Slavica Habjanovic is the External Communications Advisor at HASSELL (a successful Australian architecture firm with offices throughout Australia and overseas and a very cool Melbourne rooftop). She’s also a columnist and editor at the Croatian Herald
What’s your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?
I’ve always had a love of words, writing and ideas…As a child, I was quite shy and found it difficult making friends, so books and writing were the centre of my world. That love has really defined me – every job or role I’ve had has been connected to giving a voice to people and ideas. I started off as a language tutor, translator and magazine editor and then moved into newspaper publishing, digital communications and public relations. In my current role at HASSELL, one of Australia’s largest design practices, my work involves sharing some amazing projects with the world.
As you’d expect, design, beauty and culture are my other passions in life. I hope I’ll always be lucky enough to be able to work in these areas and use my PR and communications skills to help make the world a more lovely place to live in by promoting the beautiful and moving creations people make!
My favourite activities include concerts, clubbing, visiting galleries and the theatre, nature walking and wandering around the city.
Tell us about your typical day in communications?
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.
When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?
I think I’ve always wanted to work in communications! It’s been a natural progression from a love of writing and getting ideas out there. I also love publishing but sometimes it can get a little repetitive as you generally work on marking texts up and working by yourself for the first few years. I love the variety of communications and the fact that you get to work with a lot of people.
Who’s your communication hero/mentor?
I have worked with a few amazing people who have taught me heaps – how to be diplomatic, how to manage your workload, how to make a text fabulous, how to develop your creativity and leadership skills. Honestly, some of my school and university teachers were fantastic mentors and it’s great seeing such inspirational people in the education system.
Which tools can’t you live without?
Blogs, Twitter, Photoshop, Facebook, Google, my style manual, chai, chai and more chai. Oh, and a printed dictionary (I’ll never get used to working with screen versions) and KissFM for great beats to keep me going.
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
A very democratic and flat management structure means that we often have to try and meet everyone’s desires, which can be challenging! Also, creative tension between departments can be a little tough to deal with but is also essential; otherwise you find you can get into a rut if you get too comfortable with doing things a certain way.
Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?
Close to my heart and probably the largest project I’ve ever led – the Croatian Film Festival, which started in 2009. It was massive – my team and I started with a budget of $0 and had to convince sponsors to get behind us and the Croatian film organisations to trust us with reels and reels of invaluable film.
It was so much fun creating something from nothing, coming up with a unique visual identity, working frantically for months and months and then finally standing there on opening night at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image on the stage, looking at the capacity-packed cinema and thinking, ‘We did it!’.
Many eminent people from the industry and media got behind us and it was such a great feeling being able to share some of my favourite films from Croatia on the big screen with Australian audiences. An experience I’ll cherish and value forever!
One of the best things to come out of the event was the Festival trailer we made for all of $50 – it played on a number of movie channels and at Federation Square.
We’re also working on some really exciting campaigns at HASSELL at the moment – keep your eyes and ears open for news in the coming months.
Which campaign do you most admire?
Wow, there are so many of them. The Old Spice campaign immediately springs to mind – it always makes me giggle and there’s no doubt it was a hit! I think a lot of the film festivals do amazing campaigns, for example the Melbourne International Film Festival is always fresh and interesting.
Another one of my favourites is for Karlovacko beer in Croatia – they started a series of ads a few years ago and used three actors who became the faces of the brand. The thing that made the ads special was that they were unbelievably witty, well written and such great mini-stories that took place in 10 or 15 seconds. The actors just pulled the characters off so well – I highly recommend looking the ads up on YouTube if you speak Croatian!
What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?
I haven’t been in the industry for all that long, but social media has definitely changed the face of human communication and business since I was at university. Who knows where the future will take us – it’s so exciting and as many people would say, an exciting time to be alive.
If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?
I would always try and keep the best graphic design we could afford – it makes such a difference in any marketing material or campaigns you are doing. Cheap design just doesn’t cut it. Also, great writing is essential for any campaign – you can’t cut corners with that. I would probably look at cutting back on printing costs and consider more digital options.
What quality do you look for in your communication team members?
Being able to work as part of a team, creativity and initiative, a sense of fun and style. A strong eye for detail and the ability to write extremely well. Natural curiosity and a willingness to both learn and teach are essential.
What’s your favourite brand?
I love quirky and beautiful brands from all walks of life. In local publishing, Frankie magazine has built a great brand and community that follows it. In travel, Emirates really take customer service to the next level but make you feel like you’re in the most luxurious plane in the world, even if you’re only travelling business class. I admire brands who have managed to reinvent themselves and adapted to changing times over and over again – Apple, Jaguar and Swarovski are just some examples. Classic and timeless brands are ones I look to for inspiration as well such as Villeroy and Boch, Bvlgari and Lindt. So much can be learnt from them all.
What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?
I absolutely loved ‘Losing my Virginity’ by Richard Branson for its very detailed look into how the Virgin brand was built. It proves that no road is easy and we shouldn’t take the work and success of others for granted.
What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?
How important it is to plan your campaign down to the smallest detail you can think of. Risk management – what to do and what not to do in a crisis. More often than not, we learn from our own mistakes about that one.
Finish this sentence:
‘Communication is…‘ the key to life!