At the IABC NSW, our strongest asset is you – our network of capable and knowledgeable members. From those who’ve joined this year, to those who’ve been there from the start – there is a wealth of experience and perspective across this diverse group. This month, we’d like to introduce one of our long-time members – Sandra Black, who shares with us her perspectives on change, leadership comms, and how other members can get the most out of being part of the global network and community that is the IABC.
Welcome Sandra, tell us about yourself, what are you currently working on?
Hello, I have just completed a role as the Chief Customer Officer on the executive team at Uniting, a large not-for-profit organisation. My portfolio also included marketing, brand, public relations, media and communication. One of the highlights of that role was rebranding the organisation from the inside out, ensuring that our staff and stakeholders were engaged, aligned and galvanised under a common purpose, values and brand promise before we launched externally. I am now working on my next venture providing strategic consulting and contract services in brand, marketing and communication.
That sounds like a great venture. Can you tell us a bit about your career path, where did you start out?
My career began in a graduate recruitment program with NAB in the PR/ Communication department after completing a degree in Communication. One of my projects was to work on the staff newsletter which at that time meant writing and gathering stories, doing the design and then managing the print production and distribution. (And that was all pre-Internet.) My manager at the time was an outstanding mentor and a key reason for my incredible pathway to a communication, brand and marketing career working in agencies, corporates, and not-for-profit organisations.
How long have you been a member of the IABC, and what have you enjoyed most in that time?
Well I have been with the IABC and its previous forms the whole of my career. It was introduced to me by my manager when I started on the graduate program at NAB. So, more years than I really want to admit.
The IABC has always provided me with insight, currency, and great opportunities for personal growth and development. I have seen the industry in Australia gather what I would call a ‘professionalised’ momentum over the years as practitioners continue to perform and achieve at the highest level, while enlightened and visionary CEOs and Boards position the function as a strategic imperative. The IABC plays an important role in this positioning by continually adapting to the challenges of change and leading the way in contemporary practice and thinking. It has never lost relevance for me throughout my career.
Have you got any tips for other members about how to get the most out of the IABC?
Stay a member, read everything, share the insights with your colleagues and teams, participate in the events if you can. Use the collective wisdom of the information to measure your own performance and relevance.
Who was the leader you worked for whose Comms style you appreciated most and why?
Having worked for a number of CEOs over the years, I think a composite of individual strengths in their communication styles would probably emerge as a person who communicates with confidence and strength while demonstrating humility and authenticity. People respond to someone they can connect with and believe in, based on trust and respect. The most effective leaders I have experienced can tell a story, are curious, courageous and show a genuine interest in others. I think people often mistake nice for weak. If you are a communicator who focuses on strengths, clarity and purpose, the people around you respond by wanting to be the best they can be. It engenders loyalty, commitment and discretionary effort. ‘The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’ by Susan Cain is a great read and an interesting exploration of personalities in the work place and across cultures.
What’s the thing you’re most excited about seeing change in communications?
There has always been change in communication, but the pace and scope has certainly accelerated as we engage with our customers in the digital space while fine tuning our reach, relevance and focus. One of our challenges while we embrace and harness new technologies and innovations is that we don’t lose our human touch and ensure that we are not contributing to social isolation. We are already seeing movements around reducing our exposure to technology diversions particularly social media and on-line gaming.
It is also encouraging to see the emergence and elevation of ‘customer’ in communication. Although as communicators, I would suggest that we have always had ‘our customer’ as the priority in developing any messaging. Now customers have greater control and influence over organisations and their success or failure as a brand. This power cannot be underestimated and will only become stronger. That is why the effective integration and intersection of customer, communication, marketing, brand and culture working together as key components of an organisation’s strategic agenda is one of the most critical and exciting changes in communication in the last few years.
Who are some thought leaders or speakers whose insights you’ve found particularly valuable?
Listening to the insights and analysis of a presentation by Demographer Bernard Salt recently on the changes to our society over the last few decades was thought provoking and challenging. Consumer behaviour, occupation changes, generational aspirations, wealth distribution, diversity and so much more provides rich material for any professional communicator as to how to access and engage with selected cohorts. Bernard is an inspirational and effective speaker with an exceptional talent for developing engaging content coupled with his entertaining delivery style.
Rebecca Wilson is fast emerging as one of the key female entrepreneurs in Australia. She is the CEO of her organisation Starts at 60, which is now the largest independent on-line community for active older Australians. Her presentations are delivered with energy and passion as she shares her knowledge and understanding of the lifestyle choices, preferences and consumer behaviour of the seniors community in Australia. This growing community should not be ignored by the market, no matter what industry you are in. Both Rebecca and Bernard are incredible communicators and engaging presenters.
If you’d like to connect with Sandra, please reach out to her on Linkedin, and if you’d like to take part in our Member profiles get in touch with your IABC NSW Board Member buddy.