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Lauren Ayton in #CommsCorner


122819pictureIn our first Communicator’s Corner for 2017 we chat with scientist, communicator, and new mum @DrLaurenAyton. We know Lauren as a Hugh Rogers Fellow through our friends at the Melbourne Boston Sister Cities Association. She’s also the Bionic Eye Clinical Program Leader and Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Eye Research Australia & The University Of Melbourne. And she’s been known to talk science on 3RRR’s Einstein a Go Go.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

I am a clinician-scientist, working in the field of vision restoration. My professional background is as an optometrist, and I still work in the clinic occasionally, but my passion now is research. I have been incredibly lucky in my career, and have been able to work on some truly amazing projects that aim to save sight – from a laser treatment in early age-related macular degeneration to my current role in the Bionic Eye programs. I am the Lead Clinical Investigator for both Melbourne-based bionic eye projects (based at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, and at Monash University), and in these roles, I am responsible for the coordination of the clinical trials for novel bionic eye devices. In my personal life, I am a new Mum! My husband and I welcomed our son Charlie 8.5 months ago, and he is an absolute delight and my greatest achievement. 

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

I use communication strategies and methods in many ways in my work; firstly, for patient discussions, so that I can make sure they are aware of their eye condition, treatment options, and the like. In my research roles, accurate and effective communication is absolutely vital. The Bionic Eye project is a very emotive concept, and it is important that people are well aware of the realities of vision restoration technologies. Whilst the work is very exciting, we are not able to restore “normal” sight to people who are blind, and the technology is still in its relative infancy. There is no “typical” day for me – I might spend one day talking to journalists, the next with patients, and then over to a school for a talk about eyes.This is why I love my job!

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

In high school, I wanted to be a journalist. I was lucky enough to meet the most influential teacher of my schooling, Mr Glasgow, who was a passionate scientist and an amazing communicator. He instilled a love of science in me, and made me realise how exciting a scientific career could be. I was in Year 11 when the human genome was fully sequenced, and I still remember that he spent our entire class talking about the potential ramifications of that achievement. From that moment, I wanted to be involved in the next generation of ground-breaking discoveries!

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

There are so many! Of the big-name, international communication gurus, I have always had a soft spot for Sir David Attenborough. His work to communicate environmental stories to the public is just beautiful – educational and artistic at the same time. On a more local level, my mentor is Dr Shane Huntington, who hosts the science communication radio show I present on (Einstein A Go Go, Sundays 11am- 12pm, 102.7FM). Shane is a spectacular communicator, and is a sought-after public speaker. I first met Shane when I did an interview for the University of Melbourne UpClose podcast, and he has been the most supportive ally in my science communication career since that time.

Which tools can’t you live without?

I am sure I am not alone in being completely and utterly addicted to my smart phone! Whilst it does make it hard to leave work behind sometimes, I love the ability to be flexible in where and when I do my work.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

As a research academic, my biggest challenge is the lack of security in funding. This is the time of year where all academics go to ground, furiously writing applications for research grants that have an appalling low success rate (close to 10% now for our main federal programs). The amount of time spent trying to get money to keep your work alive is ludicrous, and becomes an extra challenge when you must provide for a growing family.

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

One of the most exciting media experiences I have had was the announcement of the world-first clinical trial of our novel bionic eye device in Melbourne. With the help of our wonderful media consultants (Mira Image), we prepared a series of media interviews in 2012 to make the announcement. It was incredibly exciting to wait until the embargo was lifted and the news hit the media – it was international news, and finally my family and friends knew what I had been up to in the prior months!

Which campaign do you most admire?

I am a fan of the #LikeAGirl campaign by the US company Always, in which young girls are asked to “run like a girl”, “throw like a girl” and “fight like a girl”. They approach the tasks with gusto and unbridled enthusiasm, like girls always do! However, when older participants are asked the same, they act out the stereotypes; unconsciously deciding that “like a girl” is an insult. I love the way that the video makes you stop and think. As a passionate advocate for gender equality, I believe it is these tactics that will make people stop and think about our responses to these terms. Words can hurt! And the fact that the video has had over 63 million hits on YouTube is evidence of its power.

