An Interview with Sue Giddens
An Interview with Sue Giddens

March 13, 2012

Sue Giddens

An Interview with Sue Giddens
General Manager Marketing and Fundraising
Neurological Foundation of New Zealand


Dana Foundation: Each year for Brain Awareness Week (BAW), the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand (NFNZ) organizes a range of events throughout country. Last year’s program included thirteen public lectures and four Brain Days and was attended by 5,700 people. What are you planning for BAW 2012?

Sue Giddens: This year (our organization’s 40th anniversary) we moved our focus to holding six larger Brain Day events throughout the country to maximize the interaction with and information for the public. Interest in brain science and brain health in New Zealand has been heightened over the last few years with excellent media coverage featuring the incredible work of Kiwi scientists and clinicians at all of our universities and research institutions, much of it funded by the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand. New Zealanders are very aware of the importance of research as our population ages and we are faced with the societal and financial impacts of an increase in neurological disease. We are a small community here, and we all know someone whose life has been severely affected by one of the long list of neurological disorders.

Our public lectures are always popular, and we will continue to hold them throughout the year, but Brain Days offer a unique chance to interact with a diverse range of researchers directly and experience fun activities. We also include activities that cater to children to inspire our next generation of scientists. Brain Days offer an excellent opportunity for our university, research institution, and community support group partners to become involved and to highlight their important work.

Giddens Group photo - Content 
Brain Day Whangarei 2011: The Mayor of Whangarei Maurice Cutforth with two leading New Zealand neuroscientists, Associate Professor Bronwen Connor (left) and Professor Louise Nicholson (right). Photo courtesy of The Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.
DF: How has your BAW program evolved over the years?

SG: Our modest BAW beginnings involved Open Days that have grown into the large program we now run. The Neurological Foundation has been fortunate to have excellent partnerships with funding partners like the Ted and Mollie Carr Endowment Fund (administered by the Guardian Trust) that greatly assisted us in taking our events to bigger and better heights. The Neurological Foundation Brain Days and public lectures are now well-known and widely supported by the public. 

Giddens - Winston's lecture
Brain Day Auckland lecture 2011: A full house for Professor Winston Byblow’s Fit Body, Fit Brain lecture. Photo courtesy of the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.
DF: Planning events throughout the country requires collaboration with local presenters and organizers. What do you think are the most important aspects of a successful collaborative relationship?

SG: The most important aspects of successful relationships are the ability to consolidate your common goals and to aim high! Everyone involved in a Neurological Foundation event is passionate about brain science and brain health, and loves to share their work and enthusiasm with all partners and members of the public.   

Giddens Brain Day 2011 - Content
Attendees at Brain Day events register at the Neurological Foundation information stand and receive a goodie bag packed with brochures – and goodies! Photo courtesy of the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.
DF: How do you publicize your events? Which tactics have worked best?

SG: We have a multi-tiered marketing strategy that involves community ambassadors (word of mouth), good press ads, a direct mail campaign, inclusion in Headlines, our popular newsletter (sent to more than 30,000 members and supporters), radio, and posters (absolutely anywhere there is space!). All of these tactics work really well–but pivotal to their success of course is the awareness that our media friends (newspaper, radio, television) can provide, and for that we are very grateful.

DF: What are the key components that ensure Brain Awareness Week is a success in New Zealand?

SG: This is where the “Get Connected” tagline of Brain Awareness Week comes in–partnerships, communication, and providing robust and interesting information to the public all factor into ensuring that our events are continuously successful. The Neurological Foundation is a charitable trust, so we always have our “progress through research” tagline prominently displayed. We rely on the public’s generosity for donations to fund our research, so Brain Awareness Week is ultimately the vehicle that showcases the incredible work of scientists and clinicians supported by the organization!

March 2012