5 steps to navigate mental health needs in the workplace

5 steps to navigate mental health needs in the workplace

By Blog

Yoga classes and office lunches aren’t enough to manage mental health in the workplace, but these 5 strategies may help.


Mental health is a fuzzy thing that’s hard to talk about – it seeps between personal and work life and most of us would prefer to chat about our perfect takeaway coffee or favourite Netflix series than our state of mind.

But if we can start to define mental health as a state of wellbeing where individuals realise their potential rather than a mental condition, it isn’t so scary.

What IS scary from a business perspective, is workplaces who don’t prioritise their employee’s mental wellbeing have a 300% increase in depression in their full time workers, according to new research from the University of South Australia.

The harsh fact is agency life can be fast and furious. In my early agency years – staff were encouraged to thrive on the adrenaline highs of campaigns and push themselves as hard as possible – or basically move on to a different career. These days, we are much smarter and realise managing all aspects of employee wellbeing not only makes people happier but also perform better.

Managing mental wellbeing in the workplace is never easy, but changing culture and workplace structures really helps.

Mental health costs if you get it wrong

The World Health Organisation says depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy more than $US1 trillion per year.

What’s more, Australia’s model Work Health Safety laws require employers to make the workplace both physically and psychologically safe.

None of this makes it simple for employers and employees to speak openly about mental health and take the right steps to support mental wellbeing.

Training, leadership and practical policies that enable workplaces – especially fast-paced agencies – to deal with mental stress are important ways to help build a culture of acceptance where everyone feels safe to call timeout if they need it.

Cube has engaged a creative HR consultant to support us in these challenging times. Along with being a seasoned HR practitioner, the team have benefitted from her passion for health and wellbeing as a yoga therapist.

As a business, we’ve also applied five steps that I hope help other businesses and agencies during this disruptive time.


Committing to make workplace wellbeing a priority starts with a few gentle steps. When we kicked off our first stress management training last year, we noticed how much the team needed to connect and share during lockdown.

What was planned as one session turned into a rolling event for the team. Yes – training is about growth and development, but also extremely important for bringing the team together in a shared experience and conversation for mental health.

We did more training last year than ever before with a revived company-wide program including professional and soft skills delivered both as a team and individually.

Soft skills were prioritised around resilience and wellbeing. We recognised the importance of so-called soft skills now in a pandemic – the ability of managers and leaders to connect and support others.

The team is also participating in St John Ambulance mental health training. It’s focussed on ways to support, communicate and spot the signs of someone facing a mental health challenges. We want to ensure as a team we have high levels of awareness and understanding of mental health presentations, but are also competent in helping and supporting those in crisis.


It seems obvious that workplace stress occurs when people are working too hard and spending many hours over and above the average working day delivering on projects.

This is especially the case if they don’t know why they do what they do and the difference it makes. Our work in healthcare is incredibly important right now which has helped us stay very motivated.

We are also very particular at Cube on having clarity around everyone’s role and expectations. Reinforcing the difference everyone makes with their contribution is actively discussed. We also strive to ensure we have respectful workplace relationships and communication.

Prioritising workflows and values to make sure we aren’t delivering high job demands with low resources is also essential.


Managing change creatively – particularly in response to lockdowns and COVID-19 – is often workplace stressor for leaders and staff alike.

Having an innovative HR lead to help implement policies and processes is a great start. It has to be supported by leadership as we all know policies can just be shoved in a drawer and not lived or demonstrated, which makes them worthless.

Offering our team access to counselling via an Employee Assistance Program – or EAP has been an important step. We not only having counselling and support on hand, we are also using our EAP for additional training to navigate the demands of today’s workplace.


Showing vulnerability can be a challenge for leaders, but it’s an important symbol of strength, too.

Everyone has been exposed to mental health challenges, either personally or through their family or extended network. Being able to talk about it matters.

I was confronted by it in my early teens – my sister battled anorexia and a mental breakdown. My brother has suffered severe depression and attempted suicide in his 40s. As a family we have held firmly together.

While these experiences were very personal to me and rarely discussed, I’ve learnt over the years it’s better to talk about them and share the lessons – not just with close friends but also with colleagues.

As leaders we have an important role to play. I am acutely aware of the responsibility I have as a business owner in identifying and acknowledging difficult times and supporting those to travel through them.


Fortunately our work life at Cube involves constant discussions about health. Now more than ever we need workplace conversations and action around proactive health and wellbeing. Beyond the constant vaccination discussions – activity is a priority topic at Cube.

