Profile: Caroline Patrick on values, lifestyle and being CPM of the Year

Working for a fundamental purpose, giving back to her community and constantly growing professionally keep 2015’s CPM of the Year Caroline Patrick busy, balanced and fulfilled, writes Michelle Herbison. Illustration by Sara Hingle.

Caroline Patrick’s recent move to the position of general manager, marketing and strategic relationships at Police Health in Adelaide, was carefully considered – after spending six productive and successful  years in various roles at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

“I found about halfway through my career that it was really important for me to have a values alignment with the roles that I chose, so particularly over the past eight years I’ve been very deliberate about moving to  organisations that are very strong on their value set,” she explains.

“Specifically the purpose: if that company didn’t exist, would it actually make a difference to the people it services if it wasn’t there?” Police Health certainly ticked that box for Patrick – it’s a South Australia-based members’ own national private health insurance provider that provides ‘good quality, value for money’ products to the policing community, a group for whom health cover is particularly important.

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Career timeline

  • 2015-present: Police Health
  • 2009-2015: Bendigo and Adelaide Bank
  • 2007-2009: Lifeplan Funds Management
  • 2006-2007: Adelaide City Council
  • 2005-2006: Skycity Entertainment Group
  • 2004-2005: Insurance Australia Group
  • 2002-2003: Bedford Industries
  • 1998-2002: Lloyds TSB Bank

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“They do a pretty risky job and suffer a range of mental and physical injuries and issues,” says Patrick.

The alignment with her history in banking is a good one, too. Both industries are heavily regulated, provide non-tangible products, and their customers tend to struggle with complexity of choice.

“Increasing consumer expectations are leading to things like disengaged customers and confusion,” she explains. “There are quite a few similarities, actually.”

Patrick is well-placed to help guide her new organisation through a recent change in regulator – private health insurance now operates under APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority), the same authority that governs banking.

“Certainly the familiarity of how APRA works and what they’ll be looking for will be useful. You’ve got to make sure you can substantiate whatever it is that you’re saying; you’ve got to be very clear about not being misleading in your marketing efforts. A lot of that is very similar to the background that I’ve got.”

Patrick is excited about growing Police Health’s customer base and improving its digital presence. Currently about 90% of the police force in the company’s home state, South Australia, are members, and the aim is to match that figure throughout the rest of the country.

“It’s 80 years old and its business model is working, but they’ve got to that point where they need to take that quantum leap,” Patrick explains.

“They’ve been growing, growing and trying to keep up with that growth, particularly over the last few years, and then suddenly they’ve got to a point where they’ve gone, ‘Right, we’ve got to focus on digital. We’ve got to focus on marketing. We’ve got to focus on brand. We’ve got to focus on relationships…’

“So it’s actually a new role, which means a lot of opportunity, just a lot of ability to make an impact here.”

Patrick describes the project she led between December 2012 and winter 2014 to revitalise the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank brand as “a phenomenally deep and exciting piece of work.”

“It was full of that sense of purpose that just permeates Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, and that ability to connect with something bigger than yourself,” she recalls.

“Essentially at that point we were operating a pre-GFC brand positioning in a post-GFC marketplace. In banking that actually made a huge difference, because the GFC changed the way people thought about their banks and their money.”

The brand revitalisation, rather than repositioning the brand, drew on its already existing heritage and history.

“We worked with McCann Melbourne, and we went through a comprehensive research process to really understand what the philosophy was that underpinned the brand, what it meant to people and why people banked with us,” Patrick explains.

“It wasn’t just that we decided we were going to change the colour of the logo; we actually went back to the fundamentals.”

A big difference between this project and many other brand revitalisations was that the team wasn’t actually trying to change the existing culture around the brand; they were trying to actually tap into it to reframe it in a more relevant way.

“We were trying to leverage a culture and leverage a philosophy that is in the DNA of that organisation and in the DNA of the customers that bank there,” says Patrick.

“I still feel that it’s one of those pieces of work that’s got longevity and it’s got a huge amount of potential, that brand. A huge amount of potential. It’s probably the most powerful, purposeful brand territory that I have ever seen.”

It’s a big call, but she stands by it.

