In our latest #CommsCorner we chat with Emily Martyn, Corporate Affairs Lead at Hostplus. She shares her favourite c-words and explains how she got “hooked” on communication!
Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?
The day we brought dairy to Canberra
From cars to cows; chocolate to competitive investment returns; I am passionate about many c words – most of all, communications! I’m an energetic and constantly curious PR practitioner with experience across in-house corporate and government affairs, not-for-profit and agency communications roles. I enjoy being kept on my toes, trying new things, immersing myself in different industries, meeting new people, learning new skills and taking my infinitely transferable ‘comms toolkit’ with me along the way.
Tell us about your typical day in communications?
I roll over to my 6am alarm and check the day’s latest news clippings – what’s being said about the business, our industry, the sectors we serve and our competitors. I’ll identify if there are any opportunities to leverage coverage and promote the business; or potential risks to manage and protect its reputation from. Outside of media relations, my average day consists of several touchpoints with different business functions on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) and investments-related matters, new product launches, community relations, marketing and sponsorships. I also work closely with the CEO’s office and Group Executive, and support industry lobbying and advocacy on a number of external committees. To wind down from my day, I enjoy walking around Albert Park Lake (whenever I can), playing tennis, painting and cooking up a nutritious feast at home.
When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?
When I left school, I started studying Architecture at Monash University before soon realising the old-school concept of pen to sketching paper I romanticised in my head, was really a thing of the past. Whilst I loved the creativity of it and was pushed to challenge any preconceived ideas I had, the highly complex three-dimensional computing and mathematics lost me. Second to my love for visual design and art, I knew I really enjoyed English at school, which is why I applied for public relations work experience at Mango (DDB). Here, I realised there was a big bunch of like-minded people who were creative, working with impressive clients and shaping the reputations of many hugely-successful household brands. I was instantly hooked and applied for a PR degree at Deakin University the next week!
Who’s your communication hero/mentor?
I’ve been privileged to have a few mentors in my life – some that have grown organically and others part of a formalised workplace program – however there has been one who has truly made a significant impact in helping me to where I am today. I met Natalie Collard, who was CEO of Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) at the time, at a PR networking function hosted by Deakin University. Nat and I both remember that event very clearly and the instant connection we had through the similar values we shared, our approach to work life, and the bigger life goals we were aiming to achieve. At the time, I wasn’t sure why however I knew I had to stay in contact with Nat.
When my 12-month contract was coming to an end, following a challenging year for the business (where we announced the closure of Holden’s manufacturing operations), Nat was the first person I reached out to. It just so happened at that time, ADF was in dire need for extra resourcing to run their first National Dairy Farmers’ Summit and after a short phone conversation, asked if I could start next week! Ever since, Nat has very generously taken me under her wing, helped me leverage my strengths, pushed me out of my comfort zone (on several occasions), been a constructive feedback loop and trusted confident, and most of all, a wonderful friend. We catch-up every few months and remain in regular contact over the phone.
Which tools can’t you live without?
On a digital front, definitely my iPhone, Meltwater and iSentia. However, I also can’t go a day without my old-school journal – there’s something about learning through writing that I just can’t achieve when typing!
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
The 24-hour media cycle can make finding the right work-life balance challenging when you’re expected to be ‘on’ all the time. I know I’m at my personal best when I give myself an hour or so each day to do something outside in the fresh air, away from my phone and laptop. Being a Libran, achieving balance is both my biggest strength and weakness…it’s a day-to-day battle!
Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?
During my dairy days – working at Australian Dairy Farmers with Natalie – and in response to New Zealand’s lucrative free trade agreement (FTA) with China which has seen their exports sore to around 40 per cent of global market share (versus Australia’s meagre 7 per cent), we launched a social media campaign to place Australian dairy on a level playing field with NZ in China.
