A series of interviews with the founders of independent + successful ad agencies and creative studios.

Genevieve Brannigan

Communications Collective

March 21, 2018

Interviewed by: Michael Freedman

In one sentence, can you tell us about Communications Collective?

We are an integrated communications agency that combines a strategic business advisory service, media relations, and innovative multi-faceted campaigns delivered for clients spanning the full spectrum of design outcomes—including architecture and design, property, arts and culture, and luxury.

What made you decide to launch your agency?

I wanted to offer a fully integrated service that properly considered how to align stakeholders’ business objectives with creative communications strategies. The key to this has been assembling a collection of diversely talented individuals who deliver stand-out campaigns.

What were some of the early challenges you faced when you first set up shop?

I was very fortunate to find myself with a full client roster and some immediate resourcing problems within a week of launching Communications Collective. My workload was quite overwhelming for the first six months; however, I was lucky to have an excellent network of freelancers to collaborate with. Other business owners also helped me to build a group of essential suppliers such as a bookkeeper and legal firm.

Who did you look up to when you were launching your career? Did you have a mentor who helped steer you in the right direction?

I have been blessed to have had countless incredibly accomplished and generous mentors throughout my life. They have encouraged me or taken a chance by giving me a project or reference, and I still regularly seek advice from many of them.

The list is too long to name everyone here, but my parents were my earliest mentors. Both held leadership positions throughout their careers, and I grew up watching them interact with all sorts of people and situations, which provided me with invaluable knowledge.

I’ll never forget the generosity shown to me by my mentors and I hope to pay it back by mentoring the next generation coming through.

How large is your team? Do people work remotely? 

We are a mid-sized agency and growing. With clients all over Australia and many meetings throughout the day, there is naturally a lot of remote time away from the office, so when it’s “desk” time it’s important the team comes back to base and collaborates in the studio.

You’re based in Melbourne, which is Australia’s second largest city and one of the leading financial centers in the world. What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about the city?

Melbourne is a city of cultural connoisseurs, food lovers, and design aficionados. It boasts one of the best dining scenes in the world and an incredible roster of cultural and arts programs. For the visitor, it takes time to discover Melbourne as a city, but once you have, you’ll fall in love.

You spent the first part of your career in luxury fashion and design, working with brands all over the world. What’s different about Australian brands?

The marketing landscape has changed immensely over the past decade, driven by globalization and digitalization. In the past, I would say Europeans appreciated an old-world sense of tradition while Australians appreciated humor and irreverence.

However, as the world continues to globalize, we see European-based luxury conglomerates like LVMH dramatically increasing their presence in Australia, a market which has remained relatively untapped until recently. The brands entering Australia now face an interesting challenge in communicating with two dual but culturally different customer groups—local Australians and a significant Asian population.

Is your approach typically the same when working with new clients? 

Our response to each brief is unique. We always begin by studying our clients’ challenges, engaging with their leadership teams, and understanding their objectives before we put pen to paper. That’s why we aim to deliver fully integrated campaigns, because there is never a one-size-fits-all solution.

Have you ever turned down a project because it wasn’t a good fit?

Absolutely. We are very transparent if we think a client’s brief does not work with what we do well, if we do not have the capacity to take it on, or if the two company cultures do not align.

Our goal is always to work and collaborate with like-minded people and to deliver the best outcome possible.

On that note, how do you measure progress as an agency?

There are so many ways—the quality of clients we are collaborating with, how much we are enjoying the work, and the satisfaction we get from delivering for our clients and seeing them benefit from the results.

What’s something you wish potential clients understood better about your business?

PR should be at board level. It’s so important that the C-suite understands the benefits of communicating the brand mission and views it as integral to their company objectives, rather than seeing it as an add-on.

How has social media affected the way brands do business and interact with their customers? 

Social media has revolutionized how brands are communicating with their customers, and this is just the beginning. Here are some of the ways we are seeing it shape communication:

  • Content
    Creating a brand narrative which is genuine and engaging is paramount. Every brand and organization has a story, but great brands are those that can come up with one that excites their audiences’ imaginations.
  • Relationships
    Social media has created an opportunity for brands to build relationships and communicate directly with their customers like never before. It provides a global and real-time platform for brands to connect with their audience, to share quality content, and to get feedback.
  • Transparency
    Both successes and mistakes on social media are highly visible and can go viral quickly. Brands should pay close attention to their social media channels and have an issues management plan in place should a problem arise.
  • Tribes
    Social media gives brands an unprecedented ability to reach their audiences more cost-effectively. Demographics continue to be important, but the rise of digital marketing and social media influencers has created a highly efficient method for targeting consumers, while also establishing psychographic tribes who share lifestyle choices, buying habits, attitudes, and opinions.

Where do you see public relations and advertising headed over the next few years? 

Intersecting changes to the media landscape and rapidly emerging technology will continue to dramatically change the way in which communications professionals engage with audiences. Successful PR professionals and agencies will be more agile and creative while continuing to be on the lookout for new ways to engage and target audiences across multiple ever-changing platforms.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting their own creative agency?

Be clear on your vision. Surround yourself with great people including staff, suppliers, and advisors. Learn how to roll with the punches (because there are plenty!) and most importantly, enjoy what you do.

A big thanks to Genevieve for taking the time to be interviewed. For more on Communications Collective, check them out at http://communicationscollective.com.au/.

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