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LeadingLadies: How to Transition from ‘Doing’ to Leadership.

Source |  |  BY:Anna O’Dea, Recruitment Expert | LinkedIn Top Voice 2016 | Agency Iceberg Founder

As Group General Manager of Public Relations at Crown Resorts, Alexandra Smith oversees a portfolio stretching from PR to integrated marketing support and sponsorships – across Crown’s two resorts in both Melbourne and Perth.

It’s a 24-7, high-intensity operation, however, for an experienced operator like Alex, who has worked in senior strategy leadership roles at Ogilvy PR, Edelman, as well as Weber Shandwick, it’s this complexity that drives her.

“We have such a diversity of business units with different interests, audiences and challenges,” she says. “On paper, it could look quite intimidating due to the complexity of it and competing priorities that hit every day – but I think my years in a multinational agency environment have uniquely set me up well to tackle this role and stakeholder management.”

If that isn’t enough to manage, Alex recently had her third child, and was back at the helm of her teams just 2 weeks after.

It’s clear from our chat that Alex is incomparably focused. We delved into her strengths, and the lessons she has learned along the way.


You left your position as Managing Director at Ogilvy PR in Melbourne, to join Crown. What was your time at Ogilvy like?

I took over the Ogilvy Melbourne office in a challenging rebuild phase for the agency. Melbourne is a networked market, and I had spent my entire career in Sydney, and had been incredibly successful. But in Melbourne that didn’t matter as no one knew me. I wasn’t the safest pair of hands on paper – but the CEO Kieran Moore – knew me and trusted her gut instinct that I would be the one to take the office to the next level. It was a huge gamble – and I appreciate that she took it to this day.

Out of all of my agency roles, I think I cemented my leadership style at Ogilvy, thanks to the culture I was nurtured in. I think it boiled down to a good ‘no cowboys and no egos’ culture, which is why I would say to anyone wanting to get to senior levels and do well in them – get inside an organisation that has the right culture and where you are surrounded by people who are as bright – if not brighter – than you are.

Once you have the humility to accept you’re not always going to be the star in the room, nor do you need to be – you’ve become a great leader. Ogilvy made me into a fairly good one – or at least a more self-aware one!


You have a reputation for being strong with strategy – how do you make things happen?

By showcasing passion every day, in every meeting. Even if I don’t feel it – you need to turn that on to get people to give you the real business problems, the real things that need to be solved.

I remember once Chris Savage (one of the founding partners of Ogilvy PR in Australia) said the first thing he always asks clients is, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ I’m not that bolshie as to walk into a room and ask something so out there, but I have an insatiable desire to find out what makes a client or stakeholder concerned about their business, and if you can get to the heart of that, you’re delivering real value, not just noise in market. That’s how I’ve been able to convince my clients and internal stakeholders to take risks, invest in PR, and do bigger and better PR campaigns.

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