#PRIAConf15 Speaker Teaser: Sjaakie Adriaans, Mildura Rural City Counc

Wed, Sep 23 2015

33 days and counting until our national conference 'Huge Transformations' from 25-27 October, in Hobart, Tasmania.

PRIA National Conference 2015 Speaker Q&A 

Sjaakie Adriaans

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

Local Governments are expected to deliver many services to our community with limited resources.  From an animal welfare standpoint, we’re trying to transform the way people think about pet ownership and their responsibilities as carers for domestic animals.  Through education we’re seeing a change in both the number of animals coming to the shelter and the way we see these animals rehoused.
Technology is changing the way do our jobs and making it so much easier to reach the community and our stakeholders.  Facebook has been around for a while now, but its ability to share messages and put people in touch with each other has been a game changer for us.

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

My industry is Local Government and from a communications perspective, I think we’ll actually see Local Government taking more of a lead in raising the bar on what constitutes community engagement and communication.  We’re at the coal face on a daily basis and know how important clear, concise messaging is, particularly in a multicultural community such as ours. 

What piece of technology has changed the way you communicate?

We’re a regional community and the traditional media still has a place for our communication.  However the power of social media can’t be understated.  Council recently redeveloped its website and through the information we share on this site, our rehousing groups have been able to access details about animals needing new homes quickly and accurately, giving animals a much better chance to find a new home.

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

"Local Government is very data driven and finding the balance between what the stats say and your gut feeling is, can be tricky – especially for someone who has been working in Local Government for 20 years.
For us it’s about collecting data we can actually use to improve our services and programs.  Local Government, for example, survey communities on lots of different issues and we need to be very careful that we’re asking the right questions, of the right people.  Otherwise the data we get is useless or misleading."


What buzzword of 2015 annoys you the most?

They’re not buzz words nothing annoys me more then then words “I didn’t know” when it comes to being a responsible pet owner.  Ignorance is not an excuse for treating your animals badly or putting other people in harm’s way. 

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

Vital.  The lives of surrendered animals depend on our ability to get messages out quickly and accurately.  Part of my discussion at the conference will look at how our rehousing statistics have changed dramatically since we started embracing more online communication and interaction.

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

We couldn’t operate our shelter if our budget was cut in half but how great would it be if in a few years, we only needed half as much money because the number of animals coming to the shelter had been reduced! 
In a perfect world, our animal shelter service would be little more than an education and adoption centre.

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

"When Council first took over the animal shelter, even as an old farm boy who’d seen animals slaughtered for food, I was really surprised by the euthanasia rates and methods. For the first few months we continued to run the shelter in the same way but then we just said enough! Something had to change. 

It wasn’t a smooth transition by any stretch – we were drawn and quartered in the media at one stage when people realised we were shooting cats as a method of euthanasia. At the time it was a perfectly legal way of destroying unwanted animals, but our community made it clear that it wasn’t acceptable and it took us a long time to rebuild relationships and regain their trust in us.
If you want to hear how we did this, then you’ll have to come to my session."


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?

As a Local Laws Officer I would probably be obliged to break it up before there was a winner and then issue them with a notice for brawling 

What is your biggest fear working in the industry?

Negative, inaccurate information can be a killer in a small community.  The ol’ grapevine method of communication still can run rampant, especially when Council privacy regulations mean sometimes we’re hesitant to explain our side of an issue.

If you had to leave your house in a rush, what is the one thing you could not leave without or leave without doing?

I’m a “grab your keys and lock the door” kind of guy – boring but true!

Have you been to Tassie before? What are you looking forward to seeing?

Yes, I had a great 10 day holiday with my wife a few years ago and we absolutely loved it. I’m looking forward to checking out a couple of breweries if I get time.

Can you tease us with what you might be talking about at the conference in October?

I’m going to be talking you through how through communication and relationship building, we changed our animal shelter from a place of no hope for surrendered animals, to a shelter with one of the best rehousing and education centres in the country – and all on a shoe-string budget!

 If you want to catch Sjaakie in action, book your ticket today for the PRIA National Conference, 25-27 October in Hobart, Tasmania.

Author: Neil O'Sullivan, National Marketing and Communication Manager, PRIA.

Tweet us at @PRIANational #PRIAConf15.

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