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

Science communication is a rapidly evolving field. When I finished my PhD eight years ago, there was very little emphasis placed on the need to communicate our work. However, science is publically funded, and working towards publically beneficial goals, and so it is essential that people be informed about the work. This is now changing, and there are many initiatives to help promote science and science communication, and it’s an exciting time!

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

I think there should always be support for early career researchers, PhD students and young scientists to learn communication skills; that will always be something I aim to provide for those I work with.

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

I think the most important quality in a science communicator is passion. When someone loves their work, and loves science in general, it shines through.

What’s your favourite brand?

This tends to change day to day with me! I am not particularly loyal to brands, and always am open to new suggestions from colleagues and friends. I am a fan of Who Gives a Crap, though; an Australian-owned toilet paper company who use environmentally friendly products and donate half their profits to build toilets in developing countries. I love that they started with a hilarious crowd-funding appeal (with one of the founders sitting on a toilet for 50 hours!), and they also have very cool wrapping.

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

Due to my recent motherhood and decrease in free time, I am a huge fan of science communication podcasts. They are great to listen to during your commute, or when walking the baby in the pram! There are a number of brilliant examples of these podcasts, but I do love the Naked Scientists (UK), RadioLab (USA) and ABC’s The Science Show (Australia).

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

Just do it! I was so nervous before starting with science communication events; as a scientist, you are so used to specialising in specific areas, and it can be nerve-wracking to talk about your work without the jargon. A few years down the track, and I count science communication as one of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of my job; I’m glad I just gave it a shot!

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

Essential in every aspect of life.

Digital disruption creating new digital reality – even for lawyers


6560824157_9868a5037e_oLast week, Victoria University’s Sir Zelman Cowen Centre  hosted an excellent conference exploring themes of digital disruption in the legal profession.

It follows a recent Wired article which put the case that “the practice of law is one area of expertise that has remained stubbornly resistant to disruption”.

As a generalisation,  lawyers do tend to be conservative and risk-averse. Their quest for perfection is at odds with the experimental approach that sees failure as a necessary part of development and innovation.

However, at last weeks conference many innovative themes and ideas emerged. There were lots of positive indications that the legal industry is ripe for disruption.

In 1965, Gordon Moore made a prediction that would set the pace for our modern digital revolution. From careful observation of an emerging trend, Moore foresaw that computing would dramatically increase in power, and decrease in relative cost, at an exponential pace.

Today, a proliferation of technology is influencing consumer interactions and expectations.

Customers are becoming far less accepting of rigid processes when dealing with businesses, and legal firms are no exception to this. Many new startup law firms like Nest Legal are putting customers at the core of everything they do. In the process, they are redefining the customer experience.

Technology is driving significant changes in the way businesses operate and create products.

Organisations – even law firms and our legal system –  are re-engineering and disrupting their own business model through innovation to keep up with the velocity of change, while continuing to create value.

This digital era has also created challenges and risks that didn’t exist two decades ago.

When assessing the implications of digital disruption, consider the fact that new digital business models are the principal reason why just over half of the names of companies on the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000 – just 16 years ago!

There has also been a paradigm shift in the definition of disruption, and yet, we are only at the beginning of what the World Economic Forum calls the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, characterised not only by mass adoption of digital technologies.

The conference highlighted that many law firms will increasingly be using predictive analytics and see a lot of focus on technology, in areas such as blockchain, contract automation and artificial intelligence.

In the meantime, digital innovation is enabling an exciting wave of change for  legal professionals willing to risk the ride.

Creative storytelling – why we’re afraid of those unexplained noises at night


“Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories.” ― Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall


With the passing of Halloween it has got us thinking a lot about ghost stories. How powerful is that image of a ghost or demon that lingers in the back of our minds? Put there in our youth by stories read under the blanket with a flashlight or around a shadowy camp fire.


As humans we are drawn to stories and the emotions they contain. This is because we are social creatures and we want to be able to relate to others. Good stories surprise us, they make us think, they make us feel. We cheer for the hero and have empathy  for characters.

We are scared of the ghosts. They stick in our minds and make us think.

That’s why at the c word we spend a lot of time telling folk “that it is all about the narrative”. Getting the content and construct right is paramount to any good story. There’s a difference between Casper and the Flying Dutchman.

