News Corp client campaign manager Melanie Ochmann remembers believing that “following the rules” meant a great career and success.
However, as time’s gone on, she says, she’s realised that not suppressing the urge to “speak up” has led to innovation and “breakthroughs”.
During this year’s B&T Women in Media Awards, presented by Are Media, we’ll be recognising exceptional people who have achieved success in their professional arenas, celebrating their invaluable contribution to their industry through leadership, innovation and courage.
To Melanie Ochmann, the winner of the 30 Under 30 ‘Project Manager’ award for 2020, showing these qualities means trusting yourself to “make the right decisions, even if it means taking a risk”.
She also believes that now is the time to believe in your business, your brand, and yourself. In her eyes, you may just change something for the better.
Melanie, what does ‘fearlessness’ mean to you?
Fearlessness to me, is having confidence and trust in yourself.
It’s about trusting your instincts and having the confidence to embrace change for the better, even if taking risks scare you. Being fearless is about shaking off the butterflies in the moments that count and having the courage to speak up or take action.
It’s taking that leap of faith, but doing it whilst trusting in your capabilities.
What does fearlessness in advertising, marketing, or the media look like?
It’s taken me a long time to be able to recognise that my opinion and my voice matters—that all opinions are valid, that what I have to say is also valuable and has the ability to drive change for the better. In fact, it can actually be the turning point of conversations and the status quo.
I remember starting out in media a long time ago and believing that by simply following the rules, sticking to what was expected of me and remaining quiet, meant a great career and success just by doing my job.
Over time, I came to realise that those urges to speak up, to challenge points and put forward ideas are actually very important and can help spark innovative thoughts from others which in turn can lead to new developments or even breakthroughs.
In media, marketing and advertising (and well, any industry) there is always room to improve, to be better or to change the way things are done and it will always be like this due to the ever-changing nature of the economy. Advancements in technology and the progress in understanding human nature means that the only thing certain in the media is change, so if you are afraid of change then perhaps it is not the industry for you!
This changing advertising landscape means you need to be fearless to take on the next big thing and gives you the advantage of being forward thinking and accepting the ways of the past need to evolve.
In an industry of set processes, ways of working and norms, fearlessness is seeking advice from others, gaining perspective to be able to understand where you can add value or make a difference. Companies aren’t always going to be able to meet client needs from the cookie cutter ways of the past, and it’s human nature to be intrigued and attracted to something when it’s different, the unknown. It’s adapting to a fast-paced environment and standing out from the rest, being different.
Take it from Kath and Kim: ‘It’s nice, it’s different, it’s unusual’.
Who do you know who has shown these qualities since the COVID-19 pandemic struck?
I love what some brands are out there doing during these difficult times and it really is a testament to how well they know the market even during change and their ability to take risks. One brand in particular that stood out for me (and I may be biased having worked with them on this) is Optus.
Since the pandemic hit, Optus has undergone a range of initiatives to help the community, having known some of the impacts on people, such as free data during the peak of the pandemic for people working from home.
In addition to this, Optus released the ‘A G’day A Day’ campaign which saw a range of talent participate from a variety of fields, such as Ian Thorpe, Daniel Ricciardo and Edwina McCann. Each day, Optus shared videos of these stars reaching out to people within their network to do a ‘check-in’, distributed across socials to inspire Aussies to do the same, reach out to others in these challenging times, inspiring positivity and community spirit.
From a mental wellbeing perspective, which is a huge concern during these times, this campaign really hit home to help lead the way with other large companies to do similar initiatives in the market and the amount of stars that jumped on board to participate shows the power of spreading positivity.
It’s not just brands showing these qualities either—my colleagues at News Corp have carefully navigated how to pivot in a global pandemic. Myself and my team included, have all pushed our ways of working aside (which FYI, we live and breathe process so this wasn’t an easy feat) and became more flexible than ever before having to manage multi-million-dollar projects, virtually, whilst liaising with a huge number of stakeholders internally and externally on the daily to get the job done.
As solutions-focused people, we were sailing uncharted waters here, often hearing: “I don’t know how you do your job” from people, and being fearless in finding the new ‘norm’, whilst providing that high level of service, and all with a cheerful disposition. We now are stronger than ever before, with new and improved processes in place, ready for action.
On an individual level, I’d also like to call out all those healthcare workers who are on the front line as well as those behind the scenes. Being in the thick of a global pandemic, navigating unseen territory on a daily basis and putting on a smile while attending to those who have been unfortunate to have caught the virus. You are fearless, and all of us have a great deal to learn from you. Your fearlessness is just *tries to find word to accurately describe it*—there are no words.
What is an issue in the industry that keeps you up at night?
Now that we are working in a different environment, with a new type of ‘norm’, it can be easy to become complacent working behind screens.
With a large number of people set to work from home for the remainder of the year, the industry has seen people excel in the comfort of their own home. I think an issue with this is, however, losing sight of the power of in-person connection.
Not only for individuals’ mental wellbeing but also for building relationships with stakeholders, especially clients. Will these personable skills start to lack if we continue doing Zoom meetings? Body language, for example, plays a huge role in the presence in a room. How do we continue to practise this and build our presenting skills which is vital in this industry?
Do you believe the advertising, marketing and media industry has been ‘fearless’ in 2020?
Definitely. The speed at which companies in these fields have adapted is incredible. Even scrolling through social media and seeing the way brands have pivoted their strategy has been impressive.
I noticed a young brand that sells dog PJs is now advertising matching face masks!
With many companies in these fields being hit hard by the pandemic, it’s amazing to see them counteracting this through creative advertising which shows fearlessness in its deepest form. It’s also been interesting to see brands not shying away from the issue at hand but utilising advertising and marketing in more purposeful ways.
How can professionals in our industry be fearless in times of change?
Trust yourself to make the right decisions, even if it means taking a risk.
Now is the time to believe in your business/brand (and yourself) when you have the inkling that by changing this idea, or this process, or this mentality, you will change something for the better. Because if you don’t trust yourself, you might just miss out on a great opportunity not only for yourself, but the company or the industry.
Allow yourself to have the confidence to do so, and projecting that confidence onto others to do the same, and support your colleagues and other professionals.
What are ad-land’s three biggest strengths and challenges?
Ad-lands ability to research and understand human behaviour, identifying and creating human needs and moulding ad-space to reflect this.
Our biggest challenge is, in retrospect, figuring out how to do this in a meaningful way, cutting through a heavily cluttered market and doing so in an ever changing state.
How would you solve these challenges?
I don’t think it’s about solving these challenges per se, as they will always be there, but more so keeping them in mind and factoring them into your planning.
Each week I hold a little ‘objective check-in’, or ‘OCI’ as I like to call it, where I take some time to take a step back from the work I am doing to take on a broader view of the job.
I check myself for how I am tracking to the original objectives, that being the clients’ (or potential clients’) and my own. Have I lost sight of the core purpose of what I intended to achieve, or from meeting the clients’ required needs?
These happen to everybody in our busy lives, when we speed through to get the job done. I think it’s essential not to lose sight of the meaning behind what you are doing, which goes hand-in-hand with cutting through a heavily crowded market.
The Women in Media Awards will be held on Wednesday 28 October 2020, at Doltone House (Jones Bay Wharf).
If you’d like more information about the event, head to this website.
You can also check out who made this year’s shortlist, here.
Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors for making the event possible!