I am in Melbourne. I adore Melbourne. It makes my top 20 list for favourite cities. Maybe even top ten… wait, no. Probably not top ten. Scandinavia and South America take up quite a lot of space on that particular list.
The reason I am here is a study tour for a Masters degree I will be finishing off next year. I am deeply and importantly in Love with my classmates. Philipa is a brilliant and feisty woman, with a keen sense of observation and an occasionally sharp tongue (and I adore it when it comes out). Ranae is a beautiful, gentle, graceful, caring woman who oozes warmth and Mana. And Robert. What do I say about Robert? I absolutely adore him. He is the poster boy for old school and serious business buttoned up. He has worked with all the areas and industries that I rage against in my work and life. He’s corporate to the max and we disagree constantly, but have an incredible level of shared respect for each other. I am so excited to have more than a week to disagree with Robert. And learn from him. He’s a proper top level communication genius.
Today we had a full day of lectures at the University. Three professors, seven hours and my brain is full. I managed all of this after getting kicked square in the liver by some of my favourite people on earth. They are a super kind, intelligent, couple who we met when they were on their honeymoon Scott and Tash. Tash made Dee some negroni. Negroni tastes really really nice. I will probably never drink another negroni because I am pretty sure I am allergic to it now. I still Love them both to the moon and back.
Despite having a stonking hangover, the lectures were perfection. We talked about the speed at which everything changes, and people who can’t spell (shakes fists), and crisis planning and management. I generally despise crisis comms. I find it depressing and stressful, but today, it was made accessible and interesting. Will be implementing the formula and strategies across all our businesses and charities. And there were case studies for days and days and days. I’ve always been partial to a good case study.
Communication people are the story tellers. PR folk are a curious bunch, who genuinely like people and sharing information. At lunch we all got to talking and sharing stories. All three guest lecturers were extremely human and funny. Discussions were lively and peppered with hearty laughter. We discussed our kids, our partners, our work, the trip so far. I noticed that even body language among comms people is a bit different. We have all been trained in non verbal communication and active listening (I have trouble with active listening, I am more of a an active talker). So because we know that 80% of messages are non verbal, and it is not just what we say but how we say it, we make eye contact and mirror people we are speaking with. We are chatty, we are charming, we use humour and have a mastery of language that allows us to modify our speech to suit a mood or situation.
Connection, authenticity and activation are the holy trinity of this industry. For startups, NGOs, public sector, private sector, and corporates alike. Our work is to share stories and meet people where they are and how they are and encourage them to do things, or perhaps, discourage them from doing things. The call to action is the key that opens doors, and relationships are paramount in all that we are. Real, meaningful, engaged relationships that evolve and need to be maintained and monitored. We are an industry of soft skills. And it has been fun to see those in action all over Melbourne.