After spending more than two decades working in communications and journalism, @DianeSquires has taken on a new role as co-founder of Allabroad.com.au a travel blog. The role is ideal; it combines her experience in multiple communication disciplines, geographies and categories with a creative approach mixed with a love for everything travel. Check out her work as a tour host with Two’s a Crowd and great writing about her experiences. Makes you want to grab your passport.
Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?
This is a tough one for me this year. I’m a communications professional, with about 20 years experience in journalism and communications. My most recent role was Associate Director, Content Development, at the University of Melbourne, but I took a payout following a major restructure and decided to take a “gap year” to focus on my passions – writing and travel. After leaving Melbourne I was lucky to score a job hosting international tours with travel company Two’s A Crowd.
Tell us about your typical day?
When I’m in Melbourne, I’m generally writing, either for my blog – www.allabroad.com.au – or working on other writing projects and juggling my social media accounts. I also spend time trying to promote and raise money for Amari – a school in Uganda that was set up by an Australian woman I know. My sister and I volunteered there earlier this year and it was such an amazing experience, we can’t stop thinking up ways we can help them further. And then I get to host these amazing international tours. My hosting days are very diverse but generally involve seeing amazing sights around the world, making sure my tour group is having a fabulous time and that everything is running smoothly. I take lots of photos and share our experiences through my own and Two’s A Crowd’s social media channels – you never really lose the communications drive!
When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?
I started out as a journalist but then after about six years I wanted to diversify my skills and saw an interesting role at Monash University – it was advertised as a journalist role, but as soon as I started in the job it was rebadged as a media advisor role. That was the beginning of my communications career. I love helping individuals and organisations understand the value of good communications.
Who’s your communication hero/mentor?
I’ve worked with many really great communications professionals – the very best have the ability to listen, the sense to remain calm when everyone else is flapping in a crisis and can cut through to the heart of a story, issue or opportunity quickly.
Which tools can’t you live without?
My pen, notebook and iphone. I also love my Macbook Air. All four travel the world with me!
What are the biggest challenges in communications?
Staying current and up to date on communications channels, particularly with constant changes in social media and online content and staying focused on where your audience actually is. It’s easy to get distracted by the latest trends – particularly when organisations often want to be seen to be ahead of their competitors in adopting new technology, but if your audience isn’t there, you are speaking to no one. It’s also increasingly difficult to cut through to your audiences when they are being bombarded with messages from every angle. And finally, getting organisations to understand the importance of thinking about communications at the beginning rather than bringing us in to mop up at the end.
Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?
I really enjoyed working on the introduction of new Gaming and lottery licences in Victoria. I was working for the Department of Justice at the time and I learnt so much about identifying stakeholders, bringing in ambassadors and anticipating and addressing what could go wrong before announcement.
Which campaign do you most admire?
I loved the Discoveries Need Dollars campaign, which lobbied the government to continue funding for health and medical research.
What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?
The internet has made it both easier and harder to reach audiences – easier because anyone can publish their messages, but harder because there are so many more channels vying for people’s attention. When I started out in a media role we sent a release, rang the journalist to check it they’d received it and wrote for internal and stakeholder specific publications. Now we have so many social media channels, online blogs and websites to write for, as well as publications and of course, we still regularly pitch to media – but not always via a media release.
What qualities do you look for in your communication team members?
People who know how to listen, can remain calm under pressure, are confident enough to deal with people at all levels within an organisation and who are naturally curious.
What’s your favourite brand?
I like Volkswagon, love The Collective, and I’ve been learning about Cotton On’s work with schools in Uganda lately which I’m really impressed with.
What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?
Tony Jaques’ blog and email on reputation management is good for anyone interested in managing an organisation through an issue or crisis. Cutting Edge PR, by Kim Harrison is also well worth signing up to. And to maintain work/life balance, everyone should read Tim Ferriss’ The 4 Hour Work Week and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert to keep the creative drive.
What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?
I really underestimated the importance of internal communications in the overall communications mix. Organisations spend so much time and energy on media and stakeholder communications, but then fail to communicate with their own staff. Staff are at the forefront of customer engagement, if they don’t know what is going on, how can they support your messaging.
Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is …the art of listening, hearing and knowing when, what and how best to respond.’