Most people probably think not much happens at a cemetery. But RMIT students discovered how much goes on behind the scenes at some of Melbourne’s quietest places.
Second year students in the Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations) have worked with an unusual organisation as part of their course.
In Communicating the Organisation, public relations degree students explore communication in contemporary organisations with an emphasis on internal communication, addressing organisational culture and change, issues management and corporate citizenship.
Central to their assessment is a live brief from an industry client, this time the Greater Metropolitan Cemetery Trust (GMCT), which is a statutory body that manages cemeteries in 19 sites around Melbourne and assists over 12,000 Melbourne families a year with their burial, cremation and memorial needs.
GMCT was established in 2010 with the merger of eight previous trusts. Over the past few years the organisation has worked to further integrate its processes and systems, and build a shared team culture.
RMIT public relations students designed a communication strategy as part of GMCT's Fusion project, which renewed the management systems for the organisation.
Judith Mooney, GMCT’s Manager of Communications and Community Engagement, said it was invaluable to have the students working on the project.
“GMCT has been working on a project call ‘Fusion’ for the last two years and it will impact on our key business functions, incorporating finance, asset management and cemetery management.”
“It was great to have an extra 80 sets of eyes and 80 brains working on the Project Fusion communications plan,” Mooney said.
“Fusion had been underway for two years, but when it came to the implementation phase we needed to re-ignite the momentum – staff interest and energy, so, getting the students working on the project was terrific.”
Public Relations student Georgia Wilkins was one of the students who worked on GMCT’s Project Fusion communication strategy.
Wilkins said their role was to collaborate to research and design tactics to help merge the eight pre-existing trusts’ help consolidate a genuine ‘one organisation’ culture in spite of the legacy of the previous trusts and geographically diverse workforce.
“It was challenging for us - we’d never had a client quite like this - it was a public sector, not much budget offered and quite a sensitive organisation.”
“This made it difficult to come up with creative ways to be innovative and engage staff,” Wilkins said.
“I think we’ve all learned how much culture came into how an organisation operates, and we now understand how important it is. We have to keep in mind when in our planning and tactics.”
Philippa Brear, a senior lecturer in the public relations degree at RMIT, said the GMCT project gave students great exposure to organisational communication.
“It highlighted the wide range of employment opportunities in roles like internal and change communication, and stakeholder engagement," Brear said.
Mooney said the messaging that she was able to hone from the students’ contributions was fantastic.
“As a result we had a really great outcome. Project Fusion went live and student ideas were used. The project was very well received.”
Story: Wendy Little