Let’s go fishing for insights! Agile working / Business / Change / Communications / Employee communications / Events / Social media / Storytelling

IABC NSW Board Member Ike Levick reflects on the recent gala event and goes fishing for insights

Do you have the patience for fishing? Over 60 NSW communicators did, last week, at our sold out IABC NSW gala event held at PwC’s beautiful Barangaroo offices.

The evening took a refreshing fishbowl format: our three guest speakers and MC sat in the centre, alongside two empty seats. The rest of us sat in circular rows, facing the seats in the middle, watching and contributing to what would soon become an interesting debate on the range of challenges communicators face.

Rather than give a blow by blow account of our evening, I thought it’d be fun to summarise the insights into several fat shiny, glistening fish…

Before I do, here’s a quick overview of our three panellists, who were carefully chosen by MC Kieran McCann – IABC NSW Board member and National Thought Leadership Manager for PwC – for their diverse perspectives and rich experiences:

Megan Brownlow leads the media and entertainment industry practice at PwC and is the National Leader of the Telecommunications, Media and Technology industry group

Siobhan Doran is the founder of brand storytelling company, Thread Publishing and its digital subsidiary Content SOS, which streamlines copywriting online

Richard Spencer is CMO of Isentia and responsible for developing the brand, positioning the business and most importantly, connecting the business to its clients.

From exploring the future of work, to the blurring lines between internal communication and every other marketing communications discipline, to the fact that storytelling is most certainly not dead, we all enjoyed the lively debate. Here’s a smorgasbord of the seven fish, some large, some small, we caught last Wednesday night.

Fish #1: the biggest and fattest fish, the shark: New ways of working are inevitable. It’s already happening.

As long as you’re experienced and purpose-driven, working from home most of the time can work really well. In Siobhan’s case, she decided her passion for in-depth interviewing and storytelling could be done from her kitchen bench down the south coast. Social media allows her to network and her loyal clients value her expertise. Alternatively, Megan spoke about her recent experience of being introduced to activity based working. After the initial shock of having to fit her corner office into “two shoe boxes” wore off, she embraced the change to work with minimal clutter in an open plan environment. In fact, the different work spaces available to her mean that Megan and her PwC colleagues can work how they need to, in collaborative or creative zones, or quiet library areas. Companies like Carnival have realised flexibility is key and have introduced nine-day fortnights to help employees achieve that much sought-after balance. The point is, it doesn’t matter if you’re working from home, in the office or in places like The Hub or We Work – in theory, technology and flexibility enables us to work in whatever space we need to play to our strengths.


Fish #2: The electric eel: Technology is king, but you can control it.

Whether you’re like Xero working on Google Drive with international or interstate colleagues on the latest document, or use Slack,  Yammer or Workplace by Facebook to share knowledge and ideas, IT enables and empowers us to do our job. 24/7. And that’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be around the clock for us as individual workers. These days we’re encouraged to rethink how we work and live – and it only takes small actions, like putting our ‘mobile to bed’, or not responding to emails late at night, to stay balanced and manage expectations

Fish #3: The swordfish:  Writing is not dead!

In fact, no matter what level communicator we are or who we work for, developing authentic, memorable content and making sure that stories are human is more valuable (and desired) than ever. And excitingly, apparently creating stories can’t be replaced by robots, so we don’t need to worry – yet!

Fish #4: The octopus:  Small teams and huge organisations each have benefits!

It depends on what you’re looking for. Many of our IABC NSW members and guests are self-employed, work for small and huge companies. If a client is looking for agility, a large supplier may be too slow to act. However, they could be looking for diverse thinking and deep experience, in which case they’re an obvious choice. In comparison, small teams or individual contractors can be very responsive and offer tailored, quick solutions. Alternatively, different teams and individuals can come together to create a compelling ecosystem. It all depends on the need that’s being met, and who can meet it.

Fish #5: The puffer fish: The need to be first is dismantling public trust in the media.

Richard pointed out that trust levels are worsening by a tendency of content creators who want to be first – at the price of inaccuracy. Grabbing attention, even only for a few moments, is driving poor online behaviour which is hard to manage. All we can really do is try and stand out with real, well-told stories. As quickly as possible!

Fish #6: The butterfly perch:  Communication roles are blending and blurring.

It doesn’t matter whether we work in marketing, digital or internal communication – our focus must remain on the needs and preferences of the consumer, client or employee. This often means that functional lines are blurring and evolving to mirror the way content is absorbed by our target audience. It certainly keeps us all on our toes and makes us question how we work.

Fish #7: The doubletooth soldierfish:  Direct industry experience is less important.

In a similar vein to #6, direct industry experience used to be essential for job candidates but it’s less important these days. In fact, working for consumer-driven organisations is increasingly popular and changing the way candidates in our profession are moving across industries here in Australia. This trend supports the fact that complex problems are best met by people with diverse backgrounds.

 As communicators, it’s exciting that we continue to be challenged by what consumers want (which impacts what our stakeholders want), technology advancements and our own deep desire to make a difference. But please don’t forget to put your mobile to bed a little earlier tonight and live in the moment.

If you want to find out more about the fishbowl format, our MC Kieran wrote a blog about the format, house rules and key learnings.