Meet Mat Crompton Icon's Strategy Director

Mat Crompton is Icon's Strategy Director and behaviour change communications specialist. Mat owns a Beagle, drives a Land Rover and wears a Barbour jacket all year round. We suspect he misses the UK, just a bit.

1. You've been working in Australia for several years, what are the major differences in the behaviour change communications and strategy fields between here and the UK?
I wouldn’t think there are too many differences. If you look at the fact that The Behavioural Insights team, the UK Government’s original “nudge” unit are now working in around 31 countries around the world you understand how far the theories and thinking have spread.

There is, of course, a much larger and better-funded sector in the UK and that means that there we will always look to, and borrow from, it for inspiration and however the depth and expertise in Australia is phenomenal. The agencies in Australia that are leading the way in behaviour change communications are not afraid to do that and the ones who realise that having an academic partner to help deliver a depth of behaviour change knowledge is vital in staying ahead of the pack. In fact, our partnership with RMIT’s Behavioural Lab is one of the reasons I joined the agency.

2. Why are behaviour change communications so important?
Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything more important than knowing how to communicate to someone and knowing the right thing to say.

My Aunt works for the Good Samaritans in the UK. Over her two decades answering calls she has, very sadly, had to talk to dozens of people phoning up on the brink of suicide. She once told me that in their training they are told to ask these individuals, when appropriate, a question - “do you really want to kill yourself? Or do you just not want to feel this way anymore?”. This one question is the most powerful set of words I could imagine and the most important that those individuals will ever hear. At a time when they thought suicide was the only way out, one short sentence suddenly gives them an option that they never realised they had.

3. How difficult is it to execute behaviour change communications successfully?
That depends on the challenge. We are confident in the models and frameworks that we use to develop behaviour change communications strategies and we will always be rigorous in our approach but at the end of the day sustained behaviour change is difficult and it takes time. We also have to accept that communications can only do so much, there are a multitude of other interventions that need to be considered and implemented to ensure a particular behaviour is adopted.

4. 2020 has been challenging for many reasons, do you think it has changed the landscape for agencies?
OK, well that’s a big question. But yes, of course, I think it has changed the landscape for many sectors and communications is no different. People who know me will tell you that I am a little cynical sometimes, although I like to think in a constructive way, but when it comes to a post-Covid world I am definitely an optimist. I think changes to where and how we work are much overdue and whilst it will take time to get the right structures and processes in place I am quietly confident that people who work in our industry will be able to attain a better work-life balance in the not too distant future.

5. What has been the most rewarding campaign you’ve worked on?
Gambling and mental health are areas that are close to my heart and so I will always think it a privilege to work on campaigns related to those issues. The work I’m currently doing with Icon in the social cohesion space I am finding particularly fascinating, especially being able to apply a relatively objective lens on the issue - being an ex-pat myself. However, changing Carrie Bickmore’s hair from Blonde to Brunette to sell a hair colour product is of course the most rewarding thing I've done.