What is public relations?

What is public relations?

I’ve decided to start a new series – I’m calling it #learningfromteaching. I’m teaching an Introduction to Public Relations subject at CQUniversity this year. This is an exciting challenge but also one that’s making me go ‘back to basics’. I was trying to brainstorm a blog topic and then I realised – I’ve got at least 12 weeks worth of content right in front of me!
So, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Week 1. Kick your feet up (only because you’re not in my classroom), take a sip of coffee, and let’s get stuck in!
This week we’re learning how PR is different from journalism, marketing and advertising.

What is public relations?

According to the PRIA, public relations is “the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation (or individual) and its (or their) publics”.
The thing that makes public relations different from any other discipline is relationships.
A good PR practitioner helps their client to build relationships, which helps them maintain their reputation, build trusted networks, sell products or establish themselves in their field. These relationships could be with:
  • the media,
  • potential sponsors,
  • government,
  • current clients,
  • potential employees.

Now for the difference

Marketing and PR are quite often lumped together, but they’re separate skills. Marketers focus on the ‘marketing mix’ of price, product, place and promotion, with the aim of selling products or services.
Journalism and public relations often go hand-in-hand, but the motivation of a journalist is different to a PR practitioner. Journalists should operate with fairness and balance, producing content in the ‘public interest’. A PR practitioner will usually have a vested interest in helping a business to succeed (and that’s a good thing if you’re my client!).
Advertising often has the largest budget, but is essentially a ‘paid announcement’ promoted through different media.
The key is that public relations is a strategic effort to build relationships that matter long-term for your business.

In practice

An example that’s familiar to most people is McDonalds. Given the dramas of the last week over in England, I’m going to use KFC as my example today.

Marketing: responsible for the packaging of your burger or even grouping it together with a chicken leg, chips and softdrink to make an ‘Ultimate Box’, and even promoting it on social media.
Journalism: making the front page when KFC in the UK ‘runs out of chicken’.
Advertising: taking out a full-page ad in the newspaper to say sorry
Public Relations: creating the strategies to deal with the crisis, getting the key messages out on Twitter, and keeping the brand’s reputation intact.
The mark of an excellent PR practitioner is their ability to work well with the other disciplines – a business of any size will need most of them to thrive in the marketplace.

I say, give me PR any day!

Sneak peek: next week’s #learningfromteaching blog will look at an issue in public relations that has fascinated me for a while. Why are there so many women in public relations?
Go Joyful, it’s your birthday…

Go Joyful, it’s your birthday…

Joyful Communications turned two over the weekend – what an exciting milestone!

The past two years have been a whirlwind of learning, meeting new clients and colleagues alike, and I’m proud to say I still enjoy what I do just as much (if not even more) as when I started out.

However, I’ve been realising that the Joyful Communications brand needed to grow, just as the business was growing. My original logo was something I designed myself – and as a copywriter, I make an okay graphic designer, but I’m by no means a professional!

Drumroll please…I’d like to introduce Joyful Communications 2.0. You’ll be seeing this logo on business cards, emails, invoices, website, social pages and pretty much everywhere Joyful is!

Just for fun, let’s look back at a snapshot of the last two years:

  • I’ve written, submitted (and won) many tenders and award entries, on behalf of clients and on behalf of Joyful – okay, at last count it was 30+.
  • Helped write compelling websites for mining contractors, equipment dealers, accountants, builders, pest controllers, real estate agents, cafes, and more.
  • Capability statements are the name of the game – there have been more than 10 of those babies written, designed and sent out into the world.
  • Although Joyful isn’t an events-focused PR agency, I’ve helped run a 5-day roadshow, product launches, a national awards night and multiple networking luncheons.
  • Abundant ads were composed; many media releases were published and several social media and marketing strategies were written and executed.
  • I took some time out to attend the 2016 World Bank and IMF annual forums as part of a scholarship with Global Voices.
  • I completed a Masters degree in Public Relations, while working (more than) full-time.
  • I’ve conducted marketing workshops to reshape brands and inspire businesses – there’s been at least 7 of those!

