Marketing, Events & Creative Strategies

cultivating culture & community

I develop marketing strategies, run events and provide consultation to creative innovators, cultural activists and community-oriented causes. My mission is simple. I seek to activate the ideas of groups and individuals to foster a sense of place, connection, meaning and belonging. I do this through publicity, events, advertising, branding, digital media and other targeted marketing and communication activities.

 I am an advocate for the value of creativity; with it comes empathy, inspiration and ultimately, change.

Artists can illuminate truth, offer transcendent experience in a far too literal world, challenge us to feel, and connect us to our common humanity.

LAURA ZABEL, Springboard for the Arts

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Bec

Most cultures acknowledge creativity's primal importance as a generative power. It enlivens and makes distinctive what would otherwise be routine and repetitive.

JOHN HOWKINS, The Creative Economy

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Creative Places: Nurturing Creative Communities

I am in a unique position to leverage communities and networks to make creative ideas happen. It’s not an easy job but it is an exciting one. There are a lot of unknowns as well as constant change. I do my best to arm myself with the best people and tools around because let me tell you – it’s not a one gal gig. Another thing I try and do as often as possible is get out of town to see what other cities do and how they harness their creativity. Cue REMIX Academy event on the Sunshine Coast. Presented as part of the Horizon Festival of Arts & Culture and taking place at The Innovation Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, the event drew speakers from around Australia and around the world and explored the concept of Creative Places: Nurturing Creative Communities.

Before I jump in though, I just have to acknowledge the true soul stirring beauty of the creative arts. How it can surprise, delight and enliven the soul.

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Arriving at the pre-mix party at Caloundra Regional Gallery for The Sunshine Coast Art Prize award, I was given the most in-depth and colourful welcome to the area with an acknowledgement to Country that was Storytelling in its true form. It painted a picture of the landscape, the people and the purpose of place.  Beside me, I felt an incredible energy emanating from a figure in the crowd. Drawn to look over I saw the person move away towards the back of the room. While the official speeches wound down, more and more people turned to face away from the podium and to this little tucked away area where a microphone had been propped. What happened next can’t really be described so I’ll link you to a video of Gennady Papizh and you can do your best to pretend you were in the room to witness this. Other worldy. Something I will never forget.

Ok, back to reality now. The thing that took me all the way up to the Sunshine Coast in the first place was:

  • >> What are the key ingredients that contribute to successful creative cities and communities?
  • >> How can the arts influence and shape urban development projects? How do we think about holistic place-making when thinking about the infrastructure of cities?
  • >> Is the growth of a creative city largely organic or can we engineer it through tools such as policy and investment?
  • >> How do we balance top down with community empowerment and grass roots cultural activity?
  • >> How do we move beyond the cookie-cutter approach where cities simply seek to replicate the ‘Silicon Valley model’ towards building a more complex creative ecology with arts and culture embedded at their core?

Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast

There never is a neat little answer that works across the board, but there are a lot of case studies for what is working and where we can go from here. Below I will share Part 1 of my notes, some ideas presented and quotes from the speakers.

The Death of the Artist

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Peter Tullin and Simon Cronshaw, Co-Founders of CultureLabel.com & REMIX Summits took us on a journey to explore local and international trends shaping the cultural and creative industries and challenged that it was impossible to be an artist without also being a business person to some degree. Don’t we know the hustle?! That “art” (in the broadest sense) is a product of collaborations, of insights, of relationships, of fundraising, of promotion… the list goes on.

Engineering Creative Communities

IMG_5736The Silicon Valley Model isn’t replicable everywhere, nor should it be. We need to be thinking about what are the next creative cities, in 5 or 10 years? Trends are seeing startups follow the artists, back to places like New York, London and Berlin. It’s not enough to build a hub, proclaim yourself as an innovation capital and wait for the innovators to come. Creative communities are built from the ground up. They are unique and attractive because of the talent that exists within them and the momentum they build. They become spectacular where there are creative collisions. No, this is not a new idea, but it is an important one.

Creator Spaces, such as Governer’s Island (https://govisland.com/) start as interesting creative places that always have something going on. This particular island is starting to attract tech and innovation growth, so it will be interesting to see it evolve over the coming years.

I can’t help but think of the arts as a honeypot that attracts the bees – motivated workers who want a taste of the sweet scene being shared by others. It’s a safe bet that the dynamism will motivate, perhaps even propel them. It’s the hope that some of that magical energy, awe and wonder will rub off on them and make their pursuit just that little bit shinier by way of context.

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“Innovation opportunities happen at the intersection of different disciplines” – Alan Noble, Chief Engineer / MD Google Australia.

Back in the day of the first coffee houses people would come together without boundaries around their professions and simply interact with one another. Think philosophers with artists, doctors with poets, scientists with playwrights.

An example of this hybrid melting pot of great minds is Second Home in London. Their cultural program is imbedded into the framework of this unique coworking space, which understands that “exposure to new ideas, provocations and thinkers makes you more creative in your professional life”. Read more of their story here: https://secondhome.io/

It is important for entrepreneurs, especially those working in tech, to consider the human element of their product or service. How will someone interact with this new idea? Creative collisions can force cross-disciplinary thinking and help round out some of those solutions. Creative ideas can enhance tech brands especially – filling the void of engaging, high quality content that matches the calibre of the product.