It’s impossible here to list all of her key achievements during her six years at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, starting off building the wealth management function, then into a broader retail role around local area marketing, and finally the strategy and campaign-oriented role she finished up in recently.

“I think probably one of the highlights was, as I wasdoing the strategy role, really trying to shift the mindset of the organisation from having a product-oriented marketing approach, to a very customer-centred, event-based life-stage approach, which historically had not been the case.”

The big challenge was in changing mindsets – helping product teams to gain a holistic view of the customer and see things from the customer’s view.

“For example, if somebody’s going travelling, clearly they need travel insurance. But actually, you also need a credit card, and foreign currency, and you might want to look at your contents insurance because you’re going to be away,” she explains.

Rather than running campaigns on each of these products separately at different times of the year, Patrick found that encouraging teams to speak to customers about relevant products and the relevant time for them was a sensible and successful approach.

“We went from having a promotional calendar to having a more customer-orientated plan. It was certainly less mass media and more digitally, targeted.”

 

CPM of the year

It was Patrick’s obvious passion for and dedication to the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank brand revitalisation project that led to her winning the AMI Certified Practising Marketer of the Year award in 2015. She presented a talk to an AMI conference in Queensland, which impressed AMI CEO Lee Tonitto.

“I really wanted to flesh out the program of work around more of a case study,” Patrick begins.

“I’ve been to so many of these conferences in the past and quite often these large companies will get up there and say, ‘We had this issue, then we completely changed the brand or the brand positioning or the look of the brand and suddenly the share price has gone up, and there are lots more customers and it’s all happy days.’ You usually want to put up your hand and say, ‘Yeah, but how did you do that?’ Surely it wasn’t that easy?”

“I really wanted to impart some of the learning I had got through that process around things like: you’re going to get resistance internally, you’re going to have to mount a case that this needs to be done and it’s going to work, you’re going to have to have faith not just in yourself but in that you can do this…”

Patrick was, of course, thrilled to receive the award. “I felt extremely privileged and proud that I had been nominated, so it was wonderful to win it.”

She talks about her involvement with the AMI with great passion and conviction. Having first become involved as a way of networking and continuing her professional development after moving to Australia from England, she has become heavily involved – and a strong advocate for the organisation’s CPM (Certified Practising Marketer) program.

“I’m really passionate about marketing as a discipline and a profession. I see too many people accidentally fall into marketing without the appropriate skills and experience, and I think that that’s a shame for the industry at large, because you don’t get that in the legal profession and you don’t get that in accountancy.

“I would like to see it be absolutely standard at marketing manager level and up that you should be CPM qualified.”

“But the fact that it’s still a minority of marketers getting involved creates a ‘chicken and egg’ situation,” she adds. In addition, as a senior marketer, she is often recruited by non-marketing executives, who do not understand the meaning of the certification.

“From my own point of view it was important for me to continue professional development and be held to account around that. But also I have to be a part of changing the system and changing the perception, which is why I have it quite prominently on my LinkedIn profile that I am an associate fellow of the (Australian Marketing) Institute and a CPM.

“I actively encourage my staff to get involved in their industry association of choice, so it may not be  AMI (Australian Marketing Institute), it could be ADMA (Association for Data-driven Marketing) or one of the other ones, but I think it’s really important to be exposed to what’s going on in the industry and continue professional development.”

 

Balancing the personal with the professional

Community is a strong theme in both Patrick’s professional and personal lives. She prefaces her response to a question about her volunteer charity work with, “I have a real thing about this. I do bang on about it a bit and bore my friends…”

Patrick is heavily involved in her role on the board of Spastic Centres of South Australia (SCOSA), and also volunteers with Time for Kids, Amnesty International and Médecins Sans Frontières.

“I really think it’s everybody’s responsibility to give back to the community in which they live,” she says.

“I think if you’ve got particular skills to offer, you should do something meaningful with them that’s outside your normal job. Everybody has capability and everybody has capacity and people who say to me, ‘I don’t have time’, that just does not work for me at all.

“Everyone has the time, no matter how small, and you’re going to make a positive difference to somebody’s life.”

She points out that serving on the SCOSA board has helped to build her network and exposed her to learning experiences she would not have had in her career – HR, risk, change management, financials. It is also very grounding, she adds.

