1. How did your career in media start?
As a child, I always loved newspapers and magazines and couldn't think of doing anything more fun.
I began asking for work experience at university. I did a stint at Chanel 7 News in Perth and wrote the real estate copy for the agricultural newspaper Countryman every Monday for six months and occasionally a news story (I remember one on flystrike in sheep).
Then a friend on the Albany Weekender had to go to hospital for an operation and she asked me to fill in for a few weeks. It was a couple hundred dollars a week but I thought it was fantastic. My first real reporting job!. Then soon after The Kalgoorlie Miner, a regional daily newspaper in Western Australia, offered me a cadetship. I stayed in Kalgoorlie for nearly three years in the early 1990s.
Then I went to the Kimberley Echo and later Aspermont’s Australia’s Mining Monthly. I learnt quickly that your pay rose much faster if you changed jobs. I learnt to be self-reliant. In small newspapers it was often also in the editor’s interests if you wrote most of the copy and they would not recommend you for promotion, as that created work for them, they had to find someone to replace you and then train.
I also understood that reporting/writing opportunities in WA were tiny, so at 27 I got on a plane to London. After 20 interviews responding to advertisements in the Guardian, I landed a job at International Investment (now run by Incisive Media); then Hedge Funds Review, then Eurohedge (Hedge Fund Intelligence), and later, after my children were older, worked as a banking reporter on Asian Investor (Haymarket), Hong Kong.
2. When and why did you decide to set up your own media company?
I have three children and am a single parent. In 2010, while working for a large Perth PR firm, it became clear a full-time job away from home was not something I could manage or a situation my children enjoyed.
I was particularly miserable not being able to greet my kids when they got home from school. I wanted work to be more flexible so started working for a very understanding boss, myself!
Plus, I thought I could do a better job. There were many aspects of PR I knew overseas firms did a lot better than ones in Western Australia. In this state, even the most established firms were often unprofessional, untrustworthy and shambolic. Many areas could be improved and that created opportunity.
Furthermore, I believe that PR/media can be used for good and bad, and I wanted to vet my own clients and promote ethical and moral businesses, which operated with integrity. This is not always easy when you are at the bottom of the pecking order in a big firm. You won't find me pitching sugary cereals to kids or mining companies with crappy environmental and ethical track records.
3. Which were the main challenges that you encountered when you launched your first company? How did you go about solving them?
Cash flow is never straightforward. Sometimes all the cheques come in at once and it is a bit of a balancing act. I had to get used to talking about money and being upfront about late invoices and payments. This may sound simple, but women in my family were raised not to speak about money. Discussing it was incredibly bad manners. But in business there is no choice. All the simple things need to be out in the open. How much time/money do you want to spend on the project and when are you paying the bill? They are crucial questions which you need answers for before you start.
4. What have been your biggest joys so far?
I would never go back. I LOVE being able to manage my own day. Work early in the morning if I want to, and know the job is what I make of it. I can easily schedule dentists and doctors for me and the kids and escape for the odd movie matinee with a girlfriend and take extended holidays if I work hard other times. Also, if the kids are sick or need extra support, I can make chicken soup and keep them company.
And being a single parent, it is especially important that, if I have an action packed weekend with the kids, I do take some downtime and pace myself. I am constantly carving out chunks of the diary for fun stuff! After yoga retreats, I find new ways of looking at the business and come back ready to declutter and the business has always improved after some space, like pruning a rose bush!
I love being rewarded for efficiency and skill and seeing clients return again and again and learning. And watching them grow is rewarding. Some are terrified of a radio interview, for example, but they do it and I can see their confidence grow.
For some clients personal development has been subtle, but for others it has been huge. Appearing in the newspaper means they are important, their story and organisation and what they do is important. It is concrete proof, if you like, and they often have a new image of themselves after media coverage.
As far as happiness at work, I no longer anxiously await yearly reviews on performance or office politics issues. If I want I raise, I get off my bottom and find a new client to boost the income.
Learning about new sectors, new products, new services and new reporting is also so much fun. My children have also met all kinds of interesting clients too, from musicians, to bloggers, magicians, and artists. Some wonderful people in the not-for-profit sector too that I would never have met in the ‘corporate’ PR world. Also, training and mentoring young reporters and writers has been an absolute joy. So many talented young people, unexpectedly, they have taught me so much too – from crowd-funding to new social media and tech issues they find simple but I find impossible. The mentoring has been a two-way process.
And have had time to do community work: Farming Champions, Linkwest board, We Cant Wait (a charity which raises money for toilets in India), Rafiki Mwema and many others. That has been so rewarding spreading messages to help people.
5. In your opinion, which are the key planning stages before starting a business?
Find a good accountant to help you set up the structure and then get on with it. Don't talk about it, do it! Take one day and one project at a time first and think constantly about how you can improve your customer experience.
