Category Archives: Communicator’s Corner

Andrea Davies chats internal communications in the #CommsCorner

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andreadaviesAndrea Davies is the Internal Communications Manager for Parks Victoria. Prior to taking on her current role, which gives her an excuse to visit every part of Victoria (well almost), she worked in various roles ranging from strategic communications and media to stakeholder relations and internal communications, in both the public and private sector. We were fortunate to work with Andrea while serving on the PRIA Council together.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

I am a communications professional, specialising in employee communications, engagement and change management. I currently work at Parks Victoria leading a small team to deliver internal communications across a large and dispersed workforce. I am passionate about my work and strive to make a difference in the work life of all employees. I enjoy working in fun and supportive teams and learning from great people.

How would you describe internal communications?

Internal communications is internal PR; it’s all about engaging employees so they perform at their best for the organisation. Open, transparent and meaningful two-way communications can really make an impact in shaping the organisation’s culture. Our role is to help people understand the organisation’s purpose and direction, and build confidence and trust within the workplace. Our work goes hand-in-hand with business strategy and people and culture. At the end of the day, we want people to feel engaged and proud to work for their organisation. Communicating the organisation’s strategic narrative so that it is relatable to different job roles can influence how people feel. In times of rapid change, we also have a key role in helping to facilitate change.

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

I completed a Bachelor degree in Public Relations in 2003. I worked in communications roles in three local government organisations before moving to a PR consultancy and then an IT sales and marketing company. In all roles I did some form of internal communications, but it wasn’t until I worked for NEC Australia that I truly appreciated internal communications and its value. I worked on a number of high impact reform programs under a wonderful leader and coach, and that’s when I made the decision to specialise in strategic internal communications.

Who’s your communication mentor?

Many people have influenced my career and who I am professionally. I respond well to strong leaders who challenge me. Lynette Elliott, Angela Scaffidi, Rachael Sweeney, Deb Ganderton and Adrian Cropley are people who have had a real impact on me. They have all encouraged me to believe in myself. I am always grateful for their advice. I know I am the person I am because of their mentorship and coaching. Today, I challenge the status quo because of them.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Our ability to segment and manage internal audience groups means internal communicators are exceptional change managers. But we are not always involved in the planning of project change management, which can be a real challenge for us. Internal communications can often feel the pain of poor change management planning and end up in problem-solving mode. Also, if an organisation doesn’t prioritise internal programs, then employees can be faced with too much change, leading to change fatigue and employee disengagement. Internal communications doesn’t always have control over these issues but are generally in a good position to educate and influence internal stakeholders.

Which tools can’t you live without?

Research. I have been able to influence senior management and others by providing strong data and evidence. Research such as employee engagement results can highlight internal communications value to an organisation. Evidence is so powerful.

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

We’ve seen some great results from our Safety First, Zero Injuries program. This program aims to improve workplace safety culture to ensure people don’t get injured at work. We used personal stories to cut through what can be sometimes be seen as a dry subject, i.e. safety. This program has led to a real shift in attitude and behaviours and the best part, more people are going home to their family and friends injury free.

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

Learn from other people within the industry. Find a mentor who is willing to share their experiences with you. Join an industry body like the PRIA or IABC. Both connect you to other people in the industry that you can learn from. LinkedIn is also a great tool for gaining industry insights and connecting with other communicators from across the world. Also, recognise your gaps and undertake learning and development courses to improve your understanding of the world.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is… not an ‘event’. It is a continuous process. Organisations need to communicate in a thoughtful manner that’s open, honest and two way. When people see you making that extra effort, they’ll do the same. Employee engagement is at the heart of internal communications. Effective communication drives organisational culture and leads to winning business results.

Gastrology bloggers in the #CommsCorner

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gastrology-food-imageThis week we speak with the bloggers behind Australian food & travel blog @gastrologyco. They’re ranked #1 in Melbourne by Zomato, and their pictures and reviews certainly make us hungry. We were fortunate enough to meet them in person during our time spent in Footscray for the campaign Your Footscray.

