Staff exchange with University of Melbourne
We spoke to Edd McCracken, PR & Media Manager for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science, about the staff exchange he is embarking upon to the University of Melbourne in 2018.
Though preparing to move to the other side of the world for two months could certainly not be called a restful experience, Edd told me he would perhaps be tempting fate by saying how straightforward the process had been so far.
“Melbourne have already given me a login to their systems,” Edd explained, and it seems the administrative side is not the only aspect where it has been a straightforward process.
“There is no established regular exchange between our department and any other, there’s no system I can put my name into and hit send, no form, no well-worn route. It’s easier for academics; exchange is seen as part and parcel of that world but for support staff at universities, a lot less so. So, I was very impressed and heartened as how supportive my superiors were and how flexible they have been in terms of encouraging it to happen.”
The particular exchange that Edd is participating in has at least been navigated once before. His colleague Joanne Morrison, PR & Media Manager for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science, did a staff exchange with the University of Melbourne in 2012, “which was a great success - she had a great time, and came back buzzing with ideas.”
Edd told me that “she was very impressed in how they’re set up in terms of their studio facilities, like TV studios which they have on site,” explaining that they have to have facilities like that because of the aggressively international market they operate in, seeking to be on the news in Hong Kong just as much as they may wish to be in Australia and needing to facilitate that with ease.
“Jo was very impressed with how that all worked, with the studio facilities and how easy it was to use. It will be interesting to see how that has changed in the past 5 years, because Jo was very impressed with that on the front foot approach."
This is something he is keen to learn more about, especially as they did a major overhaul of their communications team as part of a strategy around 2 years ago.
“It’s quite a different landscape than even 5 years ago, which shows how quickly communications as a professional industry is changing - that can be a relative lifetime. Melbourne operate in a different way than we do, with different markets, so it will be interesting to learn from them, learn how they tell their story.”
It’s quite a different landscape than even 5 years ago, which shows how quickly communications as a professional industry is changing - that can be a relative lifetime. Melbourne operate in a different way than we do, with different markets, so it will be interesting to learn from them, learn how they tell their story.
What will Edd be working on?
The University of Melbourne tell their story in interesting and innovative ways. As part of Edd’s brief for what projects he’ll be working on during his time there, he is particularly excited to be working on Pursuit. Pursuit is a platform akin to a digital magazine, where in-depth features, video content and podcasts sit side by side, an effort to talk about the research that comes out of the university in a more engaging way.
"Pursuit. I'm quite excited to see how that works, I mean, I’m a journalist by trade, having worked for the Sunday Herald for 10 years so I’ll admit that something like that does tickle the journalistic part of my brain, seeing how it operates within an institution.”
In addition to writing for Pursuit, Edd’s day-to-day activities will be varied, with potential work including:
- Giving strategic media advice to academics and faculties;
- Writing media releases and pitching ideas to external media;
- Working with the Social Media Manager to create innovative social media campaigns.
In April, the reciprocal part of the exchange will take place and Yves Makhoul, Social Media Manager for University of Melbourne will join the University of Edinburgh for two months. Having a familiar face in the office may well be helpful, rather than the exchange happening exactly at the same time.
Helpful too, Edd believes, is the difference in their roles. It is important that each institution gets as much out of the exchange as possible, and having an opportunity to learn from a person with a different skillset and experience on the team as opposed to a like for like swap is great for all involved.
For staff members who may be curious about participating in similar activity, Edd recommends going beyond outlining benefits for personal development.
Being able to sell how your time away and the visit from the staff member of the other institution will benefit the University from a strategic point of view is helpful, identifying places that are doing something different to us that appears to be working well.
“If you see something being done at another university that you think we could really learn from, the University is so supportive of making that happen. Just be very clear about what you’re going for, have a clear project or thing you think you can get stuck into and learn from and bring back here with deliverables.”
Though longer-term staff exchanges like Edd’s must be discussed on a case by case basis with your team and manager, you can apply to Go Abroad – Staff to teach or train abroad for a week. You can find out where you can apply to go on the Go Abroad website.