The gym has literally been a sanctuary for me since university and regular exercise and activity is positively encouraged at Cube. The May 50K is our annual team challenge that extends to family members and friends. It’s not about how far you walk or run – we just want to get everyone involved and moving. Making it a positive, regular team initiative has brought so many positive benefits to the business

I truly believe leaders do need to present positive attitude and act as role models for health and wellness. We literally must ‘walk the talk’ – ensure we support others to take care of themselves.

I would have to say our approach has required focus and commitment to ensure it happens. But for the investment we have made it’s definitely had a positive impact on the team, the business and also me! A win all round!

Blood Donor Week

Blood Donor Week: Time to educate our younger generation

By Blog

What may be surprising to many of us is that thirty-one thousand blood donations are needed every week across Australia to help those in times of trauma, major surgery, cancer treatment, pregnancy, and a host of other situations! The fact is one in three Australians will need a blood donation within their lifetime.

While Australians demonstrated an astounding ‘emergency response’ and donated blood in record numbers last year as the COVID-19 pandemic hit – the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood services is experiencing a significant decline in donations compared to the COVID blood boom.

The fact is the Australian Red Cross requires a blood donation every 24 seconds. So as our youngest member of the Cube Team Louise headed down to the local donation centre for her first ever blood donation – the Cube team pondered on why just 3% of the Australian population actually donate – and what could possibly be done to increase donations notably among the younger generations?

There are a number of reasons people are unable to donate – and this is preventing a number of Cubans from doing our bit. Firstly, you must be aged between 18 and 75, weigh more than 50kg and be considered ‘healthy’ – that’s a tick for most of us – BUT: –

  • You cannot donate blood within seven days of a COVID 19 vaccination.
  • Or within 14 days of a flu vaccination.
  • Or if you’ve had a tattoo in the last 4 months.
  • Or if you were in the United Kingdom between 1982 to 1994 for six months or more.
  • Or if you are a sex worker or gay man who has had sex in the last three months.

And that’s only the short list …

A fear around transmission of blood borne conditions like hepatitis and HIV unfortunately remains and prevents many from donating. A general lack of information heightens a these misunderstandings – even wtih some of the fundamentals such as the use of a clean, sterile needle for each and every donor!

There is an opportunity for health communications to bridge the gap and improve understanding of blood donations – particularly addressing the misconceptions and barriers young people face.

When it comes to the younger generation – research indicates there are a number of hurdles preventing them from donating blood. These include:

  • Being afraid of feeling unwell
  • Being afraid of catching a disease
  • Being afraid of blood/ needles
  • Fear of fainting
  • The main reason young women don’t give blood is poor information
  • For young men it’s actually laziness!

So how can we encourage younger Australians to get on board and commit to giving blood on a regular basis?

As communicators we were not surprised to hear the study found simpler, clearer messages that resonate with younger people and ‘make them think’ is essential to motivate them. In addition, it found talking to someone who has already given blood is the most effective way to inform people about donating.

For Louise – “the experience was quick, just 45 minutes and wasn’t painful or scary in any way.” She also felt very proud she had given her first blood donation – knowing every single donation helps save up to 3 lives. The bonus was also getting to know more about her blood type!

Encouraging younger Australians to actively donate blood and plasma is incredibly important. So, for Blood Donor Week we really encourage you all to get active in your discussion with everyone around you but particularly the younger generations – your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, interns and graduates. Reassure, educate and motivate our up-and-coming generations to donate! It’s a simple but very rewarding commitment – that will save lives!

Four surprising benefits of pro bono work for communication specialists

Four surprising benefits of pro bono work for communication specialists

By Blog

The May 50K is a community-building fundraiser which turbocharges local scientific research discoveries to help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) live longer and more active lives.

That’s only one reason I’ve volunteered Cube’s strategic communications and media advice to The May 50K and Kiss Goodbye to MS since 2014.

The powerful message The May 50K sends to those with MS who may have been isolated during COVID lockdowns is that it’s time to walk, run or cycle at least 50km over the month of May to raise awareness, money and your wellbeing.

The more personal reason for doing the work with MS Research Australia on a pro bono basis is that my best friend Helen lives with multiple sclerosis, as does Helen’s younger sister.

Helen was my best friend at university and her mother had MS, so it was not only a terrible shock for Helen to be diagnosed with the same disease but as a scientist and communicator I wanted to do more.

I was interested in exploring more about how to slow down the progression of the disease and read the MS research around why it might run in families.

The power of purpose and corporate social responsibility

Pro bono work can be challenging for small specialist agencies like Cube to manage, but it enables teams to rally around causes and communications for the greater good.

The very best businesses should live their purpose and values by committing time, money and resources. The May 50K gives the team a true sense of who we are as a business – as well as who I am as a friend and communicator – while giving back to the community we work with.

Agencies that do pro bono work highlight their creative strengths and skills, but they need to remain firmly committed to the one cause – regardless of how many other charities might be higher profile or more interesting.