Storytelling may seem like an old fashioned tool – because it is. However, creative  storytelling is being used more frequently by corporates, brands and individuals in order to be distinctive and competitive. Coming up with a compelling story is no easy task.

How often do we struggle with that question “so what do you do?”. That 30 second elevator pitch is so important. It needs to be clear, concise and creative. You need to provide something memorable and leave the audience wanting more.

The same can be said for corporate storytelling. While data is important, a story can help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and graphs cannot. Stories make ideas stick. When telling a longer story the adage “less is more” applies (especially in horror stories).

So where to begin? A story using Freytag’s Pyramid — a dramatic structure that can be traced back to Aristotle – can be incredibly effective. It was used in five acts by Shakespeare and in Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein”.

Even science tells us about the importance of emotion and the story. Stories provoke a strong neurological response according to Paul Zak’s great piece for the Harvard Business Review.

Life happens in the narrative we tell one another. Make sure you have a powerful one to share (hopefully it’s not too scary) but is one, that fires the imagination, is vivid and memorable.

Cheers from the c word

Shared value helping Australian organisations become purpose-driven


30191967971_012e4107f1_zthe c word is delighted to be working closely with the Shared Value Project in Australia. Last week we were in Sydney for the announcement of their inaugural Shared Value Awards and inspired by the incredible work that was recognised.

The Shared Value Project provides a framework that creates new opportunities for companies. It brings together leaders to build a strong and engaged global community around shared value, knowledge and practice. The concept has grown rapidly from a global idea to a form of business practicing at its best, adopted by leading global and Australasian companies.

Becoming purpose-driven is now becoming the norm.

What is shared value?

The shared value concept was defined in ‘Creating Shared Value’, an article by Prof Michael Porter and Mark Kramer in the Harvard Business Review (January/February 2011).

In this article they outline the need for organisations, and governments to leverage the power of market-based competition in addressing social problems.

The New York Times recently wrote a piece that helps to illustrate shared value in practice. Neil Irwin implies that if companies like Walmart spend more to pay and train their workers, it could create gains for the economy – and ultimately better for the businesses that make the investment.

Who won the 2016 Shared Value Awards?

The Shared Value Awards, presented annually by the Shared Value Project and media partner AFR BOSS, recognise new or existing efforts to address complex social challenges impacting society while creating measurable economic benefits and enhancing competitiveness.

They also recognise the adoption of shared value as a broader business strategy, and leaders who are championing this way of doing business.

Last week Australia’s Foreign Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop MP was named the inaugural Shared Value Champion, while IAG was named as the corporate organisation leading through shared value. The awards recognise commitment to the concept of shared value and leadership in Australia encouraging businesses, government and community organisations to work together to solve key social issues.

Chair of the Shared Value Project Peter Yates AM said shared value and the organisations in Australia pursuing a shared value strategy continue to benefit from the support of great leaders such as Minister Bishop and the leadership of companies such as IAG and others recognised through the awards.

“The continued adoption of shared value by organisations across Australia is in no small part due to champions such as the Hon Julie Bishop MP, and I recognise the important role each of them play in helping advance the shared value movement in our region,” Mr Yates said.

For more information visit the Shared Value Project website or follow them on Twitter @sharedvalueaust

Kicking goals with Twitter, the power of tweets in sport


We are all aware of the evolution of social media and the role it plays in promoting people, ideas and events. It has become an egalitarian, habitual tool, available to anyone who can connect online.

When it comes to sport the Twitter ecosystem includes everyone from fans, journalists, sponsors, brands, news presenters, celebrities and the very players being discussed.

With 67 per cent of sports fans using Twitter as their second-screen during a game, they are likely to tweet. The platform’s versatility and its concise messaging make it the ideal, real-time content provider now considered part of most major sporting events.

At the c word we are fans of Twitter and the power of the Tweet. Are you following @thecwordagency?

Who doesn’t love watching a good Twitterstorm erupt? Arguably, keeping up with what is trending is more valuable than being across what makes the sport pages of papers from around the country.

The virtues of Twitter, are best left for another blog. But with the impending sale of the platform, (and its shares in decline), It will be fascinating to see what happens in the next couple of weeks.

If you are interested in some context about the sale, take the time to read Nick Bilton’s great article for Vanity Fair, “What the Twitter sale, reveals about Twitter, itself – the plain truth about the struggling social-media company has become clear in its highly public, and theatrical, auction.”

