Christopher Shields in the #CommsCorner

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Christopher is the c word’s creative director with an insatiable curiosity when it comes to digital media and a desire to share what he learns. His twitter feed often reminds us that business can be both fun and enlightening. He has an impressive work history covering Melbourne, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. He has extensive experience in building and managing motivated teams, with a clear focus on developing an innovative working culture, that outperforms and delivers results. Christopher’s work screams innovation – delivering the basics with a twist, often combining it with a new thought, to deliver it in a more engaging way.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

Recently after 20 years in the financial services industry, working across three regions – Australia, New Zealand and Asia – I decided it was time to do something completely different. Now there are two questions I get asked most frequently when I tell my story. The first is, “Why did you decide to leave?” and the second is, “How did you make the change?” My career changed from two things: being unhappy in my current field, and being increasingly passionate about other things. For example, I am very excited about the rapid pace of disruption, innovation and change that’s happening across the globe. A new generation, with a new way of doing things is now upon us. This “born digital” generation opens up many opportunities. I see it everywhere, from how people are changing daily habits; to corporates who are struggling to be organised differently, to deliver sustainable value. Today, around 40% of the world population has an internet connection. In 1995, it was less than 1%. This new environment is challenging and can be difficult to navigate. I want to help others realise their creativity, potential and goals. I am currently working on a number of diverse initiatives and projects. It is satisfying to solve business problems, help implement strategy and see entrepreneurial ideas come to realisation. My career change has really helped me to view things with a different lens. I am also a great believer in the power of storytelling. No doubt about it, the best leaders, writers, teachers, coaches and speakers are all good storytellers. Stories powerfully connect us to our emotions and can be used to create real change because people are moved to take action. I want to tell stories that people remember and share. This is what makes me want to roll my sleeves up every day.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

I laugh out loud when I hear this question because my days have changed quite rapidly in the past 12 months. In my previous corporate life my day started with emails, meetings, strategic workshops, communications strategies etc. I was then fortunate enough to spend 3 months in Sri Lanka and my day would revolve around communicating with staff, customers and contractors. And now here in Melbourne my day is very much focused on communicating through social media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Feel free to follow me.

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

I like to think I have always been a creative and imaginative storyteller. Everyone can talk, but creating engagement is a continual challenge. I believe that communication is about listening and understanding different perspectives. Effective communicators work hard and practice to continually improve.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

Mark Twain once said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people, always do that, but really great ones make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Which tools can’t you live without?

My phone. The internet (& fast wifi). Dog lead.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

My biggest challenge is to slow down because sometimes people find it hard to keep up. I am often juggling many things at once. This means that not everything is perfect. I am a great believer in two concepts. First “test and learn” then “fail fast” Applying both these, help to realise ideas and understand if they will work.

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

I was very proud to be part of ANZ’s efforts around diversity and in particular their involvement with the Sydney Mardi Gras. It’s great to see how that campaign has evolved and the partnership with the Mardi Gras association and just being active participants in mardi gras through to the GAYTMS which has now evolved into something bigger. Also, though I’m no longer part of that it’s great to see how the evolution keeps getting bigger and better. I’m also very proud of how one of the family businesses is now recognised as one of the fastest growing brands in NZ which is Green Meadows Beef, a small family business focused on delivering beef from the farm to the plate.

Which campaign do you most admire?
I think in Australia “I bought a Jeep” has done incredible things for that brand. When I was ever hiring any marketing staff my last question would always be what’s your favourite ad and why and the “I bought a jeep” campaign was used consistently for the last few years. But a recent personal favourite of mine was #puppymonkeybaby campaign by Mountain Dew in the US which combines three of everybody’s favourite things into one. From a social media perspective, I think Oreo’s have done a great job with their daily photo. The thing that most people forget about social media is that “social” component. And the ability to engage with your audience rather than just broadcast. Many brands are not successful in engaging with their audience because of the complex nature of having multiple platforms and disparate audiences.

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

Social media. The exponential increase and the ability to engage and build your brand fast and quick through the use of social is probably the biggest change. Who could imagine even six years ago that we could live in world without the iPhone, apps, YouTube bloggers and the Kardashians. I think the near future of social will revolve around virtual reality, messaging and brand influencers.

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

I would cut newspaper advertising and on the internet I’d cut banner ads. If I had to choose only one social media platform in which to build up my brand I would choose Facebook depending on the audience I was trying to reach.

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

I can teach most things. The quality I look for is the attitude you bring and the ability to take complex problems and simplify them down to 140 characters.

What’s your favourite brand?

Oreos

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

I think blogs will soon be the thing of the past even if Twitter introduces them. The book which I think everyone should read is “Who moved my cheese” or my other favourite “My iceberg is melting” because every communicator has met a penguin like NoNo.

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

That if a problem can’t be simplified through communications then it should be. Nothing is too complex that you shouldn’t be able to say it or talk about it in a simple way. However, starting out in my career I just thought I didn’t understand or wasn’t smart enough to understand a complex issue. But the smart thing to do is break it down so that anyone can understand what you’re talking about. The art of a successful communicator is being able to do this. Great orators of our time Winston Churchill, Malcolm X have all have the ability to do this.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’ the way we pass down our history, culture and experience. It helps us tell our stories

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