Corporate social responsibility is about more than showcasing the quality of our work. When personal values are activated, our emotions engage, binding our team together as humans first and professionals second.

Unpaid communications work can be a burden for small teams but from my experiences, this is what I’ve found works:

USE PRO BONO WORK TO UNLOCK COMMON PURPOSE: Finding the right pro bono partner is like a marriage – both parties must commit and have common goals. Some communications professionals donate their skills and absorb out-of-pocket costs such as photography and media distribution while others may choose to pass on small costs if they cannot afford to absorb them. It’s always great to have a clear agreement in place, to give each partner certainty and allow the partnership to truly flourish year in and year out.

COMMIT FOR THE LONG TERM: Don’t swap and change pro bono clients each year – the value comes from the work you can achieve over time. Building relationships with the charity team year on year enables both the communications agency and the charity to create brand equity and meaningful relationships with partners like the media and other volunteers.

GO ABOVE AND BEYOND TO PUSH CREATIVE BOUNDARIES: Pro bono work allows teams to explore strategies and ideas that paying clients might not be quite ready to commit to. Tracking new methods and ideas with reporting and debriefing sessions is also powerful to upskill other staff and bring new campaign ideas to an agency’s repertoire and service offering.

USE NOT-FOR-PROFIT WORK TO BUILDS TEAMS POST-COVID: Being able to experiment and unleash creativity through pro bono work is great for team-building, especially now that many teams don’t always work together face-to-face. Use the work as an opportunity to develop staff and train them in their areas of interest.

This has been the case at Cube, where the team has rallied to support The May50K for the last eight years, helping MS Research Australia morph its biggest fundraiser into a virtual activity challenge that raises millions each year. And the bigger bonus? The May50K activity helps those communities living with MS manage their stress and disease progression better than ever before.

Making scientific research come to life in the media

“The people that participate in The May50K are so inspiring,” says our Cube account executive Rosie Southcott.

“When you hear the stories, especially those from the MS community, that’s when it’s really rewarding.”

The Cube team works from the start of each year to support The May 50K, garnering media stories that focus on personal experiences to inspire awareness that people don’t ‘suffer’ from MS but live with it and manage it – thanks to the groundbreaking research uncovering evidence on slowing progression of MS.

The media stories Cube have helped generate include 28-year-old teacher Elise Osmand’s story of waking up on a dream holiday in Europe unable to see, only to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in a Greek hospital.

Elise now uses her social media profiles to promote MS Motion to educate young people about the power of exercise, nutrition and managing stress for brain and nervous system health.


Source: Instagram – @msbreakingbarriers

“Post-Covid has been hard for the MS community, who have not been able to get out of the house and stay as active as they normally would,” Rosie says.

Shavaughn Baynton’s story is another that Cube garnered media attention for, showing how Shavaughn’s weight loss and gym routine has helped manage her multiple sclerosis.

Strategically, it’s critical to find the human story to communicate health and science issues in the media – it connects with people and does so much more than a media release or report can achieve.

Creating culture post-Covid through pro bono work

Every week, 10 Australians are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and three quarters are aged between 20 and 40. Three times as many women have MS than men and the latest scientific research suggests exercise may help manage symptoms.

After the disruption of COVID last year, The May50K is a chance for all of us to engage around something outside of work.

Our Cube team work in a CBD office but also work from home as they juggle the post-pandemic corporate work life. It’s so important for us to see each other face to face and exchange ideas and talk to each other about things other than client work.

Pro bono work has that personal, values-driven edge to it that drives better engagement with the team. Every Friday during May 2021, the Cube team have been lapping Sydney’s Centennial Park to reach their collective team target of 1400km and raising $1000.

If you want to attract and retain talent while achieving greater results and impact, then the right pro bono work can do that for an agency.

It might also be about having more fun at work – no-one seems to say ‘no’ to a Friday afternoon walk around the park!

Health highlights Federal Budget 2021

Health highlights Federal Budget 2021 – in case you missed it!

By Blog

Witnessing this year’s Federal Budget in Canberra was a very different experience to the restricted and subdued announcement of last October! With enthusiastic, but somewhat socially distanced crowds and networking back, the 2021 Budget made health a necessary focus once again. The tight alignment of the nation’s health to our economic recovery was firmly front a centre. So if you managed to miss it – here are some of the health highlights from a Cube perspective.

Despite the underlying cash deficit forecasted as $106.6 billion this year the Federal Government was positive and upbeat on Australia’s budget position thanks to a quicker-than-expected economic recovery from our first recession in three decades.

