Q&A with David Taylor, Director of Privacy Awareness for Privacy VIC

Thu, Jul 12 2012

Tell us about the communication involved in your role as Director of Privacy Awareness for Privacy Victoria?
Privacy Victoria is a small statutory authority, with a staff of 15 and a miniscule budget. Despite being so small, the Office has the fairly daunting responsibilities of ensuring that Victorian public sector staff are aware of their privacy compliance responsibilities, and of raising the awareness of the community about the importance of protecting the privacy of personal information. As a consequence the communications mix is varied – from the web and publications, to events and speaking engagements. We work in partnership with our stakeholders to get our messages out and seek to source and participate in channels and events which are low cost, high impact – for example our recent involvement in National Cybersecurity Awareness Week resulted in national media coverage. We try to capitalise on each major initiative and take a strategic approach to see how one “product” can reach more than one audience. Our monthly Privacy Victoria Network eNews is particularly successful in providing a concise monthly digest of our activities, as well as national and international privacy issues. We also constantly review the effectiveness of our statewide training program, introducing new modules and information products where we can.

Given your background in privacy, what's the most important privacy consideration for a modern communicator?
The single most important privacy consideration is to take a risk management approach to everything involving personal information. Know what laws apply to your organisation and consider what they mean for your day to day practice. A simple example is mailing lists. Don’t assume that a person wants to be added to a mailing list just because they registered for an event or contacted your organisation about another matter. Ask. The unexpected “secondary use” of information is the complaint category that privacy regulators around the world consistently get the most complaints about. And tell people what you are going to do, or want to do, with their information before you do it. It’s not just an issue of legal compliance; it’s also an issue of respect.

The other consideration I would be remiss not to mention is data security. The risks to your information and that of your clients and stakeholders are persistent and will never go away, particularly when it is held on databases or mobile devices. Privacy protection is 24/7. You can’t just tick a box and think it’s all done. Anyone working with personal information has a responsibility to be data security aware – and if you don’t think this applies to you, I recommend that you Google “data breach” for some sobering stories.

What’s the most important skill for a modern communicator?
I think there are two things that modern communicators need. One is a strong sense of self-control. We live in a 24/7 world where the lines between work and home are fading fast. Our mobile devices can be our best friend but they can also be our worst enemy. I’ve often found myself on Facebook or Twitter bashing away at the keyboard in response to something that has annoyed or provoked me and then I’ve remembered to take a deep breath and luckily used the backspace key rather than the send button. If you have responsiblity for an organisation’s communications, one ill-considered posting or Tweet can cause you and your organisation irreparable damage. The same goes for your private life. This is not a new message but it’s one worth repeating.

The second skill is in managing relationships. Many years ago I was told by my oldest brother, an award winning salesman, that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Your friends, business colleagues and professional networks are all important and should be treated with respect and courtesy. A simple “thank you” is always remembered; a snub at an event, even if committed unconsciously, is likely to be impossible to recover from.

With the World Public Relations Forum heading to Melbourne in November, what should international communicators check out while visiting Melbourne?
How long is a piece of string? As an art lover I would recommend the NGV’s Ian Potter Centre for its exemplary collection of Australian art and as a Geelong supporter I would encourage international visitors to check out an AFL game, preferably at the G, for the quintessential Melbourne experience.

David has extensive experience in the leadership and delivery of successful strategic communications, public relations and behavioural change programs for state and federal government, the non-government sector, and wider community. His current speciality is promoting an awareness of the importance of the protection of personal privacy.

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