My first trip overseas was the first anniversary of the Bali bombing.  In 2002, a series of bombs in Kuta, Bali killed 202 people and injured hundreds more. I was a journalist at the Geelong Advertiser working the afternoon shift and oblivious to the international tragedy when I walked in.

I had to do multiple ‘death knocks’ on the doors of families who we were hearing had lost loved ones.  It was a horrifically distasteful term for what became one of the biggest privileges of my life.

I spent days, weeks and months recounting the stories of those who were lost, and those who had lost, helping them to describe their own grief and anger and trying to be as true as I could in representing their love and loved ones, as well as the stories of those who had survived.

Twelve months later, I flew to noisy, overwhelming Bali, with its unfamiliar smells, sadness and snipers guarding those who flocked to pay their respects. It has remained the most difficult and most rewarding experience in my journalist career.

And even when I burnt out a few years later, and left journalism behind for ‘the other side’, I never regretted or forgot the lessons bestowed on me of those whose stories I was able to tell.

That love never forgets and life is too precious not to go out and live it.

I was really pleased to complete the final module of my IAP2 Certificate of Engagement recently. Over a 12 month period I have delved into the world of engagement and strategy moving through the modules on engagement foundations, methods, facilitation and evaluation.

Engagement Evaluation was one of the more daunting lessons for me. It was acknowledged in the room that engagement evaluation is often done badly, or done rarely.

Evaluating the engagement can be tough because participants find it hard to differentiate between project and engagement ie ‘I don’t like the project’ or ‘I don’t like the project but I was treated with respect’.

‘Our job is to hear all voices and give them equal weight because it’s not for us practitioners to make value judgements,’ Tutor Lucy Cole-Edelstein said.

IAP2 says a key risk in engagement is complacency, thinking that we know our community, local stakeholders and preferences. Undertaking evaluation of the engagement process helps to:

– determine whether engagement was effective

– asses whether appropriate methods were used

– asses whether feedback and outcomes were what was needed

Lucy said evaluative thinking is part of our everyday life, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.

But you do want evaluation to be meaningful, to tell a story – positive or negative – and to use it to influence up and back out into community and stakeholders who have trusted you enough to engage.

Just as challenging earlier in the year, the Facilitation in Engagement module took us through how we develop the skill and confidence to facilitate live events, building tools and being able to troubleshoot on the fly (or at least, being prepared to try!)

Being able to lead from behind and still be confident, maintaining confidence and our cool when others have differing views or are being, shall we say, difficult (!), having non-judgmental dialogue and identifying what makes a great conversation were all key interests to the group.

I particularly loved the 3 P’s of facilitation – Purpose, People and Process (also pretty fundamental to engagement) and the need to look at our own style and approaches catering for different learning and personality styles.

Some of this is intuition and reading people and the room, supported by process and planning, and that appealed to me with my own experience in and as part of communities and teams.

“Bring the girlie in. Not a culture fit. But she’s a woman. She’s so full on.”

Marketing strategist Anne Miles (CPM) introduced her talk on unconscious bias and the push for gender neutrality in marketing with a bit of punch. Bluntly, she said brands themselves have an unconscious bias and don’t always recognise their own customers. For example :

– 83 percent of marketers believe their organisations are creating advertising that avoids gender stereotypes

– 63 percent of customers disagree and think advertising reinforces stereotypes.

A big divide, so her question was: how we talk to each gender without polarising the other when the market audience is both?

During a wide ranging and thought-provoking talk, she showed us three car adverts; one overtly masculine, one overtly feminine and one gender neutral, which threw a bit of humanity and subtle role balancing in it. The examples she provided as good practice in bringing humanity into social media had authenticity, obviously stood for something, used gender neutral colours, even a balanced font appealing to both masculine and feminine.

As a consumer, it really struck me what I’ve been missing and what I’ve been accepting. Fascinating and complex topic in a sometimes deliberately biased world.

#storyteller #content #contentcreator #contentmarketing #theartofwhy #theartofwhycommunications #findyourstorybeyourstory #melbourne


As a communication all-rounder, an issues specialist, frustrated writer and creative, the expansion of knowledge into marketing and content creation for me has been challenging and fascinating all at once.  The Centre for Adult Education (CAE) is my go-to for short courses that give me a taste of what I’m interested in – and what I’m keen to know to be able to provide sound and well-rounded advice to clients.

Tutor Bernadette Schwerdt blew my mind over two weekends in SEO Copywriting for Beginners.   The first day focused on the Google machine and exactly what that platform looks for – and how to work with it to get noticed. Her first point was that most companies invest in social media but not SEO, and that it touches on many disciplines where the skills involved included:

  • Digital marketing
  • Copywriting
  • UX
  • Web development
  • Public relations
  • Blogging
  • Data analytics
  • Psychology and consumer behaviour

I had looked at the course notes, and I had to gather my courage to go. At first blush, it seemed a little more overwhelming than I had anticipated, but my brain sparked and got excited by the potential and the dots that were being connected. Bernadette touched on offpage SEO, my main interest, and as an author, marketing consultant, advertising account director and copywriter, she shared a lot of her enthusiasm as well as her knowledge.

“Copywriters are there to tell people what’s in it for them,” Bernadette says. Understanding the product being promoted/sold, who you’re targeting and how to get their attention is naturally key. Simply her advice in a nutshell:

  • Identify the target market/s persona
  • Question your client about why, keep asking why and use “which means that” to get to the benefits instead of the feature
  • Identify the inner monologue consumers have about the product
  • Answer the questions/interest/concerns/solve the problem
  • You’re trying to build trust with google as well as customers
  • But write for the human not Google; then look at your keywords and work it through

Bernadette has a no-nonsense approach to SEO copywriting using tried and true formulas. Having never consciously thought about it, I’ve fallen for almost every single one of the formulas. Just touching the tip of the iceberg in SEO. I’m in.