Described as a pre-election ‘sugar sweetener’ for all and the building of a ‘gilded cage’ with our border control requirements, the 2021 Budget offered ‘something for everyone.’  With health at the centre, it prioritised quite rightly COVID-19 vaccinations, aged care, mental health and disabilities with a nod to women’s health and innovation. Prevention was firmly prioritised.

For those of us working in the pharmaceutical sector – beyond the substantial COVID-19 vaccine commitment – a welcome allocation of $878 million was made for new listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The $503 billion dollar investment into the health of Australians over the next four years, appeared ambitious and overwhelming as the Honourable Greg Hunt, Minister for Health detailed his priority areas.

COVID-19 vaccinations: 

  • The Government continues their necessary commitment to the COVID-19 response, with an allocation of $1.9 billion dollars for the purchasing and distribution of vaccines.
  • Investments in mRNA manufacturing capabilities onshore were also in the mix, but without a formal confirmation on what the Government is willing to invest.

Mental health:  Commitment was given to a new National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan delivering the largest single mental health and suicide prevention investment in Australia’s history.

  • This includes a $158.6 million dollar aftercare plan for people who attempt suicide.
  • But to note – despite rates of suicide attempts and ideation remaining stable, the prevalence of depression, anxiety and eating disorders which are risk factors to suicide attempts are increasing.
  • So it’s important to also see the Government will also make a $112 million dollar investment across digital services, expansion of the Head to Health centres and increase online professional counselling and peer support services.
  • Questions were however raised on the need for greater Indigenous centred mental health services in regional Australia notably for children and young adults.  A greater focus here will be welcomed by many.

Women’s health: Another focus was on several priority areas for women including:

  • A $535.9 million dollar investment for women and girls who are suffering from, or at risk of, endometriosis, preventing premature birth and detection and treatment for breast and cervical cancer.
  • A commitment to further research into pre-term birth and genetic testing for pregnant women was also made.

Innovation:  A small nod to support scientific innovation was given with increased spending on manufacturing and patent protection.

  • Importantly a critical step in protecting local innovation come with a proposed Patent Box which will support patents in Australia with a reduced tax rate of 17% from 1 July 2022 for the medical and biotech sectors.

Overall the Federal Budget covers a very broad array of health areas – keeping Australians well, productive, and supported will be critical to our economic recovery. We know the health hangover from this pandemic will last for a very long time – our ongoing focus on health, without question, will need to be consistent and considerable.

For more information and a full budget summary, please see below the Federal Minister for Healths’ formalised statement.

How can healthcare leverage being the second most trusted sector globally

How can healthcare leverage being the second most trusted sector globally?

By Blog

As recently reported from the 2021 #EdelmanTrustBarometer – the healthcare sector emerged as the second most trusted sector, globally.

Coupled with this – results show the most urgent foundational issue that needs fixing worldwide is the #healthcare system.

That places our industry in a highly unique, potentially fragile but also extremely important position. As healthcare communicators – the question we’ve all been asking ourselves is – what the hell are we going to do about it?

The pandemic has certainly catapulted healthcare to the forefront of everyone’s minds with the spotlight firmly on us – and with the rapid vaccine turnaround and current roll-out across the globe – is it time for a pat on the back?

Maybe not quite yet. Results published by data and analytics company Global Data, suggest that the next “hurdle” for the health sector and in particular the pharmaceutical industry is environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues.

  • 43% of respondents in the Global Data survey noted that environmental questions were the most important to address – with climate change at the heart of that.
  • 31% of respondents voted on social issues such as pricing, market access, and the development of drugs to treat rare diseases.
  • 26% of respondents named governance issues as the most important – with issues ranging from compliance to quality, transparency, and a need to move to more patient-centric models.

So, while trust in the health sector is at a peak, we must begin to publicly address our stance on various ESG issues.  There is much more work still to be done – but for now it’s in our interest to capitalise on a keen public and patient community that we uniquely serve in order to continue creating and innovating a bright future for healthcare.

Chatbots in healthcare

Chatbots in healthcare – friend or foe?

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Waking up with a sore throat has never been so scary. Am I right? Before, it was a very normal part of your monthly ‘just feeling a bit run down’ kind of day. Now instead – instant panic floods your body for the fear you’ve contracted COVID-19. Well – that was my experience a couple of weeks back.

Anyways, just like most people (89% actually), before thinking about whether or not I should see a doctor, I Googled my symptoms. And I guess you can’t blame people for that – not knowing what’s wrong with you the moment you feel unwell can be nerve-wracking, especially of late.

As I navigated through several sites – I was shortly confronted by Molly, who popped up seemingly out of nowhere, introduced herself to me and asked me to tell her what my symptoms were.

My first experience of using a chatbot in healthcare.

