Communicator’s Corner – Laura Crowden – live from London

Laura Crowden
Laura Crowden

With the spotlight on London in recent weeks – The Queen joining Facebook and Prince William popping the question – we thought we’d profile our colleague Laura Crowden, who’s living large in London!

Laura Crowden, Media Officer, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, (the United Kingdom’s oldest and largest, mental health hospital), London, UK

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

Breakfast at my desk while scanning the morning papers and media clips, responding to emails, chasing up consultants, looking through media alerts for possible opportunities, setting up interviews, writing media releases, placing features in healthcare trade publications, writing and editing features, and a trip to London’s best food market – Borough Market – across the road for a chocolate brownie.

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

Watching Behind the News (BTN) in grade four.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

When I was at school, I admired two feisty, female communicators – 60 minutes host Jana Wendt and fictional Lois Lane (this was during the reign of 90s television program Lois and Clark). Secretly, I still want to be Lois Lane when I grow up.

Which tools can’t you live without?

Spellcheck, Gorkana (UK online media database) and Google news search and alerts.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Convincing reluctant doctors of the role of media and marketing, and securing media coverage in leading healthcare publications of SLaM’s innovative approach to mental health. The UK recession has lead to most organisations dramatically reducing their marketing and PR budgets, meaning everyone is after the “free promotion” positive media coverage provides.

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

Some years ago, I volunteered for the Oaktree Foundation, Australia’s first youth run development organisation. Our Make Poverty History Roadtrip was an outstanding success and I helped secure local, national and international media coverage which pressured then opposition leader Kevin Rudd to promise to increase Australia’s foreign aid contribution. More recently, travelling to last year’s Copenhagen conference for The Climate Group (a UK climate change business lobby group) was a career highlight. It’s hard to beat meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Which campaign do you most admire?

I have a soft spot for Tourism Tasmania’s brilliant advertising campaigns. Being a native of the Apple Isle, I find their slogans hilarious and clever. The highlight was the ‘Tasmania: Bigger than Australia’ movie trailer they played in cinemas to coincide with Baz Lurhman’s Australia film.

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

The sometimes overhyped focus on social networking and new media. The desire to use new media needs to be carefully considered – not all organisations or campaigns suit new media and some risk looking desperate. That said, when appropriate almost nothing can match the cost-effectiveness and reach of new media.

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

Keep Gorkana – the online media database. It’s expensive but worth its weight in gold. Not only can I search every UK publication for journalist contact details, but they can search for PR professionals when looking for an expert, case study or story idea. Each day I get a summary of media requests from journals looking for something – a recent example was a journalist after an expert on Apserger’s which we were able to provide.

Cut – the number of hard copies printed of brochures and other collateral. You never, EVER, get rid of them all.

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

Willingness to join me for a Friday afternoon drink! More seriously, I rely on my colleagues (all in marketing) to feed me relevant media stories, provide me with case studies of former patients, put me in contact with consultants and subject experts and be constantly on the lookout for media opportunities.

What’s your favourite brand?

My dad would kill me if I didn’t say Boag’s Beer (he works at the Launceston Brewery). As a homesick consumer, I love their beer! As a communications professional, I was blown away by their Boag’s Pipeline viral advertising campaign, which they launched when anti-North/South pipeline sentiment was at its peak. Apparently some Victorians were actually convinced that Boag’s beer travelled from Tasmania to Victoria via a pipeline under the Bass Strait!

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

For every government/public sector communication, Death Sentence by Don Watson (Paul Keating’s former speechwriter) on the death of public language – essential reading for anyone prone to writing ‘we commit to’ rather than ‘we will’.

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

Start before you start. While at uni, take up every volunteer opportunity you can, write for university publications, do unpaid internships, try freelance, enter writing competitions, make contacts and try and land invaluable experience in your chosen field while you still have the time (and parental/government financial support).

Finish this sentence:

‘Communication is…’ getting your point across while keeping your audience interested.


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