Acknowledgement of Country
Larrakia County, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. Listen to Larrakia Elder Richard Fejo’s heartwarming introduction to Welcome to Country.
I first heard this quote within close-knit communities in my teenage years. I don’t know that people were directly quoting Theodore Roosevelt, or aware of his quote. But I’ve known this to be a widely held sentiment among people since childhood.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you are. This saying recognises that technical competency in any field is only part of the equation if you are seeking to influence and help people. The other half of the equation is that you have to genuinely care about people and their interests first. Such that other people’s interests are as important as your own. And people have to feel that you really care as well. People can often sniff out fake emotions and expressions easily.
So, this saying still rings true today in families, in life, and at work if you want people to listen, understand, and accept why you’re advocating certain actions and positions.
In November 2021, I shared my philosophy with engagement professionals in Australia (and New Zealand) when I was invited to speak at the webinar leadership series on Learnings from the Pandemic, organised by the Australasian International Association for Public Participation (IAP2). You can listen to the webinar on Apple Podcast at this link
“With regards to behaviour change, people make choices about their health based on information and trust. We engaged the community because we needed people to take action for their health. One of the key lessons for me in the pandemic came from Vienna Richards who you’ll hear from later in the session….Vienna says, people will only take action on health advice if they believe you care about them. So when it comes to working on a pandemic, only half the answer is to be competent in health knowledge, the other half is about the connection and trust.”Nina Fromhold, Rapid Response COVID-19 Engagement Director, Victorian Department of Health during COVID-19 Response (spoken at Leadership Webinar November 2021)
Experienced professional. These are some of the key roles performed in past years:
- Strategic communications specialist
- Communications manager
- Media relations manager
- Community engagement and stakeholder engagement manager
- Senior Marketing Lead
- Workforce and communications trainer
- Speechwriter and newspaper print columnist
- Health and science communicator
- Trained in agile project management (USA)
- Trained in crisis, emergency, and risk communications (USA)
- Cross-cultural communication and engagement
- First Nations community and stakeholder engagement
- Suicide Story Aboriginal Workshop Training (2023, Darwin)
- Trained volunteer in trauma-informed practice (2010, Victim Support West Auckland)
- Radio and TV journalist/news producer
Welcome to my official intro, if we haven’t met yet. I’m less formal in person. A lot of the work I’ve done in programs and projects has been very serious stuff. But I do appreciate the lighter moments in life, as well.
I write in my spare time about strategic communications, media relations, stakeholder management, emotional intelligence, and personal growth.
I’m a communications specialist, a writer, and a content creator. I’m also an engagement specialist working with communities and stakeholders. More than 20 years ago, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies, majoring in journalism (2001, AUT). Since then I’ve worked in different areas of journalism, marketing, and communications.
What is communications?
Communications covers very broad fields of work and industries. Much of my work has been at the intersection of communities, governments, and the industry/business sector. Because of that, I have significant experience in public affairs advocacy, dealing with media, social media management, community development, events planning/coordination, marketing publications and campaign activations, internal and external communications, plus Intranet and websites.
If I had to define specialist areas of communications I’ve led, it would fall into the wide umbrella of strategic communications. That has, for me, covered different areas of the communications disciplines including stakeholder communications, corporate communications, government relations, community relations, media relations, education, health and medical communications, and crisis, risk, and emergency communications.
Community & stakeholder engagement
When it comes to community and stakeholder engagement, I’m very comfortable and experienced working with diverse communities, including First Nations, cross-cultural communities, as well as medical, scientific, and business communities.
I’ve packed a diversity of experiences into my working life. For example, I’ve had opportunities to use my skills in industrial areas, infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and severe earthquakes. I was a communications lead for the emergency response of the 2011 February Christchurch Earthquake (warning: link takes you to news media video coverage aired on the day) . I’ve also presented conference papers on the same topics and health outcomes at disaster and emergency conferences in Australia and Europe.
I love working with good people and great caring teams who are committed to doing their best work, together and independently. And I’m a lifelong learner.
Digital technology & content creation
In late July 2023, I did something really crazy. I started a YouTube channel in my spare time.
Starting your own YouTube channel is a great way to dive deep into learning all things YouTube content creation. For me, it’s about ongoing professional development and personal development. It keeps my digital technology and video skills alive. It helps me stay abreast of the rapid changes in the global tech and social media world.
Like, did you know that YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine? Google is the world’s largest search engine and it owns YouTube. With video content dominating the world of content creation today, it’s YouTube (and therefore, its parent company Google/Alphabet), not Facebook or Instagram, dominating the video space. And yes, in case this question has popped up, I created this website and blog. It’s a great way to sharpen your web development skills.
