Canberra,  Communications professional

Canberra Communications Professional Series: Sally-Anne Clark

For the second edition of the Canberra Communications Professionals Series, I spoke to Sally-Anne Clark. Sally-Anne is the Senior Director, Content for the ACT Government Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate.

Sally-Anne brings a different perspective to this weeks’ edition. As a mum of two, who has recently returned from maternity leave, Sally-Anne provides an honest assessment about how this has challenged her in her career and why her current workplace means that she doesn’t have to compromise on her home life or career. Definitely, something I know will resonate with a lot of you.

When did you start in this role?

Four months ago, I finished my maternity leave five months early to take up this role.

What did you do before you joined the ACT Government?

I started my communications, media and marketing career working in internal communications and then transitioned to consumer marketing for two of the big four banks in Sydney. But the desire to come home to Canberra was strong, so I sought an opportunity in the Commonwealth public service “as most Canberrans do”.  I have spent the past ten years working across the transport, climate change and education portfolios in the APS.

What does a normal day look like for you?

I manage a multi-discipline communications team made up of twelve staff across media, digital content, design and web. 

I usually get into the office at 7.30 am, clear my emails and prioritise my objectives and work for the day. Once my team arrive, we have a quick WIP to ensure we are all on the same page for deliverables for the day and where we should be prioritising our efforts and continuing to work on long-term strategic projects. I will then attend a variety of meetings with our core business partners both within our main office and out at our depots.

Embracing our activity-based working environment, I strongly encourage my team to work remotely so we better understand and connect with our internal clients and tell their stories through our content and channels daily! 

Can you tell us about one of your career highlights?

I’ve been involved in some of the most significant policy changes and reform activities of the past decade across government, but recently here in the ACT under the State of Alert I was involved in the operational running of the Public Information Coordination Centre (PICC).

I have always had a strong desire to jump from the Commonwealth Government to ACT Government so I could feel like my work was having an impact on my local community and was relevant on day-to-day life.

Participating in the PICC, and the activities of the ACT Emergency Services Agency, was both rewarding and satisfying. We were able to demonstrate the work being undertaken, and what was being delivered across agencies, to ensure Canberra was best placed for a bushfire emergency. The work was real, visual, timely, and there was buy-in and media engagement from across government, local industry, NGOs and the general public.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

Honestly, having children! Having children has limited the promotional opportunities I have had and the type of work I have been able to do. I’ve effectively been told that I need to be in the office full time to work on campaigns or to get to that next level.

This was despite working for women that have children themselves, workplaces claiming to be family-friendly, and accommodating the needs of working parents and supposedly supporting women in the workforce. I’m never one to settle for a role or a job because of my circumstances, so I have compromised as much as I can to ensure that I could keep my career moving forward.

The ACT Government has a strong philosophy that supports adapting the work to fit the best candidate for the role. In returning from maternity leave, my new supervisor recognised the skills and experience I would bring to the role and actively worked with me to develop a work plan and schedule that allowed me to return to work four days a week.  This support and encouragement mean I am more flexible and giving of my time outside of core hours. She understands my worth and value, and that just makes me want to achieve more for her and the directorate!

What changes do you think will occur in communications over the next decade?

The changing way we use technology and like to receive information will change the way we work in the communications and media space. Furthermore, I think the importance of storytelling to get your message across will change.

People are faced with so much doom and gloom these days, so they are turning off the news and with paywalls on digital news sites increasing, changing the way we deliver news and information will be a key performance indicator. 

Who inspires you? Why?

Inspiration for me is personal. My family inspire me each day. I have a child with a chronic, life-shortening illness, and her perseverance, strong will and determination are something I take strength from. I consider that if she can endure what she does daily, I can do better and more for her to ensure she has every opportunity that she wants and that I can provide for her and her little brother.

What is your favourite book?

I love to read, and for me, reading allows me to disconnect from work and the every day. 

I have just read Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead.  An amazing leader who I used to work for put me onto Brene’s books. I enjoyed this one and took things from it that similar books in the past have left me still feeling a little ho-hum. The basic premise of the book is about building a culture based on bravery and vulnerability. It is about leaders building courage in the workplace amongst their teams – owning fears, choosing courage over comfort and whole hearts of armour!

Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why?

I have had the privilege of working with such a variety of people and leaders. With each of the direct supervisors I have had, I have tried to emulate something I valued from each of them. Whether that be openness, fairness, a sense of frank and fearless advice without the fear of retribution, to taking a breath before speaking if you don’t agree with a point made, to even speaking slower. 

I often refer to two past female supervisors I have had, who at times have been in a similar situation to myself. I will seek out their advice and guidance to bounce an issue off, but I can say with certainty one person has not been of specific influence on my career.

If you could share one tip with other communications professionals, what would it be?

Make relationships with those around you. Mutually beneficial relationship and the connections you make can be of long-term benefit both personally and professionally. Be kind to those relationships and foster them, because you never know who you will encounter when the next opportunity arises.

A bit more about Sally-Anne…

A hands-on, results-orientated professional Sally-Anne Clark has seventeen years’ experience in delivering well-planned and executed marketing communication and public relations initiatives. Sally-Anne has worked in the financial sector and spent the past ten years in the Australian Public Service. Most recently she has joined the ACT Government where she is leading a team of communications professionals to deliver creative, effective content to the local community.

Sally-Anne has comprehensive experience in communication strategy development and implementation, public relations, marketing communications, brand management, market research, digital marketing and social media, campaigns, advertising and copyrighting, and media and issues management.

She holds a Bachelor of Communications, Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communication, a Graduate Diploma in Marketing Communications, Graduate Certificate in Multi-Media Communications and a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education.

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