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Ross Monaghan: Communications Lecturer, Deakin University

1. Tell me a little about what you do?

While I had a great career in industry, I’m glad to be back at my alma mater Deakin University, teaching and helping the next generation of communication professionals. I still love the practice, and the common thread is engaging with people: you are there to help the organisation and its audiences. With teaching, it’s all about helping students achieve their career goals and helping them to discover great careers in the profession, working with the students and employers and helping students into roles. Nothing beats that feeling, when a student calls to tell me they have been offered a great role. That helps to set them up not only in their careers but impacts on all aspects of their lives.

2. When did you join IABC and why?

I joined in 1986, because a lecturer (Jenny Crickard, USA) told me about the IABC’s amazing work. After graduating, I joined BHP and won a scholarship for a study tour. I went to Canada in 1991 and through IABC, I lined up meetings with senior corporate affairs heads at major organisations. IABC is about connecting with people; if you’re a member, other members will go to extraordinary lengths to help you in your career. On returning, I presented to more than 100 senior public affairs people in BHP, and in sharing my findings I used the term ‘downsizing’, which they had yet to hear. They were in hysterics but before long, the economic downturn hit Australia pretty hard.

3. What do you consider to be the biggest challenges facing communication professionals right now, and in future?

A practical challenge is for practitioners to be able to adapt and use a wide range of channels effectively. Technology has opened up new ways of communicating, and we need to try to get all aspects of communication right, while keeping up with the latest platforms. Another challenge is the polarisation of society. This is in the interests of social media companies whereas we are often engaged in just the opposite: trying to bring people together. Having a voice in the c-suite continues to be a challenge for communication professionals, ensuring we are heard and understood by senior management is more important than ever, as organisations navigate a wide range of challenges in the foreseeable future. It’s important that we are very clear about what we do, how it relates to the organisation’s function and achieving its goals. We need to consider very carefully the business value of communication, so we speak the same language as senior leaders. If you can do that and quantify the value of good communication, you will be an integral part of the c-suite and the first person called.

4. How can IABC help communication professionals overcome these challenges and stay ahead of the game?

The greatest benefit of IABC is its members: members helping members, as well as the great resources online available online and professional development opportunities. The real beauty of IABC is other members who are willing to share, and have one-on-one conversations in person or online.

5. As a senior leader in the profession, what is your best advice for early career-communication professionals?

Be passionate about what you do: communication is not a career choice but a lifestyle choice. If you’re passionate, maintain ethical standards and behaviour in your practice, and have a good understanding of how what you do has impacts upon the bottomline, continue to do research, understand your target audiences and the business, you will achieve credibility. A senior PR practitioner in one of the world’s largest organisations says he knows more about what is going on in the organisation than the CEO does. If you have a strong radar and understand the issues that are emerging, often you will be able to head them off and exploit great opportunities.