Nicole Matejic aka @NicoleMatejic is a published author, academic, internationally recognised military information operations and strategic communications specialist. She is a regular instructor for and speaker to NATO; and is a trusted adviser to Governments around the world in the areas of social media warfare, information operations, countering violent extremism, public diplomacy and counter terrorism.
Nicole has recently been a part of the discussion in Brussels on NATO‘s communications challenges.
Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?
My works takes me from the battlefield to the boardroom (sometimes in the space of minutes) where public diplomacy, strategic communications, crisis and issues management intersect. I’m an author – my book ‘Social Media Rules of Engagement’ was published by Wiley in 2015; and I’m a sought after speaker, trainer and trusted adviser for Governments around the world.
After over ten years in the Australian Federal Government working across the Defence and Home Affairs portfolios, I went on the run from the 9-5 to start my own company Info Ops HQ after achieving international recognition with my blog. I’ve since turned that company into 2- Info Ops HQ and Quantum CIQ. I work extensively in the counter terrorism, digital diplomacy, countering violent extremism and military information operations environment.
Tell us about your typical day in communications?
Typical day? Does anyone really have those? I tend to have very atypical days! From Skype meetings with Europe or the USA at odd hours; to managing client crises, providing strategic communications advice, media relations guidance, to lecturing at Universities, performing public speaking roles to writing research papers and advising Governments – I find that my calendar is sometimes only a general guide for the kind of day I look back on from an airport lounge somewhere in the world and go “Well that was interesting!”
When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?
I can’t ever recall having a communications light-bulb moment to be honest but I always loved writing. The culmination of my personal and professional journey has led me to be working in a field I couldn’t have imagined when I was at school or university because social media didn’t exist! (Really, I’m not that old!)
I’ve always had a fascination with words – from books to theatre and TV, the way words can both animate a topic, tell a story and influence people. As my career progressed from more traditional strategic communications work into what I do today, it’s the influence factor that really ignites my passion for communications work.
Who’s your communication hero/mentor?
I don’t have a hero or mentor per-se but a hold high admiration for people who have a no bullshit policy and leave the spin in their gym class!
Which tools can’t you live without?
My mobile office – I tend to carry a tech min-market with me at all times! I like to remain connected and am known for responding to emails and working from 39,000ft while flying over the Middle East.
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
Usually a client has an idea of what communications they think they need to do to achieve a set objective but some more than others are more receptive to actually taking on board the advice they pay for. This can be exceptionally frustrating – as you know that if they’d followed your advice (a week, a month, a year ago) they would be in a much better position today when you measure organisational trust, media and stakeholder engagement.
Similarly during a crisis, people can tend to be quick on the self-congratulations when they lack a holistic overview of the totality of the media environment. Being overly sensitive to what people say about organisations or people on social media fuels far more fires than it needs to.
Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?
One of my favourite campaigns was whilst I was working with the Department of Defence. My now Quantum CIQ business partner Claire Reynolds and I delivered strategic communications and event management for the Mercedes Benz G-Wagon’s introduction into service launch with the Australian Army. This involved coordinating Ministerial attendance (think event briefs, talking points, speeches and doorstop media opportunities) Army hosted journalist drive days, while concurrently coordinating with the Minister, Army, Mercedes Benz and other Defence Industry stakeholders to get national broadcast and trade media coverage. Seeing my own photograph of the G-Wagon in an environmental testing chamber grace the cover of Australian Defence Magazine that month capped off a well-delivered campaign.
Which campaign do you most admire?
There are so many… right now I absolutely love how Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is redefining digital diplomacy. His communication payloads touch so many areas vital to social cohesion and it is inspiring to see a world leader refer to newly arrived Syrian refugees as “New Canadians” or seeing him amongst the Sikh community celebrating Khalsa day.
What I like about his communications is that his actions always speak louder than his words and as a politician, this is quite remarkable. World leaders and organisational executives should be furiously taking notes.
What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?
The digital and social revolutions.
When I was studying my BA in 2000, social media hadn’t been invented yet. Digital cameras were just coming onto the market and a MacIntosh computer was the size of a small coffee table.
I can’t recall who said “they put man on the moon with less technology than exists in your smartphone” but it’s really quite incredible that in my 3 and bit decade lifetime we’ve gone from relying on the Government for news to private corporations to anyone being able to broadcast, make or break news. This has been a game changer for communicators – never before has the ability to know and understand your audiences been so easy – and yet, it is still so oft overlooked.
If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?
Cut – spin.
Keep – data and analytics.
What quality do you look for in your communication team members?
Initiative and an ability to think in 4 dimensions.
Issues and crises for example don’t happen by accident 99% of the time so having the ability to see the full client landscape across the totality of the media environment is a rare skill. In the military environment I look for individuals who demonstrate strong leadership and innovation as the latter in particular is organisationally trained out of the workforce, making independent thinkers a potent resource.
What’s your favourite brand?
Not sure I have a favourite but I do lean towards brands that demonstrate consistently great customer experience or those who communicate authentically.
What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?
In a shameless plug, I’ll be cheeky and say mine!
‘Social Media Rules of Engagement: Why your online narrative is the best weapon during a crisis’ by yours truly. Available in all good bookstores, on Amazon and in the Apple iBooks store.
Why should communicator’s read it? If social media is part of your role, you need to be prepared for issues and management and my book gives people practical tips and tricks on how to manage their online presence to avoid it managing them.
What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?
Being in business for yourself is both relative and subjective – instead of trying to emulate those you see doing well, carve out your own niche and embrace what makes your offering unique. I wish I’d taken my own advice much earlier!
Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’ the conduit for everything within an organisation.