Liz Franzmann, Project Manager, Conserve Delhi 2010 Project
Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?
A sustainability professional combining specialist skills in project management, group facilitation and communications to deliver tactical change projects. At the moment I’m undertaking an Endeavour Executive Award Scholarship with a Delhi based non-profit, Conserve India. Conserve employs people from Delhi’s poorest slum-dwelling communities to create high fashion products from waste materials. We’re aiming to upcycle Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games waste into new products as well as delivering a communications campaign to share the project story.
Tell us about your typical day in communications?
At the moment it’s incredibly varied, as communications is just one aspect of my work in Delhi. Last week it ranged from liaising with senior figures of the Delhi 2010 Organising Committee to dodging mud puddles while hunting for useful waste materials at a recycling depot on the outskirts of the city.
When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?
I’ve always loved a good story and have always enjoyed writing. Mum kept a fairytale I wrote as a small child – it’s two pages long with nary a full stop to be seen. That tells you two things about me: I like doing things fast and I’m definitely guilty of crimes against grammar. For the past five years I’ve been more of a project manager – coordinating grant programs and delivering environmental awareness and change initiatives – in government and non-profit environmental organisations. It’s been full on but rewarding. Along the way I realised I really enjoy the challenge of communicating stories of change in the sustainability space.
I’ve also been following the rise of digital media since I came across moveon.org about five years ago. My interest is in using online communication tools to facilitate positive social change. Conserve India was keen to trial their social media tools to attract new customers. So the Conserve Delhi 2010 project has been a great way for all of us to test a lot of communication ideas through a small, practical change project.
Who’s your communication hero/mentor?
The friendly mentoring crew at the C word of course! A week before leaving for Delhi, I was introduced to them, rushed to their office, shook them by the shoulders crying, ‘social media…I know nothing…Just gimme the basics!’ They quelled my hysterics with more than a few hours of helpful social media advice and shortcuts.
Which tools can’t you live without?
My laptop. Without it I was looking at very long sessions at the local internet shop – where downloading a document can take up to thirty minutes. My other can’t-live-without at the moment is Rajesh, my local scanning man at the video editing shop (although he’s no tool). I don’t have a printer or a scanner so I’m making lots of little trips to support my neighbourhood business community.
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
There are many: technology, language and cultural differences, how to get my laundry dry in monsoonal downpours…
Sometimes tricky challenges, but also amazing learning opportunities and it feels great when you do overcome them.
Lately, the possibility of the Commonwealth Games not happening has loomed pretty large. I’d documented it as a risk in my project plan, but I’d never dreamed it could actually be possible!
Coming to Delhi one month out from the Games has also proved challenging – the core organising staff we need to deal with are so busy trying to just make the event happen. But we’re confident if we keep talking to people, our upcycling idea will get through – especially as we believe it will be the first time a Commonwealth Games has created new, valuable products out of event waste.
Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?
Definitely the Summer of Sustainability Music Festivals project while I was the Events and Venues Program Manager with Sustainability Victoria. I called it an action-learning partnership, working with five major music festivals in Victoria to accelerate the uptake of sustainable event practices. I just met so many creative, inspiring change agents, many of whom we captured on a half hour documentary. We also helped establish a new sustainable events portal – the Sustainable Events Planner.
Which campaign do you most admire?
Really inspired by the recent Vindaloo Against Violence campaign – low budget, simple idea, beautifully executed with major results. Nice.
What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?
The rise of online communication tools is changing the way we navigate our lives. Last year, I heard the former Saatchi and Saatchi Worldwide Creative Director, Bob Isherwood, describe the Barak O’bama grassroots and online election campaign as revolutionary. Isherwood argues that no election campaign will ever be controlled by an ad agency again. Big change.
I’ve also observed the rise in ‘green marketing’, many would also say a rise in ‘greenwash’. In my view, there’s a big role for principled communicators in challenging the current system and helping people find better ways to live within the planet’s ecological limits.
What quality do you look for in your communication team members?
It’s always great working with committed professionals who share similar values and who know how to have a good laugh.
What’s your favourite brand?
Now there’s a loaded little word. At it’s worst, it represents the cynical marketing of an idea in order to sell stuff. But if we take it as the values or ‘personality’ that an organisation or product represents, aligning with what they actually do, then here are couple of emerging Aussie ‘brands’ I like. Dead serious about the environmental issues they’re tackling, yet both a little bit cheeky (the Natural Event guys have a motto ‘changing the world from the bottom up’, so they’re quite literally cheeky!). And there’s Haul.
What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?
I saw an amazing documentary, the Persuaders, on SBS a few years ago and I’ve thought a lot about it since. It’s an American investigation into the persuasion industries, the marketeers and advertisers of our world, and where these professions are heading. A little old now, but is still well worth a watch.
Finish this sentence:
‘Communication is…still possible even when you don’t share a common language; all you need are hand gestures, extreme facial expressions and the willingness to look like a complete wally.