What’s your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

We travel around Australia and the world, passionately celebrating and sharing the greatest in food and wine. Yes, unfortunately we still need “real” jobs so during the day we are lawyers that work at commercial law firms in the CBD.

Tell us about a typical day working as bloggers?

Eating, drinking and travelling (repeat) and then writing, tweeting and instagramming about our experiences!

When did you first get a taste for blogging?

It all started about 7 years ago when we started really exploring Melbourne’s burgeoning food scene and we wanted a means to share amazing places that we had discovered with our family and friends. A blog seemed like a great way of sharing our experiences and it grew from there.

Which blogs from around the world do you most admire?

We love Action Bronson’s “F*&% that’s delicious”. Not quite a blog and more of a vlog, but we love his spirit and the authentic joy he feels from sharing his love of food with the world.

What tools of the trade can’t you live without?

Our DSLR and trusty iMac.

What are the biggest challenges you face? And what are the biggest opportunities?

The biggest challenge for us is (trying) to stay healthy and not giving into temptation every time a delicious opportunity presents itself (e.g. finishing all that crackling and other naughty stuff!). In terms of opportunities, we love the ability to travel and discover amazing behind the scenes experiences. As food and travel bloggers, we have had some amazing opportunities – including going behind the scenes in Burgundy in France where we were guided through amazing 18th century underground wine cellars in St Emilion, constantly meeting amazing chefs and restaurateurs and being involved in judging dishes for restaurant competitions.

Tell us which blog piece or project you are proudest of?

Our proudest project is being ambassadors for CARE Australia and being able to assist with sharing their vision to fight poverty.

What’s been the biggest change to blogging since you posted your first piece?

The biggest change has been the sheer growth of the blogging community and how passionate everyone in the general community now is about food and discovering the next best thing.

What tip would you give to someone thinking of starting a blog?

The best tip we can give is to be disciplined and ensure that you create content regularly (we aim for at least one blog post a day to keep our readers interested). But most importantly, do it because you love it!

What tips do you wish you’d known before creating your blog account?

Register a domain name and have your own website. You get a lot more creative control that way.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

In the words of Brian Tracy, “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”

Kathryn Crawford in the #CommsCorner

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OLP-91Kathryn Crawford is the Centenary Program Manager for our client Victoria University. From education to music, Kathryn has held a range of roles in corporate communication, stakeholder engagement and social marketing. She’s led high-profile social campaigns and held senior communication and engagement roles in government and corporate sectors.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

Communications, marketing and management professional with over 20 years’ experience in a wide variety of industries, including education, property development, music, broadcasting and not-for-profit. I’m absolutely committed to achieving positive outcomes for all involved and count my strong relationship building skills as an asset to this process.

Personally, I’m a mad dog-lover, avid reader, consumer of comedy, and respecter of all creatures, great and small.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

Is there such a thing? Anchoring the day is a nice strong coffee, and from there it’s a moving feast. I work in an open plan office in a University building, so amid the chatter and background noise of my own team are the colourful comings-and-goings of students and staff.

If I’m not in a 1:1, WIP, scheduling, coordination or leadership meeting with team members or the broader work unit, I’m answering the never-ending influx of emails, returning calls, having impromptu chats at my desk and brainstorming ideas. Sometimes I’m making connections with external colleagues and stakeholders and sometimes I’m just trying to find some space to t-h-i-n-k.

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

I’m not sure it was that defined. But my path seemed to be fairly well set when in Year Ten I had the opportunity to do a work placement at what was then known as Royce MS&L Communications. The glamour! The intrigue! The outfits! I knew I stumbled onto something. And that was just the tram ride down St Kilda Road.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

Brian Cox is exceptional. He has mastered the art of speaking with authority without being patronising – he has the ability to remain calm and rationale, even when answering the most ludicrous questions.

Closer to home, there are a multitude of exceptional writers and thinkers who manage to bring levity to dark and often humourless topics, which is a quality I admire. Ben Pobje, Clem Bastow, Waleed Aly. Exceptional analysts for our modern age. And a good investigative reporter is hard to beat. I relish the opportunity to delve into the work of people like Sean Kelly and Martin McKenzie-Murray. They make it impossible to accept lazy, turn-key journalism with their thorough, in-depth and always challenging perspectives.

