I often think about culture in terms of its impact on how we behave and the decisions we make. We are all social beings and incredibly influenced by each other and those who we respect. As communication professionals, much of what we do is in the realms of creating, adapting and changing culture; impacting on people and society as a whole.
Communications is about inspiring hearts and minds, shaping the agenda and contributing to culture. It is about storytelling, capturing imaginations, generating buzz, talkability and trends.
We had a fantastic panel, bringing a range of perspectives and stimulating ideas to the night. I have summarised just some of their insights and thoughts.
First up we had Andy Milne, Head of Creative Services at NOVA Entertainment. Andy is a natural born story teller. He started out talking about how cavemen were the original story tellers – painting their tales, and then went on to talk about a blog post he had read - referencing Johnathan Haidt’s thinking that the human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor. He gave a great example (Wason Selection Test) - a puzzle that can be solved by fewer than 10% as a logic puzzle, but by 70-90% when presented as a story puzzle. Andy used some really creative examples such as late night radio shows to make a real difference to driver fatigue campaigns.
Next up was Richard Brett, Group Managing Director, Brand Marketing, Ogilvy Public Relations. Richard presented two awesomely out-there case studies on story telling at its finest. The first case study was the eBay world’s first fully shop-able virtual reality store. While the technology and idea were all incredibly impressive, the part of the story that struck the strongest chord was Thelma living in Broome, with limited use of her legs, who was able to have a virtual shopping experience. Once again, it is the human connection and story that we all seek out. The second case story was on the Dewars Scotch Egg Club – we will save that one for another day.
Kerry Turner, Manager Participation and Partnerships at NSW Office of Sport, was the first world champion athlete that I have ever had the pleasure of hosting on a panel. Kerry talked about the dawn of a new era in women’s sport, as Australia’s major sporting codes see engaging with women as an integral part of their future.
What was so interesting about Kerry’s talk was how sporting codes such as Rugby and AFL are successfully developing new cultures that embrace femininity in sports that have traditionally been very masculine. The photo of Rio 2016 Australian rugby seven's gold medallists with ribbons in their hair and nail polish said it all.
Kerry also spoke about the powerful role that sport can play in changing culture, and she presented the Racism. It stops with me campaign. It was a poignant moment as she reflected how at times sports has been at the centre of difficult cultural issues. She ended with her main passion point that women’s sport is a new opportunity to drive positive change through sport.
Emily Curlewis, Senior Manager, Consumer Marketing at PayPal Australia spoke about authenticity in communications, and how the real story has to be led from inside the organisation first. Emily gave some fascinating examples about how core to PayPal diversity and inclusion is, and how some major and costly business decisions have been made based on putting their values first.
Emily presented a lovely case study about a small business called Odd Pears who sell socks in mismatching pairs of 3. The PayPal Working Capital program helps fund cash flow for businesses such as Odd Pears – with finance decisions able to be made using data on the platform. Emily’s talk ran true to authenticity being central to any great story.
Stuart Wragg, Associate Partner and Creative Director at N2N Communications wrapped up the panel by reinforcing that as communication professionals we are fundamentally story tellers. What makes a good story has always been human connection, and an ability to connect with what matters to people. Stu talked about an Airbnb case study that involved a competition to win a night in the Airbnb Mardi Gras float. Stu spoke to the genuine stories that were at the heart of that campaign.
There were some great questions from the floor about courage, meaning, alignment and what scotch eggs really are. I think we all left feeling inspired and buoyed by the selfies we took with the Justin Bieber cut-out in the Nova Entertainment foyer.