I was quite surprised – of course I’ve heard all about chatbots and the buzz they’re creating in healthcare – but to be confronted by one so quickly and seamlessly without really knowing it was happening was both startling and impressive in equal measures.

It makes sense though – innovative and nimble tech start-ups identifying a huge problem in human’s behaviour patterns (aka Dr. Google) and using AI to solve this seems like an obvious opportunity. To be more specific, chatbots (for those unaware) are very intelligent algorithm-powered, text or voice-based interfaces that use natural language processing (NLP). In simple terms, a computer that can simulate conversation with humans.

The technology behind it is actually mind-blowing – I won’t go into the ins and outs of that now (there is a very handy article here for those interested), but it’s funny to think that people (aka technophobes like me) don’t realise quite how much chatbots have already infiltrated everyday life.

Virtual assistants like Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and of course, Siri, are fine examples of chatbots coming into our lives (and homes), as well as those found in more corporate settings, like in call centers, real estate, banking, and to be honest any business really involving customer-service. Thanks to their intelligence, responsiveness, and usefulness – it seems chatbots are here to stay. And like all fast-moving digital trends – following slightly behind everyone else’s footsteps – is healthcare.

Now the very purpose of a chatbot is to make customer interactions easier – I can’t think of another industry where quick and easy time-saving tricks could improve practices more, than in healthcare. In today’s busy lives, visiting the doctor or hospital may not always be feasible, and even going to the doctor can be a frustrating experience – all the time-consuming miscellaneous admin, forms and paperwork. And the waiting. All of the waiting.

Imagine the autonomy you’d have as a patient by being able to grab your phone, open an app, and quickly interact with an AI-driven health companion to receive a smart and accurate diagnosis. Exciting, right? Everyone wants convenience – including patients – and chatbots seem to have the answer.

And this isn’t just blue-sky thinking. According to a report, over 40% of senior healthcare executives consider AI technology to have the greatest impact on their industry within the next three years. And with venture capitalists having reportedly invested over $800 million into chatbot start-ups with healthcare capabilities – this market is set to skyrocket in the next few years.

As health services move towards being more patient friendly – offering a customized and sufficient experience is of utmost priority. Chatbots are gradually being adopted into healthcare and are generally in the early phases of implementation – the majority appear to focus on checking patient symptoms.

But beyond simple symptom-checking there are countless cases where a chatbot could help. Better organization of patient pathways, medication management, FAQs, help in emergency situations or with first aid, scheduling appointments, health tracking: these are all possible situations for chatbots to step in and ease the burden on medical professionals – which then crucially frees up their precious time to concentrate on providing first-rate care.

This is particularly relevant in today’s situation, where the spread of COVID-19 puts an unprecedented (yes I know I said it) burden on healthcare providers.

And it’s not even just about easing burden – data from Providence Health’s deployment of chatbot Grace suggest 90% accuracy in its recommendations, with patients clicking on the symptom checker’s recommendation 35% of the time. Many award-winning health campaigns have even centred around implementation of chatbots – Burson Cohn & Wolf’s (BCW) Global AI chatbot ‘Tabatha’ in partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim in asthma landed them a handful of trophies – the first ever launched by a pharmaceutical company.

However, naturally, just like any other technology, chatbots come with their shortcomings and disadvantages. One of the key concerns, understandably, is user privacy, and sharing information about your medical condition with a chatbot – which seems less reliable than sharing the same information with a human doctor.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, delivering healthcare is different from selling credit cards because of the potential for harm arising from incorrect or confusing guidance. Diagnostic errors in medicine are not only common, they can also have steep cost implications – a study found paid medical malpractice payments over a 10 year period totalled $5.7 billion in payments.

Finally, chatbots could potentially cannibalize revenue for healthcare professionals in countries with fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursement models. And it seems the physician’s jury is still out – at least in the US anyway (perhaps due to my previous point) – a study showed mixed views concerning chatbots. 70-80% agreed they would be useful for administrative benefits, and the same proportion also agreed they could not effectively care for all patient needs or provide detailed diagnosis and treatment.

Let’s be clear: chatbots will never replace doctors – they provide many opportunities to facilitate their jobs or improve performance, but, ultimately, it’s human doctors who are going to deliver the care.

We know that these AI-driven robots will thrive in a world that’s continually short on time. There’s no end to what chatbots may provide us – but more research is clearly needed to prove the value and impact of chatbot use on health outcomes. Whilst we can’t predict where we’ll be in the next 10 years, it’s certainly an exciting time in the healthcare space.

Independent expert advertising support AdCheck arrives this month

Independent expert advertising support AdCheck arrives this month

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This July we say goodbye to mandatory pre-approvals for Therapeutic Goods advertising to the general public – but hello to a new service from Consumer Health Products Australia (CHPA) to provide compliance checks and advice to those creating, placing or publishing therapeutic goods advertising for consumers.