Which tools can’t you live without?

Good humour, courage under fire and my exceptionally bright team.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

People. Expectations. Money. The trifecta!

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

I might be biased, but the current Centenary project of Victoria University is a stand-out. Over the last three years, we have developed and (nearly) delivered a program of events and activities to celebrate the centenary of the founding of the Footscray Technical School and 25 years as a University. The opportunities that have arisen because of this milestone occasion have been phenomenal – reaching out and reconnecting to lost audiences, reinforcing the value of partnerships, demonstrating capability and excellence in key areas, the ability to understand more about stakeholder’s needs, strong leadership and collaboration across the University… It’s not been without its challenges, but that just adds to the sense of accomplishment.

In developing the Centenary Exhibition, we have also been privileged to work with the University’s archives team to craft and tell the story of the past 100 years of our rich history and our links to the west of Melbourne. Through this, we learned the guiding principles and values of founding father Arch Hoadley and the schools’ leadership, are almost identical to those we espouse today, a century on! That is the sort of communication value you can’t put a price on.

Which campaign do you most admire?

I really admired Rosie Batty as she unfolded the ‘Never Alone – Justice for Kids’ campaign for the Luke Batty Foundation and took her message to federal parliament. Heartfelt, powerful, engaged and targeted.

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

The 21st century and the invasion of all-consuming technology. Using it to define markets, segment audiences, target messaging and track analytics is a far cry from the press releases we were taught to write at university.

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

We are already on UHT milk – trust me, there is no room for any more cuts!

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

Integrity, passion, enthusiasm and honesty. And a genuine desire to contribute to the team. One in, all in, I say. Aristotle once said ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’ and I tend to agree with him.

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

Always ask the question you’re worried makes you look stoopid. I’ve ended up looking far sillier than I needed to by being too embarrassed to ask the question in the first place.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

Essential.

Diane Squires in the #CommsCorner

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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.

Diane in Alaska

Diane in Alaska

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.’

Daniel Tisch in the #CommsCorner

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BlogPosts-Dan-Interview-Nov-2015Daniel Tisch is the President and CEO for Argyle Public Relationships, one of Canada’s largest independent public relations firms. Dan worked at senior levels in government before embarking on a 20-year consulting career in which he has advised CEOs, boards, government leaders and marketers for some of the world’s biggest brands. From 2011 to 2013, he was the Chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management. He led the Global Alliance to unprecedented growth and co-chaired the World PR Forums in Melbourne in 2012 (where we first got to work with Dan through the PRIA) and Madrid in 2014.

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

When I started out working for a minister in the Canadian government in the early 1990s, PR was all about ‘staying on message’ and delivering that message mainly through news media channels. We had the luxury of long news cycles: we would prepare the message, do the interview, and not see or feel much impact until the evening television news and the next morning’s dailies. Today, communicators have less control over the message than ever before, as it is adapted, influenced and spread by many voices; so communication has become even more about the building of relationships with stakeholders and influencers, and stewarding those relationships both in person and online.  To do well in the long term, you need a higher level of transparency and authenticity – plus an ability to know when you’re wrong, to say so quickly, and to back up your apology with tangible, measurable action. And whatever you say or do, it’s on the internet forever. The higher stakes, higher speed and eternal legacy of communication have changed the business forever – and generally for the better.

Tell us about your typical day in communications.

There is no typical day! One of the joys of consulting is never knowing exactly what the day will bring. I may interact with a corporate CEO about his or her leadership communications; I may meet with government officials, consumer marketers or pharma executives — often all in one day. I might generate wild ideas with colleagues in the Argyle Brainstorming Room at our Toronto office, and then consider how we would implement the best one across the country. I’ll post some stuff on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter. I’ll join a volunteer board call. And if it’s Tuesday, I’ll take my younger son to Cub Scouts that evening.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

…a social good, and a business imperative. Too many businesspeople still see PR as something to do when they want publicity or face a crisis. Ask yourself this: In an environment where most of the value of a brand lies in intangibles such as reputation, are relationships more important or less important? The answer is obvious. Every organisation needs an ongoing strategy to build and invest in those public relationships — for mutual benefit.  The best communication achieves mutual understanding, and is aligned with the truth, the public interest, and social harmony.