Make sure you have a good product that people want and respond to your market. Listen to your customers and put yourself in their shoes. What do they need? Don't tell your customers what they should buy. Let your business evolve with the times. In other words, be flexible. If your customers want carrot cakes, bake carrot cakes. Don't whip up batches of cupcakes and keep offering them.
Perth Media’s best sellers are press packs for business. It comprises a press release and some background information over two pages. Basically a little package of great facts for reporters. It is a no brainer, people may take weeks to pull that together. Whereas, as a former finance reporter, I efficiently research the firm then sit down with the company executives and we write much of it on the spot in an hour or so. Then the document is proofread and sent out to reporters.
Several years ago I thought press releases and media pitching would have been bigger sellers. But this has only been secondary, there has been a greater demand for high-quality written content.
Media training and short films, with Perth cinematographer Jason Thomas, is another product that there is a demand for in a way that has been unexpected. Perth Media offers a series of low-cost options, rather than the thousands many of our competitors charge for one-day media training sessions. Also, I believe the clients will get better results if they have several short sessions rather than one big session, then they have some time to reflect and try again.
There are lots of subtleties when dealing with the press, and Perth Media encourages executives to research their special subject so they have some depth. Do they understand the importance of statistics etc to illustrate their arguments? If they don't, we have some work to do. Let’s crack on and do that work so you can improve. If you are going on the tele, you want to put forward your best self and have something interesting to say. In this honesty is key. Flattering your client inappropriately can lead to poor media results.
6. What tactics did you first implement to get your company noticed?
Hard work and some strategic events are crucial. And I make sure I show up my best self. From hair, makeup and clothes to some thoughtful conversation. My own personal brand has been key, after photographer Jason Thomas took some professional corporate photos for LinkedIn and Perth Media website, several new clients contacted me within a few days. It is a visual world, selfies on LinkedIn don't help your personal brand and your company’s image.
Sharing information and business opportunities has helped a great deal and strategic partnerships with other well-run, professional businesses have been vital.
7. Working for oneself can make difficult the process to find clients. How do you identify prospects and find new clients? What tactics do you work best for you?
Clients have just come to me, mostly by referral, but I maintain that doing my very best each time is the secret for repeat work and recommendations.
I am also very focused about where I direct my energy. If I like someone and think what they do is professional and helpful, I recommend them. I have hundreds of connections and will send three intros to most people. But that will stop if nothing returns. There have been old friends and contacts who I have invested money in their businesses and sent many connections through, but nothing has returned. No worries, but a line is drawn in the sand at some point, after three intros. Sorry mate if you’re too busy to look at my website to see what I do then I won't be sending any more potential prospects or conference speaking invitations etc your way now.
Also, if any graduates, in any area, are struggling to find work, I forward on their CVs to people in various industries. I believe it is the right thing to do. Many contacts tell me not to bother them, as they are too busy. OK righto. Lack of action tells me a great deal. Not interested in executives who wax lyrical on leadership and good business practice yet don't practically help graduates break into industries.
My advice for other businesses is to focus on clients/connections with a collaborative style, if you help them to succeed then they will help you and everyone rises.
In Perth, Media Super’s Patrick Horneman supports young people in arts and media and his infectious encouragement has assisted a great many. Enjoy attending his industry functions for young leaders very much and have met some talented, inspiring young kids in arts and media who are going places and just need a bit of guidance.
8. Who are your clients? Do you specialise in a particular industry?
Perth Media’s clients range from local government to Women in Global Business, oil and gas manufacturer GasDrill International (In Singapore), Sydney-based water exchange H2OX, fashion retailers, agribusinesses, not-for-profit Linkwest, financial adviser Priority1 (Melbourne) and Cranleigh merchant bank. A diverse range. Knowledge is needed on specific sectors, but the PR system Perth Media has developed can be adapted for a range of industries. Perth Media also has a range of targeted media databases such as Global Technology (100 tech writers/reporters globally).
9. What are the key aspects a business owner must look for when they are searching for a media expert to help them build a profile for their business and promote their services?
Experience, integrity and attention to detail. Enthusiasm is important. If they are not excited by your product or service or don't understand it, that will be revealed in promotional results. A small mistake in PR can prove disastrous, so tread warily. Perhaps trial the firm on a small project and see how it goes before an all-guns-blazing approach with a huge bill.
A tip to separate the amateurs from the professionals maybe to quiz potential PR firms on distribution. Where exactly do they plan to send your press pack/story? If they waffle, then maybe there is a bit of bluff rather than substance. Also, ask them what they think of the media sector, and various reporters. If you are a tech company and the PR don't know who the most respected global tech writers are that is a worry.
10. How has the media landscape changed in the last 5 years?
Massively. It’s part of the reason Perth Media has been successful, we adapted quickly to the changing needs of reporters and clients. Much more focus on visual and audio, but also the ability to act quickly has become vital in terms of social media. Appetite for spin has evaporated, and Perth Media’s emphasis on the facts and real stories has been timely.
