance with their mercurial, quirky nature. In this light, they seem the perfect companion for a creative and scholarly owner.

Fast forward 500 years and perhaps it doesn’t seem so surprising that social media has become the perfect vehicle for displaying this connection. While Salvador Dali needed to take long walks with his pet ocelot Babou to generate interest in his unusual status pet, Twitter and Facebook offer platforms for often quite witty plays on the link between cats and creativity.

My favourite example of this is the #AcademicsWithCats Twitter feed, which led to the annual “Academics with Cats awards”. I like to think that Leonardo would have entered with gusto. He definitely would have won. With a cat dressed as a dragon.The Conversation

Gabriele Neher, Assistant Professor of History of Art, University of Nottingham

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

Sweetie darlings, it’s Absolutely Fabulous in the #CommsCorner


Before Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie opens in Australian cinemas, we thought we’d share some of Edina Monsoon’s best lines in this week’s #CommsCorner. Eddy runs her own public relations firm and is always busy making sure her clients are being ‘seen’. She doesn’t like to name drop (much) but she’s worked with the likes of Lulu, Twiggy and even a Spice Girl.

Can you tell us what you do in PR?

“PR! I PR things! People. Places. Concepts.”

What’s been the biggest change to PR since you began your career back in the…?

“Look there’s a new disease called the Kardashians, darling.”

What’s your favourite brand?

“Lacroix, sweetie! You know, people will think ‘Wow it’s a Lacroix’ .”

What’s one book you think everyone should read?

“Don’t you remember my book allergy, darling? Itchy eyes! Itchy eyes!”

What advice do you have for colleagues in the industry?

To Bubbles on operating the Hoover: “YOU HAVE TO TURN IT ON, NOT JUST MAKE THE NOISE!”

What do you think of Claudia Bing?

“Oh, God! I piss better ideas than Claudia Bing!”

What’s your crowning PR achievement?

“I’m going down in history Pats, as the woman who put Princess Anne in a Vivienne Westwood basque.”

Cats in bags and other common sayings


20500417382_c1edcbd265_mIt’s time we let the cat out of the bag. If you take everything literally, you might be thinking why would someone put their cat in a bag? What did the cat do to them? Isn’t this animal cruelty? In fact, this crazy sounding sentence is just an idiom. What the saying actually means is to let a secret out to the public, that was supposed to be kept, well, secret.  So the next time someone lets the cat out of the bag do not immediately pick up your phone and call the RSPCA.

Every culture has its own collection of wise sayings or idioms. They offer advice about how to live and also transfer some underlying ideas, principles and values of the given society. These sayings are called idioms – or proverbs if they are longer.

We don’t want to put all our “eggs in one basket” but some of our favourites are the common good luck call to “break a leg” and the classic thanks but no thanks “it’s just not my cup of tea”.

Here are a few common sayings explained and their origin: 

1 / Steal someone’s thunder

Nothing to do with the weather…

Meaning: To use someone else’s idea or take attention away from him

Origin: In 1704, John Dennis, a British playwright, created a new technique for simulating the sound of thunder for his play, Appius and Virginia. The play flopped and quickly closed, but Dennis’ method of replicating thunder’s sound was used shortly after in a production of Macbeth. Dennis was upset that someone had poached his idea and was later quoted as saying, “Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder”.

2 / Mad as a hatter

Meaning: Crazy or insane

Origin: In the 18th and 19th centuries, hatmakers treated hats with mercury. The mercury vapor affected the hatmakers’ nervous systems, causing them to tremble and appear mad.

3 / Paint the town red

Meaning: To have a big or a wild night out – usually alcohol related

Origin: In 1837, the Marquis of Waterford (a known troublemaker) took a group of friends out drinking in the English town of Melton Mowbray. During the evening, the crew created a path of destruction by breaking windows, tipping over flower pots and pulling knockers off doors. They ended the night by painting a tollgate, the doors of several homes and a swan statue red.

A second possible origin for this idiom is the American West, and it refers to men behaving as if their entire town was a red-light district.

4 / Wear your heart on your sleeve

Meaning: To make your feelings obvious

Origin: This idiom has a few possible origins. One theory is that it comes from the Middle Ages, when knights would dedicate their performance in a tournament to a woman of the court. The knight would tie a token from the woman, such as a handkerchief, to his arm to indicate his performance would defend her honor.

A second theory also originates in the Middle Ages. Emperor Claudius II believed men performed better in battle when they were not romantically attached, so he declared marriage illegal. However, as a concession, he allowed temporary coupling. Once a year during the Roman festival of Juno, men drew names to determine whom they would date for the year. The men would wear the names of their chosen women on their sleeves during the rest of the festival.

The third theory is that William Shakespeare invented the expression. He used it in Othello.

5 / Butter someone up

Meaning: To flatter a person

Origin: This idiom dates back to an ancient Indian custom of throwing balls of ghee (a type of butter used in Indian cooking) at the statues of gods to seek their favor. Tibetans also have a tradition of making butter sculptures each New Year in the hope that it will bring peace and happiness.

6 / Turn a blind eye

Meaning: To purposely ignore something

Origin: During the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, the one-eyed British naval officer Horatio Nelson ignored his superior officer’s signal to withdraw by moving his telescope to his bad eye and saying, “I really do not see the signal”. Nelson went on to win the battle.

7 / Once in a blue moon

Meaning: Something that happens rarely

Origin: A blue moon refers to when we see a full moon twice in one calendar month-not the moon’s color. This phenomenon occurs every two or three years. Some people believe “blue” may come from the obsolete “belewe,” which meant “to betray.” A betrayer moon was an additional full moon that appeared in the spring that meant Catholics would have to fast for an additional month during Lent.

We had a blue moon at the end of July, so it will be a while until the next one.

8 / Spill the beans

This has nothing to with lentils…

Meaning: To let a secret out

Origin: In ancient Greece, people would cast votes by placing black or white beans in a jar. If someone spilled the jar, the outcome of the election would be revealed prematurely.

9 / Bite the bullet

Origin: In the olden days, when doctors were short on anesthesia or time during a battle, they would ask the patient to bite down on a bullet to distract from the pain. The first recorded use of the phrase was in 1891 in The Light that Failed.

This is just a quick look at some commonly used sayings. These all stem from historical events, legends, important figures, and religion for the basis of many of these expressions. They are still “going strong” on todays everyday language.

10 / What’s your favourite idiom?

Do you know where it comes from? Please share in the comments.