For 25+ years mandatory independent expert reviews by the TGA helped ensure compliance of therapeutic advertising to consumers. While these pre-approvals have now been removed, advertisers must still ensure their ads are compliant but without the previous safety net. Marketers, publishers, broadcasters and agencies are also responsible for noncompliant ads, risking heavy fines, sanctions and brand damage. Cube has been very proud to support CHPA with the launch of their new service available to all companies, agencies or publishers involved in therapeutic goods advertising for consumers.

So what are the risks?

Prior to today, mandatory pre-approvals were in place by Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (TGAC) experts, to help advertisers:

  • manage their compliance obligations
  • reduce the compliance due diligence burden for publishers
  • minimise the publication of noncompliant ads

From 1 July, this safety net no longer exists and advertisers and those who “cause” advertising are legally responsible for compliance and potentially vulnerable to TGA noncompliance penalties, including fines up to $10 million and criminal prosecution. Unfortunately non-compliance with therapeutic goods advertising risks not only heavy fines and sanctions, but also:

  • brand and reputational damage
  • jeopardising creative and financial investments made to develop a brand
  • opportunity loss and creative costs of relaunching ad campaigns
  • administrative and legal costs managing complaints and non-compliance issues

Use of an independent compliance service provided by dedicated TGAC experts, like AdCheck, is an easy and effective way advertisers, agencies, publishers and broadcasters can minimise the risk of non-compliance.

Visit to learn more or

Should healthcare be looking at TikTok?

Should healthcare be looking at TikTok?

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TikTok. Have you heard of it? If not, then you might want to read-up, and fast. Why? Because TikTok is being hailed as the next big marketing platform for brands.

I had the pleasure of recently attending a Mumbrella Masterclass: “TikTok for Marketers”, where I was able to learn all about the world’s fastest growing social media platform. I walked in, admittedly, not knowing much about TikTok, or having even downloaded it onto my phone, but definitely aware of it as a current craze. After a couple of hours’ discussion, I left with a better understanding of where TikTok fits in the social landscape and how marketers and agencies can capitalise on it.

However, working in healthcare presents unique and varied challenges when it comes to traditional direct-to-consumer marketing. And when we talk about ‘brands’, we’re often talking about life-saving drugs for cancer or cystic fibrosis, not your average toothpaste. So I started ruminating on whether healthcare is ready to navigate its strict regulations and adopt this video sharing sensation.

In a relatively short space of time, TikTok has experienced meteoric growth at an unprecedented velocity, with 525 million users worldwide in just a few years – already surpassing Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat. With its creative short-form video content and sophisticated algorithms driving content recommendation, TikTok seems to be the perfect time-filler, consumption hub and content binge for screen-obsessed Gen-Z’s.

Australian users are particularly enamoured – spending an average 46 mins per day consuming content, the highest of any market globally, opening the app on average 8 times a day, which has led to 1.6 billion video views.

One example of where TikTok has created a real cultural moment is with Lil Nas X. You’ve probably heard his song ‘Old Town Road’, which was number one on the US charts for 19 consecutive weeks – making it the longest number one in the history of time. And its success must be credited to TikTok.

The platform clearly has genuine momentum. And with low barriers to posting, an opportunity for creative expression and a constant hunger for new content ideas, TikTok appears to be the perfect platform for brands to take advantage and capitalise on a captive audience.

Brands have already begun to take note of TikTok’s engaged user base and rapid growth. This has been done organically by brands creating their own #challenge, building influencer relationships, or leveraging TikTok’s wide range of ad formats. Early adopters, such as Fanta, Washington Post and BMW have made a decisive move to embrace TikTok to gain competitive advantage, and may potentially reap the rewards as the platform continues to grow.

One company who took a leap of faith were US restaurant chain Chipotle. With almost half of their customers being Gen Z, social media is integral to their marketing efforts. But they didn’t follow in the suit of their competitors and wait to see how TikTok faired, they steamrolled ahead. To mark National Avocado Day, they created a very simple challenge, the #GuacDance, where viewers were encouraged to show off their avocado-themed dance moves inspired by Dr. Jean’s “Guacamole Song.”

The challenge generated 250,000 video submissions and 430 million video starts in six days, and became TikTok’s highest-performing branded challenge in the US to date. These are pretty impressive engagement stats, resulting in Chipotle’s biggest guacamole day ever, with more than 800,000 portions served. Taking something synonymous with the Chipotle brand and creating a fun participative activity was very smart.

