Take local action on climate change…we have to!


Image via Richard Ling

In 2003-2004 I was involved in a mammoth task to explain to people – fishers, conservationists, tourism operators, the community – the benefits of increasing protection to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park through rezoning. This involved years of consultations, public meetings and ‘roadshows’, but in terms of achieving it’s outcome, it was a huge success. One of the biggest indicators of success was the understanding of the need for change in the community, leading to action by community groups, individuals and local businesses along the Queensland coast to do their bit to protect the Reef.

These actions included the set up of Reef Guardian Schools and businesses, Marine Advisory Groups and Community Access Points based at local bait and tackle shops. The general opinion was that no matter what industry you came from, the Great Barrier Reef was too important to lose.

In many places, it was community members – farmers, fishers, operators, conservationists and local leaders – who were driving change, recognising that harm to the Great Barrier Reef is not just an environmental issue, but that there is an economic imperative to protect one of Queensland’s most valuable assets.

The community is still driving this change, even in the face of complex science and resource and economic issues. So why is it so hard to engage people to support the world’s biggest environmental, economic and livelihood challenge – climate change? Continue reading

Segmenting your audience: a key part of behaviour change

social marketing segment

Like most people, I love being right. It might even be a small part of why I got into the field of Communications and PR. There’s no right or wrong in Communications, you can be right all the time as long as you think about what people want and need to hear, and what they will respond to.

I remember when I was about 12 my mother told me that not everything was black and white. I knew that, but back then I just wanted everyone to come around to my way of thinking! My version of life’s right and wrongs.

But as I grew older, and definitely wiser, I stopped thinking so much about being like everyone else and more about why people think and act differently.

Why what I say about an issue to one person might really resonate, but to another it’s complete nonsense.

This is the challenge of communicating about social policy issues, about decisions and actions that affect, at some point in time, everyone’s life. We can’t craft a message that will work for everybody. We can’t explain the intricacies of a decision, the ins and outs of how a public program works, or the reasons for more or less funding in one set of Talking Points.

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Love what you do this Valentine’s Day

What you love to do

This Valentine’s Day I thought I’d write about another kind of love. A love for what I do, my “job”, if you could call it that.

When it comes to falling in love with my job, I’m a sucker. I quite easily fall head over heels with any half-interesting project that looks my way. But the thing that really makes me go all gooey inside is the knowledge that my work can have a real impact on people’s lives – because that’s what’s important to me.

I always thought I was just lucky in job-love. Lucky to be given opportunities to do amazing work because I was in the right place at the right time… or maybe there were just slim pickings! But recently I’ve realized that my good fortune in job-love has not been about stumbling across the right one or good HR matchmaking; it’s because I have followed what’s in my heart (just like real love, say “aawww”).

When I take a new job or start a new project, there are three key things I ask myself to know whether I will love that job one day.

1. Will it have an impact on what’s important to me?

I love my job most when I know it’s contributing to something bigger, or something important to me. Luckily there are a lot of ways you can do this without having to down tools and work for free. Continue reading


At The Social Deck we work with startups, not-for-profits and social enterprises to bring about positive social change by helping them implement creative and innovative social marketing and communication strategies. We’ve really enjoyed working with incredibly motivated clients who are completely passionate about their product, service or cause but one thing that has become obvious is that many organisations in their early stages are not investing in strategies for effective PR.

In this post, I want to share some of the tips and insights into the value of early-stage PR to an organisation.

When you have a great idea for a new product or service or when you’re putting your time and money into a cause, you want to know that people will get behind it.

No matter how good you think the idea is. It’s the initial engagement with your users, consumers or supporters that will build a community around your brand and support your enterprise from the beginning.

The same basic PR principles apply to engaging people in a cause as those for engaging consumers with a brand, product or service. That is, it’s all about THEM and not about you, or your brilliant new idea (sorry). Your PR communications must help people to personally invest in your idea, whether that happens to be a product that provides value to themselves or their family, or a cause that inspires them.

PR should be at the heart of every business strategy for an organisation, even in its infancy, and particularly where you have a product, service or cause that requires trust from the people and stakeholders you want to be engaging with. And one of the first PR principles is to invest in your community-building early. This will give you the best chance of developing a successful and sustainable business or non-profit.

PR covers a broad range of activities, but at the simplest level it’s anything your organisation is doing to communicate with your audience. Every day your organisation is already doing some form of PR. But is it effective?