An amazing example of this cross-pollination was the case study of a tech accelerator being run out of the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa, with the outcomes to

  • IMG_5738>> innovate and remain relevant in an increasingly digital world
  • >> keep delighting audiences – in person and online – and enable them to go deep into museum collections, beyond the physical display
  • >> achieve efficiencies and improve our business performance.
  • Named ‘Mahuki’, the program helps entrepreneurs understand the potential of the cultural sector both in New Zealand but also the potential globally.

Using public spaces, specifically in the cultural sector, is a key trend we will see take off. Another example is Start Space, at The State Library Victoria, which will enable early stage entrepreneurs a place to explore ideas and will feature an e-town hall to rival that of Apple HQ: http://www.innovationaus.com/2017/06/Vic-Librarys-new-startup-space

That’s just the introduction.

Stay tuned for my notes from the featured speakers in Part 2 of the blog.

Brand activation through event sponsorship

Be a brand that activates

I have three iconic and highly visible events happening in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie over the next four months. Sporting, Cultural and Social Cause. They will each attract audiences numbering 20,000+ who are exceptionally engaged and fit specific demographics.

If you are wanting to get your business “out there”, step up your marketing and reach new audiences then forget the traditional and start thinking meaningful. Your next client isn’t looking for a purchase, they’re looking for a connection.

Event Partnerships are one of the easiest ways to reach a diverse range of audiences, provide you with cost effective media exposure and leverage your association with the nationally recognised brands that are already on board.

How about some more perks?

// You don’t need to be a major sponsor to reap major benefits

// Spark some human interest in what your business does and why it has become an event ambassador

// Tons of new, interesting and non-direct-sales related content for your social media channels

// It’s one thing to list your values on your website, but another all together to live them and breathe them. A picture speaks a thousand words right? Well, an activation tells a novel more.

// Up to 80% of your brand exposure can happen before the event even takes place

// Money can buy exclusivity

// Reach a huge new variety of networks and channels of communication

// We can put you on the map. Literally.

// We are a reputable third party liaison to communicate about your brand to your target demographic (and will say the nicest things!)

// Set aside the sell and instead create a conversation with your customers based on the common interest of the event and see the start of a blossoming relationship! Hot day? Offer them a (branded) bottle of water and send them on their way.

// You can set the budget. And you don’t even need to pay in cash if you have the goods we need!

// You’re a VIP now

And a little bonus for reading this far:

>> Ever wanted to be featured on an app? You can be. Right now. For free. (You’re welcome)

Curious to find out more? Talk to me! http://www.talktobec.com.au/#contact

Pakistani artist Shehzar Abro photo by Mitch Lee

Pakistani Artist unveils 8ft mural of a revitalised Newcastle in Hunter St Mall

An 8ft high mural depicting the face behind the urban renewal of inner city Newcastle has been unveiled on Market Square, in the heart of Hunter Street Mall. Pakistani artist Shehzar Abro and creative collective The Roost are behind the initiative that pays tribute to the founder of Renew Newcastle, Marcus Westbury. The artwork adorns the face of a heritage building that is home to The Roost and newly opened Newcastle Transport office.

It’s been almost a decade since the revitalisation of Hunter Street Mall was sparked by Renew Newcastle and the transformation of the area is now undeniable. The impact has allowed creative and cultural institutions such as Renew alumni The Roost to establish themselves and provide a space for artists like Shehzar to create and share their stories with the community.

The inspiration behind the project came when the 19-year-old began researching more about his new hometown and co-working space.

“When I joined the The Roost, a community of independent creative, I set about to understand how it originated. Just like various other businesses in Hunter St Mall, The Roost only came to existence after a major revitalization movement took place in the area,” said Mr Abro.

Roost members in front of Hunter St Mall Newcastle mural

Roost members in front of Hunter St Mall Newcastle mural

Born and raised in Karachi, a city that accommodates 27 million people and produces a larger amount of artistic talent than most other cities in the world, Shehzar was impressed by the prevalence of Newcastle’s street art scene. This thriving backdrop presented the perfect opportunity for the young artist to showcase his skills and perspective on a public scale.

“Marcus Westbury, an ordinary man with an extraordinary idea founded Renew Newcastle; an organization that solved the problem of an empty Central Business District. The mural utilizes his likeness in front of a photograph of historic Hunter St Mall from the University of Newcastle’s Ralph Snowball Collection. These elements are placed in conjunction with psychedelic patterns to symbolize a vivid era of revival.

“It was important to me that locals and visitors like myself could acknowledge the enormous difference that people like Marcus make to their cities. His influence has shaped my interaction with Newcastle, so this mural aims to not only pay respect to that, but to also raise awareness and encourage revolutionary ideas,” said Mr Abro.