But the reason brands like Chipotle have found success is because their brand can easily lend itself to the ironic, comedic and ephemeral nature of the viral content on TikTok which resonates with Gen Z. More and more we’re finding that Gen Z do not take themselves overly seriously. And we know Gen Z like to consume music. Like, a lot. In fact, they lead the way in terms of audio consumption out of any generation. So creating content that’s fun and light-hearted, linked to music, is crucial.

And so we come to healthcare. Complicated, serious, emotional and heavy healthcare. Given the above, it might seem like an immediate no for TikTok, but I challenge you to journey back. A viral participative movement is something healthcare can and has used to its advantage before – the ALS ice bucket challenge. More than 17 million people took part and raised over $220M worldwide for the disease. And it’s not just about the money that’s so impressive. Visits to the ALS association website were averaging 17,500 per day before the challenge, and peaked with 4.5 million visits on 20 August, so it’s fair to say (albeit crudely) that the ice bucket challenge encouraged genuine education and awareness.

However with TikTok, comedy and music rules the land. It’s clear that some industries won’t feel at home on this platform, and ethical healthcare could be one of them. Perhaps I’m being small-minded, but something about healthcare and TikTok just isn’t sitting right. Getting people to do some kind of viral dance challenge to raise awareness of a muscular disease could work for a moment, sure, but would it cause real long-term change? With fast-scrolling Gen Z on a continuous hunt for the next piece of content, I’m not so sure.

Is TikTok destined to be just another flash-in-the-pan social media sensation? Will the arrival of marketed content dull the originality of TikTok and its initial luster?

For me I would say that there are too many uncertainties now. With some brands courageously stepping out and delivering on TikTok, bravo. But with an industry that’s still finding its feet on the likes of Instagram, perhaps it’s one social media platform at a time.

Australian media

Australian media – 5 things I wish I knew before moving to Sydney

By Blog

Another Brit fed up with fast-paced London life and the unending grey weather deciding to move halfway across the world to glistening Sydney? I know what you’re all thinking – ground-breaking. You’ve heard it all before.

But a detailed insight into the nuances and complexities of Australian healthcare media and how it differs from London? Perhaps not.

Being in PR, having an understanding of the media landscape you’re operating in is your bread and butter. Throwing myself into the Australian media landscape and its many local quirks was therefore, to be honest, one of the more expected stumbling blocks in my transition to life down under. I thought some people therefore might find it interesting, and perhaps even helpful, to hear some of the things I wish I knew about Australian media before moving to Sydney.

1. Australia must have way less news than London – so they’ll all be dying to hear about my press release, right?

Wrong. A country with a very strong regional framework, there’s much more of a local culture, where people are more tuned in and interested in what’s happening around them, and how things impact them. Coming from an international hub, there’s such a barrage of global news thrown at Londoners every minute of every day that it’s hard not to tune out and feel dazed by it all. You rarely feel part of a local community. But here, everyone feels very switched on and aware of the local news stories, local politics and connected to what’s happening around them. In that sense, you have to be much more strategic in your media relations in Australia to cut through, and ensure that your story has that ‘local angle’.

2. Everyone knows everyone in Australia. And they talk to each other. A lot.

London is undoubtedly one of, if not the largest, media hub in the world, with a virtually unrivalled number of media outlets, TV channels and radio stations. Despite there being over 8 million people living there, and maybe actually because of that fact, the media networks and outlets often operate in silo and can actually be quite disconnected. It’s nearly impossible to be abreast of all the media moves happening in London with such a global remit, and therefore you can quite easily feel detached from the media, not interacting or building relationships with individual people. In Australia, print media is dominated by either News Corp or Nine Entertainment, and TV is serviced by three major networks. With that in mind, everything operates in a very connected environment, with papers and TV stations speaking to their regional counterparts daily. Careful, considered media interactions and understanding relationships is therefore crucial before pitching.

3. Media are much friendlier to speak with. Why? Because they’re Australian!

I know it sounds cliché, but…it’s true! Listen, everyone knows journalists are busy, and therefore constantly jabbing them with stories is never fun. Maybe it’s because of the lifestyle, the weather, or just generally having a more laid-back approach, but the interactions I’ve had with Australian media so far have genuinely been far more enjoyableA culture rooted in egalitarianism, having a good ‘sense of humour’ and informality, their relaxed and open attitude seemingly extends to journalists, with one even taking the time to walk me through the different audiences they aim to reach with their publication. Calls lasting longer than 25 seconds? Unheard of. So you can ring up to pitch a story, sure, but just be prepared to have an actual conversation! 