Although most people already understand the intrinsic value of PR, they are also aware that it can be resource and time intensive, and when outsourced, can be expensive. But, one important question that organisations don’t tend to ask enough is – what sort of PR do I really need? For example:

  • Startups and SME’s can use PR to build their reputation and credibility even before a product or service goes to market. Early support from your potential customer base may also lead to increased investment opportunities.
  • Social Enterprises can leverage PR to build a supporter base around their cause (and may also be able to use crowdfunding platforms etc) which will then flow on to the product or service they are selling.
  • Not-for-Profits need to engage with partners, influencers and individuals from the very start to build support for their cause or campaign. A NFP needs to rely heavily on the emotional connection that can only be achieved by creating a personal relationship with the target audience.

But how do you decide what PR you need right now, and ensure your hard fought early funding is being spent in the right place? Continue reading

Social Enterprises and Government: a match made in heaven?

imageAh it feels great! My first new post since we restarted The Social Deck in Brisbane, Australia and already we’ve been to some awesome events and met some really passionate people in the start-up and social change scene.  One of the highlights was ‘Politics in the Pub’ run by the New Farm Neighbourhood Centre and held at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Just the name does it for me – I like politics and beer! But it wasn’t just all about the current political controversies, as you’re probably thinking. Instead, the night’s event focused on a far more interesting topic – ‘A hand-up not a handout. Is social enterprise the answer?’

I wasn’t really surprised to hear some negativity from people regarding recent changes to government and government services. But one of the key points of discussion I found most interesting – and concerning – was the relationship, or lack of, between the rapidly growing social enterprise community in Australia and Government at all levels.

I’ve just come back out of working in the public service in Canberra for the past 15 months. It’s always a great experience; lots of new people to meet and really important issues to sink my teeth into. Issues I believe can improve people’s lives – even when run in the Federal Government dealing with changing politics, uncertain policies and plenty of bureaucracy.

But while Australia has been experiencing so much change politically, some fundamental things about the way our government does business never seem to change, and that’s where I think the greatest barriers are to how much social change we can achieve in Australia.

In my first few blog posts after relaunching The Social Deck, I thought I’d cover a few of these issues. And the first is one of the most discussed topics at the Politics in the Pub earlier this month:

The relationship between Social Enterprise and Government – does it exist, really? Continue reading

Say what you mean – succinctly.

I’ve been doing a bit of research lately for a client who’s about to launch their first mobile game. (The game is fantastic and has the added value of raising awareness and contributing to an important social issue – but more on this soon).

During the hours I’ve spent surfing the web for background on gaming trends and communications, something very interesting and surprising occurred to me. Continue reading

Clever Conversations

I recently attended a great roundtable discussion put on by John Hopkins University Communications (@JHUComm). The three panelists Henri Makembe (@Henrim), Beth Becker (@spedwybabs) and Malaka Gharib (@MalakaGharib) talked about using social media for non-profits. For me, the main takeaway was ‘conversations’.

I believe that whether you’re engaging people over social media or using more traditional public relations, the principles are the same. Especially when your goal is to influence behavior or engage people in actions to support a cause. The rise of social media has made it easier to have this conversation, but remember the principles of effective community engagement and treat your online community, the facebook liker and the @twitterer with the same approach. Here are a few tips that relate:

  1. Know who you’re talking to – general audience identification on social media is vital but so is identifying those online influencers and community leaders. When you go into a community to promote or discuss an issue, you don’t stand in the street, microphone in hand and spruke your message. First you identify who you need to talk to, whether it’s 1 or 100 people, and you begin a conversation with them that will flow on to be heard by the community. Continue reading

The Nonprofit Rooster!!

I was recently trying to write an explanation about why nonprofits should invest in social engagement. The most obvious point that came to mind was fundraising. When individuals or partners are more engaged they’re more likely to donate regularly and invest more in your cause.
But when I started to visualize the relationship between raising funds and engagement and how these interact or which comes first, I found myself thinking about chickens and eggs!

Either way it’s clear that engagement and dollars connect people with projects and the cause.

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The movement to connect socially

Is SOCIAL the new buzz word? We hear a lot about social good, social change, social media, social marketing, social business, corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship! How is your organization keeping up with the movement to connect socially?

While connecting through social media and marketing can be as easy as writing a few blog posts, posting your events on facebook or writing interesting snippets of commentary on twitter, the fact is, there’s much more to it! And consumers of social media and marketing are often just as savvy as the ‘experts’ transmitting the message. So how do you get edge in your social strategies? Continue reading