Penny Burke

Penny Burke
  • Title: Director | Essence Communications
  • Company: Essence Communications


Penny Burke is a business owner, consultant, speaker and author. She began her career in advertising having worked on some of Australia’s most loved advertising campaigns (from ‘Not Happy Jan’ to ‘Milk. Legendary Stuff) and was named by B&T in the all time Dream Team of ad agencies for Melbourne as Strategy Planning Director. She started Essence 13 years ago, and is a regular speaker on behaviour change, and the importance of making emotional connections not just providing rational facts. She sits on a number of Boards including Kennards Hire and the largest chain of Victorian real estate agents, Hocking Stuart. She is known for her straight forward manner and sense of humour. She is a shocking ‘oncer’ having done many things once – she has run one marathon; parachuted out of a place once; sang at Carols by Candlelight once; and so far, has been married just the once.


Co-Presenters- Alison French

In government and social research, communications is but one of a number of tools used to try and bring the public along a journey to a desired behaviour change. Whether it be using less water, exercising for 30 minutes a day or reporting suspicious behaviours to a hotline, social research is often about influencing attitudes and behaviours to inspire people to do something different tomorrow than they did yesterday. One problem in behaviour change is that the perceived cost of change is too great, onerous or just plain undesirable. Add to that a notoriously negative media and social media landscape, it becomes increasingly difficult to ‘sell’ even the most beneficial of social change messages. Having studied the influence of culture for some time, we became convinced that cultural values hold the key to identifying a higher order message for campaigns or policies, to transcend the negativity and increase alignment of the population to the desired behaviours. Essence invested in both qualitative and quantitative research to explore a range of wicked social problems, identifying the most likely cultural value that could apply to and help influence the desired change. Whilst the use of values is not new, the application to specific problem is a unique approach. This presentation will unpack the findings and help every social marketer, policy maker or change agent to think about how understanding cultural values could help behaviour change.