And a few bonus fun facts:

  • The longest way I’ve gone to help a client: literally speaking, I have travelled to Melbourne, Moranbah, Townsville and even to the other side of Rockhampton. Figuratively, I always go out of my way. 😉
  • The most common thing I’ve heard: ‘This tender/website/ad needs to be finished by tomorrow, can you help?’
  • The most random place I’ve submitted a job: This is a tie between Brisbane International Airport, seconds before boarding a flight and the hammock on my front verandah (look, the #laptoplife isn’t always bad!).

A big happy birthday to Joyful Communications, and a big thank-you to the clients who have come along for the ride so far. I couldn’t do it without you! Have some cake today on me.

Turning brilliant conference ideas into post-conference action

Turning brilliant conference ideas into post-conference action

I recently spent a few days in Sydney for Australia’s first-ever copywriting conference, CopyCon.

It was a fantastic event, put on by the marvellous Kate Toon, and attended by a fantastic group of business writers from all over Australia. Naturally, being writers, they’ve all gone and written fantastic round-ups of the event, but I thought I’d throw my two cents in as well.

Before I start, I’d just like to clear up one thing – what exactly is copywriting? I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been asked that by friends and family who saw my Instagram post saying I was at the event.

As explained by Kate, a copywriter is someone who gets paid to write: website content, sales letters, tenders, advertisements, brochures – the list goes on. In my case, I specialise a little bit and focus on public relations as well as marketing, so I write media releases, capability statements, and strategic communications plans as well.

Things a copywriter is not: someone who deals with copyright. Please go and see a lawyer for that.

Anyway, moving on. What did I learn at CopyCon? The answer to that is ‘lots of really helpful things’, and I’ll dig into some of them in future posts. I know, I’m a tease.


What I’d like to talk about today is something that nearly all professionals can relate to: how to get through your to-do list, whether you wrote it in a fit of inspiration at a conference (like me), or even if you’ve got a regular business-building to-do list that never seems to get any shorter.


These insights come courtesy of Belinda Weaver, who spoke at CopyCon.

1. Create a short-list of the ideas you need to action

This is key – I kept a completely separate notebook to jot my ideas in, and took notes of the actual sessions on the goodie-bag provided notepad. Now when I go back to look at my short-list, I won’t get distracted by shiny thing syndrome and forget what I was doing in the first place (or am I the only one that happens to?!).

My short-list included some short-term (ask my accountant about the upcoming tax due dates), medium-term (updating my website) and long-term (enforcing a 50% deposit on all new projects) goals.

I’m happy to say I’ve ticked off two of my short-term goals already!

2. Be aware of inspiration vs. envy

It’s so easy to get caught up in admiring other accomplished people in your field, but there’s a fine line to walk between inspiration and straight-out envy.

I truly enjoy working with other great copywriters, and CopyCon was certainly the most collaborative conference I’ve ever been to. Inspiration abounded, from advice on how to find a niche, to sorting out your small business finances, to even ways to keep up your energy that don’t include coffee (scary but apparently possible). Taking away inspiration rather than a feeling of inadequacy is the best way to keep your post-conference momentum.

3. Schedule in time to tick off your actions

Feeling inspired and armed with a short and manageable to-do list, I spent a productive Friday night working on my business and specifically scheduling in items on my to-do list. It’s impossible to do everything at once, but with your short-list and an idea of your business priorities, it’s easy to schedule one in every week. Before you know it, the list is complete and your business is better for it.


After all, when you’re the business owner and you pay for your own conferences, you should take away as much value as possible. Action isn’t optional!

The $8 billion gap: Why we need to change how we think about women in our workforce

The $8 billion gap: Why we need to change how we think about women in our workforce

Women outnumber men in tertiary education, but not in the workforce. That’s a wasted opportunity. Sarah-Joy Pierce crunches the numbers and finds the disparity is costing billions. 

