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There’s always something to learn in this business, including from other agencies. At the PRIA panel I moderated last week, we explored a project by our industry peer SOCIETY. What a great opportunity this was to get close to the work and the people that delivered it – Dena Vassallo, SOCIETY’s Founder and Managing Director, plus her contractor with all the local knowledge to flawlessly execute a project, Kate Dinning and finally Dr Brad Tucker, Astrophysicist & Cosmologist who brought all the science creds to the project and was the complete anti-Canberrian in his shorts and thongs on the stage.

You can read more about the project and even watch the launch live broadcast if space is your thing… but here are the key things I took away from getting close to this project.

If you don’t succeed at stakeholder management, you don’t succeed at all.

This project had it all – governments, space agencies (including the behemoth NASA), business leaders, First Nations people, the local NT community and the actual client who was the least known and didn’t even have a website yet. A clear strategy, aligned values and goals and a clear execution plan created the stakeholder synergy this project needed to succeed.

Be brave, believe in yourself and your team, and move quickly.

From the initial out-of-the-blue phone call that triggered this project, to getting their heads around the enormity of the ask, and deciding whether to take the brief, this project was all done in just three quick months. Finding the right people to support and getting across the ask, risk, and leaning into new subject matter were all part of this project’s success.

Work your network.

No one can build a team that has the perfect fit of resources for every type of job. Kate and Brad made an incredible contribution to the success of this project. Build and stay active in your network so you can always tap the right people on the shoulder for the skills you need.

Be resourceful.

Hosting a VIP event in remote Arnhem Land is no easy feat. Even finding enough champagne glasses proved difficult, as Kate worked her way around every pub and community centre cobbling together what was needed. The sheer remoteness, timing and weather all added layers of complexity but meticulous scenario planning, backups of backups and focus saw them through. 

Connection is everything.

The really important stakeholders in this project were the ones living, hunting and traversing the land on which this launch would take place. The effort made to get the word out to the Indigenous community and make sure every detail was known, was meticulous. Weekly briefings with community leaders, choosing the right media (beyond the NT News) including local newsletters and bulletin boards, broadcasting a radio program in language (noting that for many, English was their seventh language!) were all important. And then taking that connection a step further with activities that really cemented the impact and context, like for example, a field trip for students from the community and the homeland schools around the space centre as part of a science lesson the week before the rocket launch, ending with chance for the kids to sign the bottom of the rocket – giving them all the memorable experience of literally going into space.

I was grateful to get this opportunity to connect my panel with the audience, address questions and add to the learning across the two days of this important annual event on the PR industry calendar.

Sue Hardman

Miking up with the team.