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Q&A with Sarah Kulman: Unifying strategy, comms and culture

Meet Sarah, the driver behind one of Australia’s biggest infrastructure alliances. She talks about culture, making sure people are safe to see their kids and the importance of empathy.

Sarah Kulman is the Alliance Integration, Communications and Strategy Manager for Fulton Hogan – one of Australia’s most successful infrastructure companies.

Sarah Kulman from Fulton Hogan in a truck

She leads culture, internal and external communications and overarching strategy for the Fulton Hogan, Metro Trains Melbourne and Level Crossing Removal Project Alliance.

 

Sarah was the architect behind a safety video that told the story of a dad not coming home from work through the eyes of his daughter.

‘Powerful’ is often bandied around. But the fact grown men
were moved to tears onsite says it all. 

Sarah talks to us about how ensuring multiple organisations work cohesively as one is all in a day’s work.

What do you do?

It’s a bit of a mixed bag but essentially, I look after the alliance culture piece (wellbeing and integration of three organisations), communications for both internal and external audiences and overall alliance strategy.

Culture is critical. If you get it wrong or don’t take the time to lay the foundations for a collaborative environment, it’s extremely hard to turn it around.

I believe the best way to build a positive culture is to create an environment where everyone gets to know who their colleagues truly are.

 

For example, I feature a staff member in our fortnightly site magazine and really delve into the person behind the work persona. You’d be amazed at the positive effect this has on the culture and working groups.

We’ve had former Russian ballerinas, chefs and people from broken homes…all willing to share their story. This proves the internal newsletter isn’t dead – we just need to rethink its delivery and use it as a powerful tool to increase self-worth and recognition! 

 

I also look after the messaging for key initiatives to ensure target audiences are engaged. For example, we have more than 250 employees across our work sites and more on the tools.

Our key focus is always ensuring that each and every one makes it home safely. Using the same strategies to deliver safety messaging runs the risk of your work force becoming message fatigued and tuning out. We don’t want that.

In addition, to the comms and marketing piece I lead the strategy across the alliance. This includes identifying the key areas of focus (strategic pillars) to deliver the strategic plan and condense it to an easily digestible strategy on a page. And from there, I help drive accountability and ensure we stay the course as we roll it out.

What mantra are you living by this year?

This year I started off with my usual mantra of ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ – which essentially means I’d rather regret doing something than not. Most things can be turned around at any point or discarded if it’s not right so why not give it a go? But after eight weeks working from home it’s changed to ‘you got this’. 

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

You need to truly understand your target market and do the research to know their needs and how they can be solved. Then, you can communicate with your audience in a way that adds value, while building trust and credibility. 

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

The Alchemist. It’s great for those who are at a cross roads or can’t quite see the positive in the present.

 

For me, it acted as a recalibration and re-focused my perspective to be more mindful of what I currently have and to be thankful of those around me.

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

From a communications perspective, I have to say I have a lot more respect for the way Daniel Andrews has managed the key messaging during COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Where I felt others were confusing, Dan stripped away any confusion to deliver clear and concise direction.

 

I also have to mention Jacinta Ardern as an example of how empathy is critical in good leadership.

The Alchemist book
Cricketers pale ale box

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

After eight weeks working from home, I’d like to think I am a bit of a connoisseur now.

 

My current go to beer is Cricketers Arms Pale Ale…it’s a really easy drinking and tasty beer. Not too crafty.

 

And I do love a Montalto Chardonnay, the Mornington Peninsula produces some good wines! 

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

After eight weeks working from home, I’d like to think I am a bit of a connoisseur now.

 

My current go to beer is Cricketers Arms Pale Ale…it’s a really easy drinking and tasty beer. Not too crafty.

 

And I do love a Montalto Chardonnay, the Mornington Peninsula produces some good wines! 

Cricketers pale ale box