Postcard from a publicist in Australia

Australia is a funny place, right now, when it comes to PR ... and how publicists are placing their clients. From my observation, it's undergoing the seismic efficiency drive that hit the US several years ago with many agencies outsourcing a lot of their work overseas (including pitching and copywriting) as PR tries to ‘moneyball’ its own industry (what gets the best results for the cheapest investment).

It may be an inevitable lurch in Australia (particularly after the US set that train in motion) but it's still hard to watch.

And one of the net results of all this is a downward trend in salaries for publicists (and an over reliance on unpaid interns or lowly paid graduates).

Fall in publicist numbers

A recent Ibis World report into the Australian PR sector suggests publicist numbers have progressively fallen over the past five years - and I can only put that down to a lack of investment in them by employers (who are looking to cut costs).

A disgruntled worker, even a dissatisfied one, will look around for other opportunities ... and that might be outside their industry altogether. You get what you pay for, and that's not just in PR; but a publicist's best asset is their ability to craft a pitch that's too good to refuse and the ability to connect and engage with key media figures.

No market for quality

The problem here is, the big, (allegedly) reputable media outlets in Australia are also undergoing an efficiency drive so are taking whatever gets flung at them - and quality is the casualty. Whilst it might seem I'm lamenting the devolution of my industry in Australia, I actually see this as a huge opportunity for good publicists to reposition themselves as the conduit between clients and their markets.

Personal branding rules

Personal branding has had a slow uptake in Australia (why? It's simply not the Australian way to self promote, tall poppy syndrome, etc). But as the world slowly emerges from Covid-19, the early adopters of personal branding will find themselves well in front of their competitors! It's about building 'Brand You' - what you stand for, how you got there, what you plan to do into the future - and your business will be better for it.

People like to do business with people, so my philosophy is, let's sell the person behind the business.

Think Tesla, think Elon Musk, but think Elon Musk and you don't necessarily think Tesla … because there's so much more to him than electric cars.

That's what I aim for with my clients - a 'brand' they can take with them (certainly not one that's interlaced with their business). And this is where good publicists come in - crafting an engaging storyline, calling the right people, pitching it in not just the best way, but the right way.

I really hope the Australian PR sector can cling tight to what it's true essence is ... and that's good storytelling. Matter of fact, there's probably a story in that.

Written by Amanda Williams, founder and director of Australian PR agency, Yellowpanda