Artist Shehzar Abro with Roost President Mark Tisdell

Artist Shehzar Abro with Roost President Mark Tisdell

Manager of The Roost, Bec Dujin, said their association had backed the mural through financial and in-kind support, as the project was a powerful and permanent message that spoke volumes about the importance of culture and creativity in shaping communities.

“It serves as a reminder that creative ideas come to life when individuals stand up and take ownership of them, often with risk to themselves, usually in a do-it-yourself and self-funded approach and most always with a whole host of challenges, which I’m sure would’ve been the case in Marcus’ instance.

“The unfortunate thing is that it’s not often until after these ideas are implemented that their value is appreciated and understood – even if that value is intangible. What we need next is a culture shift to support experimentation and ideas in their earlier stages, with more of a focus on process than a fixed outcome, so that true creative innovation can occur,” said Miss Dujin.

Crowd gathers to see mural unveiling

Crowd gathers to see mural unveiling

The mural will be putting Newcastle on a global stage, thanks to Shehzar’s 65,000+ social media following. He intends to continue spreading stories, history and ideas across more wall spaces and sites throughout Australia and beyond.

For more information about the artist visit www.shehzarsart.com and follow his Instagram blog @shehzarsart. To find out about The Roost head over to www.theroostcreative.com.au

Pakistani artist Shehzar Abro photo by Mitch Lee

Pakistani artist Shehzar Abro photo by Mitch Lee

PHOTOS BY MITCH LEE PHOTOGRAPHY

Read the article published in The Newcastle Herald Here: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4775151/shehzar-abro-mural-brings-mall-a-fresh-face/ 

Simon Sinek Talks to Bec

Let’s start with why… #girlbosses rock

Happy International Women’s day to all the #girlbosses out there who are strong and fierce, compassionate and reflective. As much as we are equal to our male counterparts, we are undeniably different at times when it comes to our approach in the workplace.

Yesterday I attended the ‘Start with Why’ Leadership Forum featuring Simon Sinek and was lucky enough to have a few moments one-on-one with him to thank him for the guidance and positive affirmations his talks provided. I was especially grateful for his emphasis on empathy and compassion when it came to matters of business. I shared that I doubted my “feminine” instincts and interactions at times, which was heightened by recent feedback from a leader I looked up to that my management skills were “too soft” and I needed “hardening up”.

In awe of the momentous occasion of actually connecting with one of my business idols, in the flesh, one on one, I may have missed a few crucial moments of the conversation due to a #fangirl lapse of excitement, but I tuned back in to reality to hear him say “…but you don’t have to be an arsehole. It’s fine to have high standards, but don’t be an arsehole about it.” Spoken in real terms and followed up with some raw advice. “Just be yourself. It’s not about being soft; it’s about being human. Just be you.”

Simon Sinek talks to Bec - Sydney

Returning to the seminar I was pleased that the topic of gender was revisited. Were there enough women in leadership roles? Sinek seemed to think so. He offered that perhaps, it wasn’t that we needed more women in leadership, rather more leaders that act like females. And us ladies just happen to have an advantage because hey – we’re naturally better at it. Were women perceived as “soft” in comparison to their male counterparts? Most probably, according to some of Sinek’s anecdotes, as perceptions of gender roles do elicit different responses from the same messages. In fact, he confirmed that there was “no question” about the double standards of leadership between men and women.

Thankfully, we live in a day and age where we can just lead in all our womanly glory. We’re not required to act more like men. We’re not required to react or interact the same way a man might. We can embrace who we are and how we respond… we just can’t control how others respond.

A question from the audience posed the scenario that being a new mother meant you might not be able to “give” as much or “be” as much to your work. Simon disagreed. He argued that as a mother (or as a parent in general) women inherently understood one of the most important characteristics of being a leader: they need to put the lives of others ahead of their own interests. They had to sacrifice themselves for the thankless and unseen, with often no reward beyond unpredictable hits of serotonin when our children or team achieve or accomplish something because of the support and guidance we have provided them. Sinek went so far to suggest that the parenting book “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” would be just as useful for leaders as it would for parents.

Another anecdote that Simon shared during the discussion was the advice a senior female figure in his early career told to him. She explained that mothers just have to get used to the idea that they’re always going to disappoint someone – it might be their company, their kids or themselves – but they had to let themselves know it was OKAY for this to happen and get comfortable with it, given it would be inevitable. This is something that I know a lot of women struggle with and that I too one day will face. But the message is that we need to be nicer to ourselves and offer the same empathy and understanding to ourselves that we would grant to others.

Great leaders practice empathy daily.

There are a few things, that as women, we are just better at. We trust our instincts. We nurture those around us. We care about feelings and consider our perception. We understand and practice daily the sacrifice of our time and energy for others ahead of our own tasks.

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If we consider traditionally perceived masculine traits of decisiveness, action-taking and assertiveness alongside with feminine associated traits of empathy, compassion and intuitiveness it’s a no-brainer that good leadership is actually a balance of the two. Human leadership. Not soft, not hard, but human. Trusting our guts instead of the figures and handling the tough decisions and making sacrifices and genuinely caring for people.

“Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge” – Simon Sinek.

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