Sweetie darlings, it’s Absolutely Fabulous in the #CommsCorner

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Before Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie opens in Australian cinemas, we thought we’d share some of Edina Monsoon’s best lines in this week’s #CommsCorner. Eddy runs her own public relations firm and is always busy making sure her clients are being ‘seen’. She doesn’t like to name drop (much) but she’s worked with the likes of Lulu, Twiggy and even a Spice Girl.

Can you tell us what you do in PR?

“PR! I PR things! People. Places. Concepts.”

What’s been the biggest change to PR since you began your career back in the…?

“Look there’s a new disease called the Kardashians, darling.”

What’s your favourite brand?

“Lacroix, sweetie! You know, people will think ‘Wow it’s a Lacroix’ .”

What’s one book you think everyone should read?

“Don’t you remember my book allergy, darling? Itchy eyes! Itchy eyes!”

What advice do you have for colleagues in the industry?

To Bubbles on operating the Hoover: “YOU HAVE TO TURN IT ON, NOT JUST MAKE THE NOISE!”

What do you think of Claudia Bing?

“Oh, God! I piss better ideas than Claudia Bing!”

What’s your crowning PR achievement?

“I’m going down in history Pats, as the woman who put Princess Anne in a Vivienne Westwood basque.”

Amisha Mehta in the #CommsCorner

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QUT VC Awards 2016. QUT Gardens Point,  Brisbane on June 13, 2016. Picture-Patrick Hamilton

Amisha at the QUT VC Awards 2016 at QUT Gardens Point, Brisbane. Picture: Patrick Hamilton

Five years and six months after she first joined us in the #CommsCorner, we catch up with Amisha Mehta, an Associate Professor at QUT Business School, and get another insight into a professional communicator’s life.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

I’m an educator and researcher in risk and crisis communication at the QUT Business School who likes to bring the future into present experiences for students and research participants as a means to encourage change.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

Every day is different but usually involves a mix of teaching preparation or delivery, research design/analysis or reading recent publications, client and/or student meetings, and lots of coffee.

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

I knew I wanted to be a lecturer when I saw a student’s face light up as she landed on an idea for a public relations campaign. There is so much power in an idea and it’s a privilege to share that space.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

My communication hero, mentor and, gratefully, collaborator is Associate Professor Brooke Fisher Liu. Brooke is one of the top, industry-engaged researchers in risk and crisis communication, based at the University of Maryland. I admire the way she approaches work and life.

Which tools can’t you live without?

My mobile to keep me connected and my children to keep me on my toes.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

The single question that challenges me as an educator is also the greatest force for creativity: How can I create learning experiences that build student capacity for future environments where work is unknown?

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

I don’t often get to work on campaigns but I have the opportunity to design, analyse and make recommendations from research that has been used to prototype new products and services.

Which campaign do you most admire?

Every year, I read through the Golden Target Award-winning campaigns and one that stands the test of time is the Target 140 campaign, which was designed to reduce South-East Queensland households’ water usage during the drought in 2007. It cleverly integrated behavioural change models with communication to drive business and social outcomes. The other campaign I admire is the second version of ‘If it’s flooded, forget it’. This campaign uses clever messages to encourage smart decision-making during flood events.

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

Along with all things digital, we’re seeing value for interdisciplinary work and evidence-based decision-making.

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

Always keep or make space for research that guides strategy and not just confirms the problem.

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

I like working with people who are creative and take the initiative to solve problems or find opportunities.

What’s your favourite brand?

Qantas and Canturi—both create and sustain connections.

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

I like to read blogs from other disciplines/fields and one of my favourites is the Crew blog. It cleverly mixes design principles with work and creativity and I always take something away from it.

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

Numbers matter and go hand-in-hand with words to create meaning—data analysis and accounting are your friends. Do not avoid them.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

…a way to conquer uncertainty and unlock transformative thinking.