#PRIAConf15 Speaker Teaser: Linda Brennan, RMIT

Mon, Aug 31 2015

The countdown is on for our National Conference taking place in just 56 days. With over 25 industry leaders speaking in Hobart this October, delegates are in for a real treat. Today, we've got Professor Linda Brennan, from the Media and Communication Department at RMIT.

How does this year’s theme ‘huge transformations’ relate to you in your work?

As someone who works in an industry characterized by change and at the same time belonging to one of the oldest institutions in the world (academia), the theme is very pertinent to my work. Life is a roller coaster ride of excitement and opportunity. 

Where do you think the biggest shift will come from in the industry in 2015?

The people currently leading the industry will get left behind as Gen Y and the Millennials take over the communication channels. The connected generation know how to engage and communicate in a way that is already changing the way the comms industry works. 

What piece of technology has changed the way you communicate?

"Cloud computing has changed the way the world works. I can collaborate with people can anywhere and any time. VOIP has made communication cheap and accessible as well (also useful for collaboration)."


Art v science: how are you using data to inform your decision-making these days?

As someone trained as a marketing scientist, I have the ability to make beautiful statistical models that can predict ‘anything’ plus or minus 5%. However, my most impactful work these days actually comes from using ethnographic traditions. Going on safari and looking at the behaviour change issues in their native landscape is the ONLY way to make a real difference. Those models only work when you have all the variables pinned down, codified and operationalized correctly. That is not the real world in which I live my daily life. 

Comms influence at the c-suite: this is a conversation that has been around for years, tell us who you think is doing it well?

Comms will know it has won this battle for significance when there is such a thing as a Chief-Communications-Officer sitting at the board room table of the large scale multinational corporation making wide ranging and globally impactful business decisions. Until then, they are fighting it out with all those other disciplines who think they can change the world, if only they can get into the boardroom. The best way to do get a board to listen to you is to BE significant. If you do that, they won’t ignore for long. 

How important are social and digital in your day-to-day?

Digital = 100% essential, social not so much. Twitter is a talking tool, not a listening one. I need to listen to people in my work. The other social tools are also about talking but in a more peer-to-peer way so if I am not a peer (as is usual with behaviour change issues) I miss out on what is happening. So, I have to resort to more overt methods of contact (research).

If your budget was cut in half, what is the one thing you could not give up?

It was and I have found that most things other than a computer and internet access (Wi-Fi) become discretionary. You’d be amazed at what you can live without when you have to. 

What buzzword of 2015 annoys you the most?

"Native advertising - it is really just advertising in disguise. If your advertising is not native, you are doing it wrong. Connecting to the consumer is easier than ever before, you should not have to trick them into engaging with your message: Simply be relevant and have something they want from you."


The old factory model is argued to be dead, where do you see the role of disruptors in our changing landscape? Is the future for business in start-ups and disruptors?

Disruptors bring change and we need to change to sustain ourselves, especially environmentally (but social and economically too). Economically, Australia can’t sustain an older population sitting around on welfare but most importantly baby boomers needs to be active and live meaning-full lives. We need to get more people started in innovative businesses that can address environmental issues. We can’t wait for big business or government to take care of us; that is for sure. 

If there was a fight between a journalist, a marketer, a PR professional, an advertiser, a tech guru, a digital whizz and a creative, what tool would you bring to the fight, and who would win?‚Äč

It depends on what the fight was about… (tongue in cheek response follows) As I marketer, I often use my statistics to blind them with science. I find a little bit of numerical evidence goes a long way and if there are limited statistics skills in my opponents, they succumb quickly. However, this is mean and not the way I like to play the collaboration game. I prefer to work harmoniously with diversity and come up with better outcomes as a result. 

Any uh-oh moments so far in your career? How did you fix the situation?

My life is a series of uh-oh moments. I have learned to apologize profusely and move on. Trying not to remember it in the middle of the night is the next challenge. 

What is your biggest fear working in the industry?

My biggest fear would be not working in the industry. I love my job. 

How do you manage the work life balance? What does your daily routine look like?

I don’t have a work-life balance unfortunately. I know that I work too much and for too long. However, I have managed to make sure that I love my work so much that it does not hurt (much). And my kids are as good as I could make them given the circumstances. And my husband is a worlds-best-practice champion of my need to work and to do what I do. I am happy to be able to combine the things I love doing with being paid to do it. I am a very lucky woman. I get to do meaningful things every day. And did I mention the dog? She loves me regardless of what time of day it is when I get home. 

What is your guilty pleasure?
If you had to leave your house in a rush, what is the one thing you could not leave without or leave without doing?      
Putting the dog out (assuming all grown ups are already out of the building).
Have you been to Tassie before? What are you looking forward to seeing?
Yes, Tassie is God’s Gift to Earth. I am looking forward to seeing the green and blue landscape that only comes from spaces with clean air.

Can you tease us with what you might be talking about at the conference in October?
Lelde McCoy and I are going to play good-cop-bad-cop on the theory and practice of behaviour change. I am adopting the Ivory Tower and she the practitioner point of view. I am going to win * >-) however, I am sure that Lelde is also going to win, which will really mess with people’s heads. No one will go away comfortably ensconced in their existing practices as a result. 

Here's a further glimpse of some of the work Prof. Brennan has completed in her role at RMIT.

If you want to catch Linda in action, book your ticket today for the PRIA National Conference, 25-27 October in Hobart, Tasmania, before standard rates closes on 15 September 2015.

Tweet us at @PRIANational #PRIAConf15.

Add your comments to this article