So, if you’ve ever had a desire to start your own website, blog or a YouTube channel, now’s a good time to learn, no matter how young or old you are. Go for it!
Communication skills are life skills. As well as professionals, life skills are for everyone at any season of our lives.
Outside of my professional interests, I’m a mother and a grandmother. I have mostly raised my children on my own. I have always taken my role as a mother seriously. Nothing trumps seeing children doing well, overcoming life’s challenges, and creating a loving family life.
Needless to say, single parenting was among the hardest things I have ever done in life. My children have known poverty and hardship growing up. But I raised them to have dreams and goals. To see them continue to dream, believe, and develop their potential, and turn out to be kind, caring responsible adults is one of my greatest joys. All I can say is, thank you, thank you, God.
Kindhearted, community-minded, and the ability to do hard things with faith in God helping us through, that’s how I describe this little family of mine. We’ve weathered our share of life’s trials, that’s for sure. And I’m forever grateful for my children, the responsible people that they are, the caring families they’ve created, and their efforts to serve families and communities. They are my heroes.
COVID-19 Public Health Emergency 2020-2022
What a lifetime of an experience we all lived through for the first time in our living history. We all have our stories to tell. Our memories, our experiences, many never to be forgotten. We saw the best in people, we saw the worst in people, and rampant misinformation and disinformation flowed like a river throughout all corners of our borderless world.
In Australia when COVID-19 was officially declared inside our borders, I was working in emergency medicine. After Melbourne’s Second Wave, I moved to the state government to the health department to join Victoria’s COVID-19 Rapid Response. It was intense and all-consuming. A year later, still working for Melbourne, I moved to the Northern Territory to be closer to my family, in anticipation of interstate borders closing again. I officially left the Australian COVID-19 Response at the end of August 2022 after working stints in Utopia and the Barkly region in Central Australia, and the Katherine region at the Top End.
Rescued by Music
Music is a healing balm for the world. It helped me make it through the COVID-19 pandemic and response work. Growing up, my mother played piano and encouraged her children to learn a musical instrument. We sang in good times and sad times, hymns, Elvis Presley, to World War ballads from bygone eras.
During the pandemic, a wonderful Australian emergency physician Dr Clare Skinner , who has now serves as the President of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) created a joy project. It’s called EDMusos. I joined the virtual choir. It was the best treatment for the heart and soul at a difficult time in our country. Please note that we all did this during our personal off-work time, not during shifts.
Was I, Vienna Richards, an early adopter?
Here’s how my life as an early adopter began. I was a university student doing a communications degree program during the early days of the Internet and social media.
When Google launched in 1998, that was also the first year of my degree study. It was an exciting time in terms of being able to find out information online in a way that had not been possible before. And Facebook launched a few years after I graduated. When it first launched, Facebook was a closed platform only available to university students and graduates, firstly Harvard University only. Then from memory, it gradually opened up to other universities and then the world. So it was how I stayed in touch with my university class at the time.
I am usually an early adopter, someone who embraces new technology early. Except that during the official emergency years of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was solely focused on anything but the latest technology, to be honest.
Like most bloggers, I’ve had an off-and-on-again relationship with blogging. My last period of absence online was sometime in 2022 until May 2023. I’ve built most of my websites and blogs using WordPress since 2008. That’s the only platform I recommend for a website if you also want to blog. But if you want to set up an e-commerce store, use Shopify instead. There is a steep learning curve to learn Shopify and it takes time, but it’s so worth learning. And yes, you’ll learn a tonne through the mistakes you make.
Digital technology & multimedia
My degree study, where I majored in journalism, included digital technology and multimedia. And yes, the internet and social media were very real revolutions that changed the world. It was marked by rapid technological shifts that reconfigured the whole world, including our work lives, and how we communicate with one another. It created seismic impacts on entire industries and whole societies. forever more. And I stay interested and curious following the technological developments over the last 20-plus years, trying out new apps, and signing up to do beta testing.
One of the most significant changes in the early days was the development of the IT infrastructure to access the Internet. The development of broadband introduced speeds that finally allowed Internet users to watch videos, without waiting an eternity for images to load. It was called the dial-up service because you literally had to dial up a phone line to access it. It was the norm for Internet connections around the world in the early days. Hard to believe but it’s true.
Here’s a visual which shows how the Internet revolution took off gradually, first with dial up and then broadband.
In 2001, the year I graduated from university, only 41 percent of adults in the USA had an internet connection and it was dial-up. Then along came broadband with its fast speeds, increasing the number of adults who could access the Internet for the first time.
So that’s a snapshot of my interests and experience. If you’d like to message me, please feel free to contact me.