#PRIAConf15 Speaker Teaser: Susan Redden Makatoa, Ogilvy

Tue, Aug 25 2015

With PRIA's National Conference taking place in just 60 days, today, we're giving you a little insight into one of our most anticipated speakers at the conference, Susan Redden Makatoa, Group Managing Director, Corporate, at Ogilvy.

Susan is a seasoned comms professional with excellent networks and deep expertise in the Australian market. She is absolutely passionate about creating and implementing strategies, aligned with business goals, that cut through the clutter. She's a winner of three IABC Gold Quills, a Gold Sabre and four PRIA Golden Target Awards.

Having worked across government, NGO, and corporate sectors, her aim is to partner with clients to understand their challenges and work with them to resolve those issues. It's the same approach she bring to her roles with Executive Women Australia and Tresillian, which provides much-needed services to mothers and babies.

She's loved working for clients like Microsoft, TAFE NSW, REST Industry Super, Palliative Care Australia, Australian National Retailers Association, AstraZeneca, Evocities, Amgen, Bayer, DTC Group, Teacher's Health and Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC).

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

It applies to both way we work and the type of work we are doing.  We’re working in ways we never have before – in digital, social, creative and strategy. At Ogilvy, we’re seeing strong growth in change work as clients adapt and reform their businesses.  We’ve been lucky enough to partner with the NSW Government on some of the transformation work they’re undertaking, which is ambitious and impressive.

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

Have a look at politics. Pollies are openly acknowledging that people aren’t listening to the old rhetoric and so they’re working hard to engage in completely different ways. Watch this space.‚Äč

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

If you don’t have hard numbers backing up your recommendations, good luck getting them across the line.  We’re looking at business metrics, deep audience analysis, competitor activity, disruption activity, consumer and stakeholder behaviour, all of which are measurable. You need to be just as strong on the results, too.

What buzzword of 2015 annoys you the most?

It’s not even particularly 2015, but “leveraging” is just a nothing word. Belongs in the big circular file (the bin) with “solutions”. “Oh, you’re in communication distribution solutions are you? Nope, I’m the mailman.” Well said, sir.

How do you think PR is handling the changing media landscape?

Having judged several awards this year, I’d say pretty well. The insights and smarts I saw applied to great execution impressed me no end.  I love the campaigns that are a single idea executed well, especially if they transcend PR.  There was a story out of Cannes this year – to combat soccer violence in Brazil, they hired fans’ mothers as security guards. No more problems, and the visuals were compelling.
There’s more work to do though – if we’re not nimble as an industry there are plenty of other related disciplines ready and able to steal our thunder.

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

Pretty crucial as print declines and online keeps growing. You need to be where your audiences are, and this applies to business, government and NGOs as much as consumers.

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

Face to face time with the client. You need to be together to hatch the best plans.

What is your biggest fear working in the industry?

Becoming obsolete. You have to run hard to keep up, and never close yourself to learning.


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

Oh Lordy, plenty. I once got the time of a major pitch wrong and was sitting at my desk having a nice cuppa when the potential client rang saying “Are you coming?” We were at this stage 30 minutes late and couldn’t have got to the panel presentation within the allotted hour. I ‘fessed up straight away and said I’d stuffed up – they kindly agreed to let us come the next day. I dropped off a big basket of Haigh’s to apologise and what do you know – we ended up winning the contract. They did say it was on merit but Haigh’s is mysterious and powerful, you know.

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

Well I do have four kids so life’s a bit of a circus, and my husband’s a bit of a legend. My day starts at 4:45 with my big kids going off to swimming. I check emails and the news of the day at this time before my three year olds get up.  I send myself a to-do list before getting myself and the girls fed and ready. The drive to and from work is usually taken up with calls, a mix of business and personal. At the office it’s pretty constant with client work, meetings, team briefings, business management and new business. I have to make sure I block out times during the week which are meeting-free so I can tackle big tasks and just be there with the team. Then it’s home again and homework-baths-dinner-stories-bed. On a good day it’s then a bit of downtime with my husband but there are times when the laptop comes out again to ensure deadlines are met.  Then it’s a few pages of my latest book (right now a Man Called Ove – 8/10 so far) – can’t wind down without a fiction fix.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Casualty on UKTV. There is no explaining it. I’m still watching it a year after the adorable Alex Wilkinshaw left. Come baaaaack!

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

Can’t leave without: mobile, durr. Can’t leave without doing: kissing my family.

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

Love Tassie – have been several times. Love the countryside and the food. The Raspberry Farm Café was a highlight last time around. I’ve never been to MONA though – that’s pretty high on the list.

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

My view is that comms people need to be the levelers when times get tough. We need to be the voice of common sense. That means NO CORPORATE SPEAK – just real words and emotions. My talk’s called Communicating with Heart, and it’s about putting people at the centre of your comms. I’ll share tips and templates to help you get it right.

Here's a further glimpse of Susan live in action, when she spoke at TedX last year. 

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

Add your comments to this article