The role and use of Twitter in the Australian sports scene was made evident by the impact it had over both Grand Finals last weekend. No matter where you are, Twitter enables you to keep up to date with what is happening – both on and off the field.

While the crowds may have been very vocal inside the stadium, there was just as much excitement on Twitter. The online conversation for both AFL & NRL was fascinating to watch unfold. It was also interesting to identify who the key participants were and be able to participate in the action. Twitter is a great place for fans to unite online and share their common interest and support.

Here’s a couple of our highlights from the Twittersphere last weekend

Thanks to @cshields2015 for another great post!

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

Communications is … #CommsCorner


commsisEach week we ask our #CommsCorner contributors to answer the question: Communications is … Here are some of their answers.

  • …a way to conquer uncertainty and unlock transformative thinking.
  • …key to starting a conversation.
  • …not the wank you think it is!
  • …TELLING STORIES. It’s a force multiplier.
  • ..the conduit for everything within an organisation.
  • …Listening to others, telling the great stories of your organisation and trusting your instincts.
  • ….the way we pass down our history, culture and experience. It helps us tell our stories.
  • …a skill you can continuously evaluate and improve.
  • …Constant and changing
  • …everywhere
  • …Being clear in the outcome you would like to achieve. And listening.
  • … underrated . It’s the most important skill you will ever have. You need to constantly refine this skill and learn from others daily.
  • …getting your point across while keeping your audience interested
  • …the best way to solve problems, and prevent them from happening in the first place.
  • …a meaningful experience. …CLEVER, COURAGEOUS AND CHARISMATIC.
  • …COMMON SENSE, …the key to life! DON’T OVERTHINK IT.
  • …something I do without thinking and something I think about a lot. …STORYTELLING
  • ….the answer to a hell of a lot of first world problems.

Checklists combat chaos


With the halfway point of 2016 fast approaching, and the end of another financial year, it’s easy for tasks to pile up and days to spin out of control. The communications world can be particularly stressful as the calendar creeps closer to June 30. In the blink of an eye, the inbox overflows, tasks pile up on the never-ending to do list, and you find yourself nursing an empty coffee cup.

Checklists can help control the chaos, and organisation is a must for a productive work environment – and at home as well. Being organised is about taking control of your life, reducing stress and ultimately saving time.8323659041_26080dc547_m

We all have our ways of keeping on top of tasks, these are our top tips for turning yourself into that pro-organiser you’ve always wanted to be.

Find (and use) the right supplies

Do you work best when your post-it notes are orange? Do coloured highlighters help manage tasks? Then, buy the supplies you love and keep them close! Find a planner or calendar with a cover you’re visually attracted to. If you enjoy looking at it, you will be more likely to use it every day. Make sure you’ve got the right tools such as an organised database – we love insightly – and the right office supplies to motivate you to get the job done. A trip to Officeworks may not sound thrilling, but a crisp new planner, a set of coloured Sharpies, and organised event schedule will be worth it!

And if you like to schedule your life digitally like we do, find new and exciting apps or extensions to make it a little easier.

Organise your organisation system

To-do lists are an age-old organisational tool but they can easily become overwhelming. After adding item after item throughout the day, what was once a neatly o
rganised list can soon become a jumble of words. This is where prioritising comes in!

Try dividing your list into sections, separating items by client, by task or by deadline.

If you’re looking for a brand new way to organise the workday, try a Bullet Journal. A Bullet Journal is a new, and increasingly popular, organisational tool that takes your lists, notebooks, calendars and more and puts them into one neatly coordinated journal. It is essentially a DIY journal/notebook that will hold and organise EVERYTHING in your life.

Embrace the Chaos

As professionals, sometimes we have to lean into chaos. It’s part of the job. No matter how organised you are, things can alwa778224627_f434cb064b_zys get out of hand. It is important to remember that organisation is not about being perfect. As Christina Scalise, author of Organize Your Life and More, says, “Organization isn’t about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving your overall quality of life.”

When your desk gets cluttered or your email piles up and you feel unorganised, just remember that everything will be okay. Take a deep breath, lean into the chaos and start over again tomorrow.

Good luck with getting yourself in order.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew