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Paul Edwards – Group General Manager Corporate Communications at ANZ – shares his views on digital transformation and it's impact on the communications function.

Just a few years ago when I stepped on board the number 8 tram to get to work, passengers were immersed in Melbourne’s great newspaper mastheads – The Herald Sun, The Age or maybe The Australian Financial Review.

Today everyone is still occupied on the number 8 but there are no newspapers.  It's smart phones or iPads and the mastheads are Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and the digital editions of newspapers, maybe games or the inevitably too loud music spilling out from passengers’ earphones.

It’s just a small insight into our new world where digital and social media are completely changing the way we communicate with each other and the way we find, consume and share information. 

While my experience on the number 8 highlighted how dramatically the world was changing for media owners, it also told me our future as communicators is changing just as quickly. 

I’ve had the good fortune to work at ANZ for 18 years, the past eight of which I’ve been head of function.  For the first 16 years, my biggest technology project was moving from using a fax to distribute media releases to email. 

Over the past two years though, I have been involved in leading four major technology projects with a budget in excess of $10 million.  This has involved the upgrade of our global intranet, the introduction of an internal collaboration tool for the enterprise, security and network capacity investments to provide our 60,000 staff with desktop access to social media, and the launch of a new digital publication for news opinion and insight called BlueNotes.

As a profession, we have to accept that digital transformation isn’t just about having the latest “you beaut” technology. It creates the opportunity to be closer to customers, staff, stakeholders and to reconnect with the human side of business.

Communicators – and marketers – need to move more quickly to up skill ourselves and our people for the new world.  Training and education for employees is also critical as we introduce social platforms to help reduce social media risk and activate employees for engagement and advocacy.

It’s not just about training.  We also need new skills.  My most recent hires at ANZ have been senior journalists who are not doing media relations roles but continuing as journalists.  Their role is to produce great content to directly engage stakeholders with news, opinion and insight and to use digital and social media to engage them in a conversation.  I’m also hiring digital producers who can help build, maintain and utilise our digital and social platforms.

We also need to recognise that this isn’t just about a new future for external communications.  Employees are also looking to find, consume and share information in new ways.  It means internal communication is also on a digital journey which is less and less about the broadcast of messages and more about strategy and platforms to share information and drive business conversations.

Digital transformation is significant because it is now driving real change within our function.  It’s a huge opportunity but the need to change is now because its clear from the number 8 tram that within the next two to three years, if communicators haven’t developed digital and social media skills, they’ll be limited to an ever shrinking number of old-world jobs.  


Paul Edwards is Group General Manager, Corporate Communications at ANZ. Paul has 25 years’ communications and media relations experience in Australia, New Zealand, UK and throughout Asia.