To spread the message, we urged the Australian dairy community to get behind our #FTA4dairy ‘selfie’ campaign to promote a positive China-Australia FTA (ChAFTA) for all Australian farmers – rallying support from dairy farmers, industry groups, Federal and State politicians, ag students and everyday consumers. Our not-for-profit efforts (carried out on a $500 budget) received bipartisan support, were quoted in Hansard in several Senate Hearing Committees and played an instrumental role in the outcome of the signed ChAFTA in June 2015, which has started to see the removal of all Australian dairy export tariffs to China (to be fully completed by 2026).
Which campaign do you most admire?
One of my favourites is Dove’s Real Beauty campaign which ramped up in 2006, turning a brand associated with a plain white bar of soap, into a household name challenging the status quo and opening young women’s eyes to the narrow definitions of beauty we all grew up with. This campaign stemmed from Edelman’s research of more than 3000 women in 10 countries, exploring what beauty means to women today and why that is. This integrated marketing campaign is still as relevant today as it was 10 years ago, and has moved beyond a re-branding exercise into a US-based charitable fund (among other initiatives) to raise awareness about online bullying and photography projects that capture the beauty girls see in the world around them. It’s a tremendous case study.
What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?
Being in my mid-twenties with five years’ experience under my belt, I can only offer a limited perspective on this, however I have observed that the comms landscape for businesses and corporate leaders has dramatically changed with the speed, reach and inter-dependence of social and traditional media. Today, we see more risk from not being involved on social media, than being involved – this has been a clear behavioural and issues management shift over a short period of time.
If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?
From a PR perspective, we’re very lean on the ground here with myself as the corporate affairs resource and media monitoring/reporting support from Meltwater. However, if we needed to cut something from the larger marketing budget, it would definitely be merchandising – whilst it’s a nice-to-have; the show can go on without it (…my marketing colleagues may not agree though)!
What quality do you look for in your communication team members?
Being a naturally curious person, I admire like-minded comms people who aren’t afraid to ask ‘why’ and challenge preconceived systems, processes and ways of thinking. Just because the business has done something one way for many years – a ‘legacy’ thing, if you will – doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best way forward. We need to be constantly evolving and trying new things to remain relevant.
I also think flexibility is equally as important. Particularly today where corporates are constantly in a state of flux and going through large transformation programs – you need to be able to roll with the punches and adapt to the ever-changing situations we find ourselves in. It’s what keeps our comms jobs interesting and continually evolving.
What’s your favourite brand?
At Mondelez International, I was privileged to work on a portfolio of iconic brands including Vegemite, The Natural Confectionery Co., KRAFT Peanut Butter, Pascall, Oreo and belVita, however nothing can top the heritage of Cadbury. From the UK brand’s humble beginnings in Birmingham selling tea, coffee and drinking chocolate, to being owned by the second largest confectionery brand in the world, Cadbury has been inventing, inspiring and investing in British and Australian (and most recently Indian and Chinese) chocolate-lovers for almost 200 years. Last year alone, Cadbury generated more than US$3 billion in global net revenues. It’s also my (not-so-secret) source of indulgence…
What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?
Daniel Goleman’s ‘Emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ’ is a must-read, exploring insights into our two minds – the rational and emotional – and how they together shape our destiny. This book draws on psychology and neuroscience discoveries to demonstrate how emotional intelligence determines our success in relationships, work and even our physical well-being. Knowing that words account for less than 10 per cent of our overall messages, this is a great read for all comms practitioners; however, I’d suggest breaking it down to bite-size chunks to digest and reflect over time.
What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?
Comms is a necessary requirement in every industry, business, function and team. Whilst it may be in your job title; it doesn’t mean it’s your role to carry the load for the entire organisation. The best way to set yourself up for success, alongside the business, is to help colleagues understand the benefits of setting and implementing a strategic comms plan, and reporting back on its deliverables. As comms professionals, we have the most impact empowering others to take control of their personal communication needs, whilst providing directional guidance and constructive feedback along the way.
Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’
Key – to success in life, work and relationships.