Derryn Heilbuth

Strategic and Creative Director


How has your career developed since you started work?

Studying French in Paris and English literature under JM Coetzee instilled in me a love of language. Covering women’s issues and education as a young newspaper journalist in apartheid South Africa taught me to question orthodoxies. Working on magazines and in television made me appreciate how each communication medium presents challenges but requires the same fundamentals: well expressed, engaging content. And establishing BWD and still working here all these years later confirms for me what Nitin Nohria, Dean of Harvard Business School, says… and what I suspected all along: communication is the real work of leadership.

What, do you believe, makes effective communications?

A strategic mindset, an understanding of the audience, a compelling story and the ability to write and design it in a way that connects emotionally and intellectually.

What are three books you love and why?

Alex Miller’s Landscape of Farewell, JM Coetzee’s Disgrace and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. All are masters of language and reading their books is like sitting down to a fine meal; you take time to savour every sentence and explore the complexities of the worlds that lie just beneath the surface of the narrative. Unlike gulping down a fast-paced thriller – though airplanes and beaches are good for those too.