4. Health is a high priority for Australians – and media

Having created the world’s fastest growing fitness franchise, F45, produced global fitness fashion brand Lorna Jane, and started the hipster cult phenomenon ‘avo toast’, Australia clearly harbours a culture which fosters innovation in health, fitness and wellbeing. But why? It seems the favourable Australian climate not only produces delicious food, but also promotes an outdoors and active lifestyle. Many Australians are born with a backyard, “bush”, beach, or farm at their doorstep, so people grow up very active and with an appreciation for being healthy. This appreciation trickles over into media too – with health stories dominating mainstream headlines on a daily basis. This means health stories are usually more welcome compared with the UK (I say hesitantly), with journalists ears pricking up at the whisper of a new survey which found Australia is the 7th healthiest country in the world…

5. Health media is politically charged in Australia

Not that it’s not in the UK. But in Australia there seems to be a strong political aspect to any health story, usually linking to either price or access. Most likely that’s down to the complex nature of the healthcare system here, which is semi-private semi-public, and delivered, operated and funded by the Federal, State and Territory governments, the private sector and not-for-profit organisations. That means there’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen. And all these cooks are involved in making healthcare decisions at many different levels, all of which strongly influence how Australians access and pay for medicines. So having a deep understanding of the political backdrop surrounding your client’s product is extremely important when creating a story.

Well that’s all folks. Wishing you the best of luck in future pitches, and hey, maybe I’ll see you in Sydney sometime soon? No doubt landing a national TV story, after the advice above. Kidding obviously, but, one can dream.

Less talk and more action with gender balance and equality

Less talk and more action with gender balance and equality

By Blog

It will be a great pleasure to join the Women in Life Sciences Lunch for International Women’s Day today at Doltone House to review progress with equality and gender balance. While the debate continues on whether a day to recognise women is necessary – I believe it is critical to have these milestones, to ensure momentum is maintained and progress made.

From a personal perspective – I wasn’t a direct witness to the rise of feminism in the 60s/70s. In fact, it was quite a passive backdrop to my school and university years in England.  Germaine Greer’s Female Eunuch was rarely raised and was not a defining publication for my generation.

Instead, everywhere I turned I was presented with strong, capable female role models. Popular culture and the rise of punk made me believe women were invincible and could do anything. Deborah Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, Annie Lennox, Polysterene heralded us on TV. At a galactic level Carrie Fisher and Sigourney Weaver showed me women were born to defy dark forces of many kinds. Even our Iron Lady – Maggie Thatcher – led us into battle and won the Falklands war! Women were strong, confident and capable of anything!

This was reinforced in the workplace. The first company I joined in London was led by an Anna Wintour style Public Relations guru. She was brilliant! My second, a cool, calm ‘Helen Mirren’ style Managing Director. We wore Working Girl ‘power suits’, stockings from Marks & Spencers and high heels.  We worked hard.  I wanted to succeed. I wanted to lead.

In contrast, when I arrived in Australia I stepped into a world led by men – becoming the only female on a senior management team in a large agency. It was different – but I embraced the opportunities I was given and channeled ‘Maggie’ to forge ahead in my career.

Like my female mentors in the UK, in Australia the male leaders were generous with their guidance and supportive of my determination to develop my skills. They actively recognised my contribution to their teams and businesses and gave me significant responsibility and leadership. They also equipped me with the ultimate in communication skills – crisis and issues management, political lobbying, reputation management and strategic communications. These colleagues and male leaders made me the consultant I am today.

But while my skills were extended and I felt supported, the day came when I discovered my pay was significantly less than my male counterparts.  And when my daughter arrived attitudes towards my professional capabilities also changed. As a new mother, I was no longer afforded the kind of progression I had strived for. It was frustrating and ultimately prompted me to step away from the corporate world to set-up my own business.

I don’t see myself as an active feminist, I am more a ‘womanist’! But for International Women’s Day I do believe we need to take time to assess how far we have come – but also how far we need to go when it comes to equality.

We must secure equality in the work place – equal pay and equal opportunities. Like Public Relations and Communications, Life Sciences has a relatively balanced representation of women and men. However, in the STEMM fields, female representation decreases as seniority levels increase. This trend is seen more broadly across Australian businesses with men making up 95% of ASX200 CEOs.

Clearly we need to do more. Fundamental to this is to establish gender balanced parental leave. Less than 5% of Australian dads take primary parental leave in Australia.   It is our established stereotypes of women as the primary carer vs the male ‘bread winner’ which continue to provide barriers to career progression and equal pay. Women and men should be able to share the care for their children in the early years – while both develop their careers, businesses and earning potential.

Although initiatives such as International Women’s Day shine a light and encourage conversation on gender inequality, change is proving slow. Research released just last week shows parity for men and women at the CEO level remains 80 years away.

The time for talking is over. It is up to women in industry, like those at today’s lunch, to inspire change and activate the younger generations coming through – encouraging them to expect equality in their career, to ask the questions, to aim high and walk tall.

Happy International Women’s Day 2019!

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