“No matter how bad your day is, when you’re involved in a not-for-profit, where the people that you’re supporting have real issues and they rise above those issues, it’s pretty grounding.”

She and her husband, whom she met while working in Sydney, chose to settle in the Adelaide Hills because they saw it as “the perfect place to raise a family.”

“I’m from the UK originally, and I came backpacking in Australia about 13 years ago and I got to Adelaide and literally stopped. I just really liked it,” she recalls.

This important lifestyle choice may have imposed a few constraints on her career options, but it hasn’t stifled her determination around work.

“The reality is that Adelaide is a small place; it doesn’t have those big head offices, and you’ve got to be realistic about that.”

But Patrick is “better at working” and her husband is “better at parenting” (“he’s just better at it,” she says matter-of-factly) – so they play to their strengths. She focuses on her career while he stays home with their two children, aged six and nine.

“I couldn’t apply myself to all the things I do in terms of time if I didn’t have that support at home. We have chosen to be heavily involved in our children’s lives; there are only 24 hours in a day and you have to decide what’s important to you.”

Patrick’s family situation is one that is becoming increasingly common, with the woman working while the man takes on the bulk of parenting responsibilities. But they’re both still in the minority.

“I have the view that women make up 50% of the population and we need to be able to provide the environment where women can demonstrate their ability and excel, but that actually also means making sure that we provide the environment for men – it’s a broader conversation,” she says.

 

Key learning and advice

Caring about the organisation you work for comes back as a theme in Patrick’s advice to younger marketers.

“When you first start working, your first few roles will generally determine how your career path goes over a period of time,” she begins.

“So choose an industry or choose an area that you are really passionate about and care deeply about. If you don’t care about banking, don’t go and work in a bank.”

Patrick disagrees with some of those who have come before her in this feature series who have said marketing skill sets are more transferable than ever – and that many companies are looking to hire across industries to gain new insights.

“You might have a view that skills are really transferable, but in my experience what you tend to find is that other people who work in those industries for a really long time don’t think that.”

Patrick herself has always worked in services and non-tangible products. After completing her marketing degree in the UK she started her career at the large bank Lloyds TSB – just when it was going through a merger and branch relaunch. Patrick says it was a “brilliant time” for her to start to gain a really good grounding as part of the large marketing department.

It was during her time at Lloyds TSB that Patrick learned an early lesson that she regularly imparts these days to her mentees. The moral to this story is ‘fess up;’ if you make a mistake, it’s better to tell someone.

During the Lloyds merger, Patrick was pulling data to send customer communications – and she got the postcodes wrong.

“I pulled out the data that was for the completely wrong geographical region, and the letters went out to  basically tell customers that their branch was closing,” she recalls in horror.

At first when she realised the mistake she had made, she considered not saying anything.

“I was thinking, ‘What do I do? Do I say something? Do I not say something? Oh my God, am I going to lose my job?”

As it turned out, fessing up – apologetically and honestly – was the best thing to do, because the team was able to mitigate customer impact by sending out replacement letters and priming the customer service team to expect the inevitable phone calls.

“If you make a mistake, it’s not great, but it doesn’t matter – it’s more important that we know about it so we can fix it,” she advises. “I think that’s even more important now in a world where we have social media.”

 

Future outlook

While making a positive impact at Police Health is Patrick’s number one focus at the moment, she has plenty of other projects and goals in the pipeline – including a potential future stint overseas and a medieval history degree on the side.

“I want to help the guys at Police Health really deliver on this next stage of growth, so I think that will take a fair bit of time,” she begins, before adding that she’s also working towards completing an MBA.

She thrives on the mental stimulation she gets from academic study, and says the MBA allows her to gain an improved understanding of organisational functions other than marketing.

“One of the things that’s important for marketers is to be able to demonstrate a broader understanding of the company you work for,” she says.

“Also in a few years I’m coming up to 20 years of working, and I think at that point it would be good to be able to start thinking about what my next step is, and not necessarily having to think just marketing.”

 

Michelle Herbison
BY Michelle Herbison ON 8 April 2016
Assistant editor, Marketing Magazine.