FTA4dairyThis week we chat with Natalie Collard AKA @nrcollard who we met sitting on a panel with our client veski. From a start as an Army reservist, Natalie is now Corporate Affairs Manager Victoria & Tasmania, Telstra and still makes time for a number of causes.

Who are you professionally and personally?

I’m values-driven and passionate about making a difference. A Director of Landcare Australia, I’m committed to sharing experiences, networks and time to support causes and people, in particular young women.

A former Army reservist, I’ve gravitated towards roles of high impact and national importance. I managed an emergency post-September 11 arms control meeting in Paris, addressed the UN in Geneva on Biological Weapons and negotiated Australia’s first bilateral treaty with the international organisation, called NATO.  As CEO of Australian Dairy Farmers Ltd, I had the freedom to innovate which led to a doubling of income and nationally-recognised sustainability improvements.  I was awarded NAB Women’s Agenda Emerging Leader and Telstra Business Woman of the Year for Victoria in 2013. This created a pathway to my current role as Telstra’s Corporate Affairs Manager for Victoria and Tasmania.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

Meet with MPs and government stakeholders, manage resolution of constituent issues, internal cross-BU strategy input and execution and CEO visit planning and attendance, internal cross-functional Board meetings and that left-field thing that keeps me on my toes.

When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?

I’ve always loved the relationships side of business, I just didn’t know what it was called!

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

I admire Ariana Huffington for her tenacity and courage in backing herself.  She has many simple messages which I find helpful for everyday life – such as the importance of a good night’s sleep!

My best mentors have been my team members – I’ve learnt so much from them and together we’ve done amazing things.

Which tools can’t you live without?

Twitter!  Great news source as well as means of direct communication.  Google is also my friend.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

The threat of taking complaints to media, public domain or escalating internally is common in consumer markets.  As well as resolving the matter, communicating with empathy is a must and appreciated by the stakeholder.

Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?

My favourite campaign was in my role as CEO of Australian Dairy Farmers. We used twitter to call for a dairy positive free trade agreement with China.  It was successful, leading to television, front page newspaper and international exposure.  It also led to political commitments on the day.

Which campaign do you most admire?

I love brands like Lululemon Athletica that sell philosophies not just products.

What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?

The fact that everyone can publish media is a game changer, social media is legitimate and often becomes the story in itself.  Not all sectors are agile enough to deal with this.

If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?

Cut – creative consultants.  While an external consultant view can keep things fresh, the creative power and left-field insights of team members can always be better harnessed.

Keep – investing in your profile.  Whether this is brand, marketing or advocacy you need to stay in the frame.

What quality do you look for in your communication team members?

Genuine passion and empathy.  With those two elements in place work is going to be fun, constantly evolving and always about the customer or stakeholder.

What’s your favourite brand?

Lululemon Athletica.  I love that they sell a lifestyle, philosophy and mindset, allowing them to double the previous high price point for yoga pants.

What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

Start with Why, Simon Sinek.

“Two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”
― Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?

Be bold and aspirational, as long as you have a comprehensive plan you’re in a great position to identify and manage risks while achieving something amazing.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is judged by the visceral, not the intellect.  Authenticity is not negotiable.