11.What are the major shifts that you have experienced with the introduction of social media outlets?
Facebook has been a game changer for small business and the not-for-profit sector. That has been a bonus for my company over the past four years. Business comes from connections on LinkedIn and Facebook. Such an easy way to market your firm. Many don't really understand what PR is and, through Facebook, results can be posted to show clients what Perth Media can do.
It also meant, particularly in Australia, I didn't have to go to the pub to network. Many long-term clients send Facebook messages to book jobs and, if I am traveling in Sydney and Melbourne, it is used to set up meetings on the hop. For Perth Media’s Facebook page, I post company updates: great media articles; interesting meetings; and latest press releases.
When some people tell me they don't bother with social media these days, I really don't know what to say, but I am thinking…well you aren’t the sharpest knife in the draw are you?
12. How do you see the media landscape evolving in the next 5 years?
Integrity and clever factual content will be king. The general public will continue to sniff out spin and become more and more savvy. Perth Media’s will continue to focus on facts and real stories over ramp ups.
13. Of all the traditional media outlets (press, radio and television), which one do you believe has more power in reaching audiences for small businesses?
All three in different ways.
Youtube videos/TV advertisements can prove to be sensational. Just saw one on Richie McCaw, NZ rugby captain. Beautifully shot short film that made me want to run out and buy the headphones.
Clever creativeness will continue to be rewarded by viewers and clients. The bridge between advertorial and editorial is getting closer. No point in writing/publishing anything if no one reads it. Has to be interesting and real. Nonsense articles that smack of self-interest are not the way to go. Nor are retelling boring yarns that state the obvious, makes you look like a muppet. Don't do that. There are so many great stories out there, find some that tells your business story in a way that captivates your readers.
14. How do you see both traditional and social media outlets complementing each other nowadays to help companies achieve their business objectives?
Both are too large to ignore. You have to go to where your audience is. No good saying you can't be bothered with Twitter, if all the reporters/customers use it!
Who are you kidding? It is not up to you to tell your clients what social media to use. In Australia right now, you have to pitch to all – from newspapermen, traditional radio to bloggers and TV.
15. What are your tips for business owners with a small budget to get their services and products covered in the media?
Loads can be done on a small budget, but very important to up-skill so you can do as much yourself as possible.
Perth Media works with their clients to help bridge that gap. Some clients need high-level PR assistance (such as intros to Hong Kong banking feature writers and speech writing) while others could do with a basic press pack course and guidance on how to use the spell check!!
But the point is you have to make all feel comfortable enough to ask for help. What don't they understand? Why aren’t they getting any media coverage? We can put in some systems that may change that. Maybe an editor for an hour a month, is money well spent.
People mistakenly think a quick media training course will fix everything. Nope. A media training course is just the start. Along the journey you will make mistakes, understand all media forms are different, take calculated risks (some will pay off, some won't), you learn not to wear a white dress in the sun as Lady Di did, and hopefully you will improve continually. No one is the finished artwork, after a media training session.
And then the most basic advice is to read more so you can write better and understand what reporters you should send your stories to.
16. Which books, podcasts or blogs would you recommend to any entrepreneur to help them run their business more effectively?
Always read and never stop learning. Some of my best ideas come from fiction and listening to others, but both of these talk about the long-term game.
Sir Martin Sorrel, of WPP, on BBC Desert Island Discs.
Asian financial PR guru Damien Ryan
For tricky strategy/client issues, I go to trusted, former Shell executive Emily Patterson. Emily has worked in Australia, UK, Nigeria and Europe and has a no-nonsense, highly intellectual approach which I value a great deal.
I also have some small business buddies. We meet for coffee and talk about our plans and that is good for accountability. It helps focus on long-term business strategy, and stops us from getting bogged down in the constant nitty gritty.
Furthermore, I recommend Linkwest governance training and am soon to attend a workshop on that subject in Perth. Understanding how good boards operate can be learnt.
Constantly scan Business Insider (good for picking up trends) – often great reminders of work/life balance there. Because, if my family is not running well, then business will suffer.
On how to resolve conflict, soft skills, and emotional intelligence, Dr Phil has taught me a great deal.
17. Could you share with us any exciting project you are working on for near future?
Perth Media launched in Melbourne, following a Perth launch last month! Nearly half of the company’s clients are based in Melbourne.
Perth Media is also producing a series of content features for Leadership WA. It has involved recording many of the state’s most prominent leaders and has been a tremendous experience. The work has so far featured US futurist Dr David Martin, Dr Andrew Crane (CEO of CBH), Sven Bluemmel (WA’s Information Commissioner) and Richard Goyder (managing director of Wesfarmers). Details of that will be out soon!
Furthermore, there are a series of films that will shortly be produced for a medical expert on chronic pain. Stand by.
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