This week in the #CommsCorner we sit down with Ms Philippa Brear. She is a senior lecturer in the Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations) based at RMIT. She has also been a Fellow of the PRIA since 2012 and served alongside our CEO on the Victorian Council of the PRIA from 2010–2013.
Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?
I’m an educator and a communicator. I’m a debater, a questioner, a strategist and an analyst. I’m a feminist. I have a good sense of humour. I’m Australia-born with a strong tinge of Welsh. I’ve been married for 20 years. I lived in Sydney and London for a long time, and sometimes I wonder if I will ever completely settle back into Melbourne. I’m a traveller, currently enamoured with India.
Tell us about your typical day in communications?
My role is about knowledge creation and skills building – for me and for my students. I’ve been working in Higher Education for ten years and the big difference, compared with industry, is the cyclical nature of the environment. But it changes all time, depending on the student cohort, the subjects I’m teaching, and the semester timetable. So it’s teaching, administration, meetings and more meetings. And, on a more solitary level, it’s my own research: my current PhD studies look at asbestos activism in Australia. Higher Education is heavily regulated – many policies and guidelines – and my industry background in law firm communication definitely sensitised me to working in an environment where compliance looms large.
When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?
It was the recession of the early 1990s and I was an analyst at Westpac. I was approached to work in media relations and said yes, convinced by the challenges and opportunities on offer. In hindsight, I think the media relations manager – with whom I’d worked on a few projects – saw that I was well suited to the work: I was interested in the media, had good current affairs and general knowledge, as well as strong communication and analytical skills. It was a steep learning curve but I soon discovered I could combine my skills, knowledge and interests to play an important professional role in a challenging environment.
Who’s your communication hero/mentor?
I don’t have one but since returning to Melbourne I’ve met some terrific communicators, including … Haydn Park – the consummate professional; Jamie Perrott – positivity and energy personified; Chriss Mannix – low on affectation, big on work ethic and a good business brain.
Which tools can’t you live without?
I like to think I can live without any tool, but the Cloud has been great for my PhD and managing my files.
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
Working with students to help shape their futures; getting my PhD done while working at RMIT University
Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?
My work hasn’t involved many campaigns, as such, but I developed the model for – and project managed – the first stakeholder roadshows for the newly-privatised UK passenger rail industry. Rail is a big part of life in the UK and the privatisation was controversial. So the roadshows presented a great challenge, and I loved working in a greenfield site.
Which campaign do you most admire?
Life. Be in it.
What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?
Without a doubt, social media
If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?
Cut: travel expenses – too much unnecessary anti-environmental travel in the age of Skype
Keep: CSR related social investments
What quality do you look for in your communication team members?
Good communication skills, not as common as you think
What’s your favourite brand?
What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?
Works of Charles Dickens – great storytelling and social critique – Bleak House, in particular.
What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?
Not many people write well.
Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’ something I do without thinking and something I think about a lot.