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Q&A with Jamila Savoy: Purpose-led comms delivers business outcomes

Meet Jamila, a communications and brand professional who’s done it all. Learn how she’s helping Vision Australia deliver business outcomes through purpose-led comms.

Jamila Savoy is a communications and brand professional who’s done it all – but she’s too humble to tell you that.

 

As Vision Australia’s head of external communications and brand, she thrives on having a positive influence on community perceptions about disability.

 

It’s her 15-month-old son who literally gets her out of bed each day but, figuratively speaking, Jamila is driven by the fact her work positively improves the lives of more than 25,000 Australians who are blind or have low vision and their families. Now that’s purpose-led with a capital P.

 

Jamila has an insatiable curiosity, and anyone who’s worked with her will attest to her love of two questions: “Why are we doing this?” and “What will it achieve?”

 

This ability to take a step back and really focus on how comms can deliver tangible business outcomes is something that really sets her apart.

 

Over her 15-year career, Jamila has led comms and community engagement for a raft of household names, including the John Holland Group, and served as a media adviser to two federal MPs.

Jamila-savoy-driven-by-purpose
Jamila in Geneva with her 15-month-old son (and alarm clock) Darius.

What do you do?

In a nutshell, my team and I lead brand and external communications for Vision Australia to help improve societal perceptions about disability.

 

This includes proactive and reactive media relations, client engagement, reputation management, corporate communications and social media across Vision Australia, Seeing Eye Dogs, Vision Australia Radio and Carols by Candlelight.

 

Vision Australia’s mission is to support people who are blind or have low vision to live the life they choose. However, this extends well beyond the people we provide services to.

I’m incredibly proud of the media relations work we’ve done in supporting the government relations and advocacy teams in their quest to remove systemic barriers for people who are blind or have low vision.
Vision-australia-highlighting-accessibility-issues-guardian-newspaper

This includes highlighting accessibility issues in platforms such as My Health Record and various apps, revealing the tactile banknotes in conjunction with the Reserve Bank, and lobbying the Government to add a noise requirement to electric and hybrid vehicles, which are a silent threat to people who rely on sound to navigate the world.

 

On a personal note, I’m so proud of the team culture we’ve created, as well as the constant ‘wins’ we collectively deliver.

What mantra are you living by this year?

‘Step outside your comfort zone.’

 

I found myself saying this phrase a lot this year and recently realised that I need to live and breathe my own advice – whether that be through speaking up more often or doing things like this Q&A!

Too often, women tend to second-guess themselves – I can be guilty of that – even though we’re super-competent. I want to set an example for others to back themselves.

What’s the most important thing comms pros and marketers can do to drive commercial outcomes?

You must intimately understand your audience and their functional and emotional drivers, irrespective of whether they’re a consumer, customer, journalist, workforce, MPs (for lobbying efforts) or other.

A core part of our role is increasing brand awareness as an industry leader, and changing community perceptions. To achieve this, you require a nuanced approach, not a broad-brush one.
I also think that demonstrating authenticity is critically important, particularly when you embrace a storytelling approach.

What’s a cracking book you’d recommend or podcast you swear by?

This one is hard as podcasts typically aren’t my thing, and I tend to gravitate towards James Patterson crime novels!

 

However, Dylan Alcott and Angus O’Loughlin’s podcast ListenABLE is fantastic, and I’d give an honourable mention to Kurt Fearnley’s TV show One Plus One (ABC).

Kurt-fearnleys-one-plus-one
Kurt Fearnley's One Plus One helps break down subconscious bias against disability.

Who are your go-to thought leaders, and why?

To be honest, some of the people I work with are my go-to thought leaders, especially those on our leadership team with lived experience (i.e. they’re blind).

 

They help me to really understand my audience, and their pain points far better than any theory or book ever will.

Our favourite qu: What’s your top beer or wine recommendation?

I LOVE Spanish tempranillos at the moment, and my go-to is Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2017. It goes well with most meals, including seafood.

 

And I know some people say you shouldn’t drink red wine with fish, but I say drink what you like!