If someone told you that your company could make $8 billion more per year, how quickly would you put a plan in place to make it a reality?

What if they also told you that doing nothing about the situation was costing over $500 million in interest per year?

The hard truth is that Australia essentially has an $8 billion gap in potential GDP, due to women who complete a university degree but ‘drop out’ of the workforce before they use that education. We’re also paying $1.1 billion a year in interest on HECS-HELP loans, and 57% of university graduates are women. You can do the maths.

Women are successfully attending and graduating university in excellent numbers, but this is still not translating to workforce participation (which currently sits at 59.5% of all working-age women), or further, moving on to leadership (only 15% of ASX200 company board positions are held by women). Our pipeline of talented, tertiary-educated women has a leak, and it’s costing Australia money.


The issue of this leaking pipeline and its impact on our economic productivity has been obscured by emotional arguments around the role of women in the home and in society – you only need to look at the furore around former PM John Howard’s equality comments last year (as one example among MANY) to understand how sensitive we are to this.

Unfortunately, John Howard did have a point.

Howard said that “…it is a fact of society about the caring role, whatever people may say about it and whatever the causes are – women play a significantly greater part in fulfilling the caring role in our communities which inevitably places some limits on their capacity.”

This has been shown to be true. Women are over-represented in caring-heavy sectors like hospitality and education, while our numbers are falling in STEM-related sectors. We are more likely to be part-time or casual workers, and we are taking time out of the workforce to care for family, resulting in women retiring with a superannuation balance at 52.8% of our male counterparts.

In context, Howard was speaking about women MPs and the demands on their time being unreasonably out of proportion to their gender roles in today’s society. But while not all women have to (or even want to!) become an MP – we certainly can all contribute to the economy in some way, even while fulfilling caring roles.

Setting aside any feminist concerns, it is possible to address the economic issue of women in the workforce with economic solutions to maintain the economic benefit of the knowledge that women already possess.

In contrast to Howard’s comments, I’d like to put forward that empowering women to contribute to some extent is better than simply assuming they will not participate to any extent.

So what’s the answer to encouraging our tertiary-educated women into the workforce? There are a few potential approaches.

Remove the stigma around part-time or flexible work

Currently, 45% of women are employed part-time in Australia. However, part-time work often doesn’t lead to career advancement or positions of seniority, as women who work part-time are perceived to be on the ‘mummy track’.

If women are working part-time, at least they are keeping their knowledge and skills current, as well as contributing to the economy. Changing the organisational conversation around part-time work is not a simple process, but it starts with management recognising the value of part-time work to employees and planning to integrate them into the workplace as fully as possible.

Changing the approach to taxing ‘second earners’

Currently, the personal tax system classifies partnered women with children as the ‘second earners’. This creates disadvantage by effectively making it uneconomical for some women to work – only 58% of women with children under school age are in the workforce, as opposed to 94% of men in the same family situation.

A solution like raising the tax free threshold for women with dependents aged under six years could provide an incentive to remain in the workforce during this time – which is often when women step out of the workforce and then don’t consider re-entry as a possibility.

Get serious about mentoring other women

Women make up a third of all Australian business operators, and this number is on the rise.  It’s been shown that mentoring creates successful outcomes for small business owners. It’s also been shown that women in particular are less likely to start a business, either due to lack of capital or lack of confidence. So the natural solution here is to let success breed success, with successful women (or even men) passing on their knowledge to the next generation of up-and-coming women.

Carolyn Creswell of Carman’s Kitchen recently addressed mentoring in her #AskCarolyn video series, saying that we need to be more intentional about who we choose as mentors. In some cases, this means choosing a mentor in the first place!

Let’s shift our focus outward from self-actualisation and ‘having it all’ (which generally only means working yourself into the ground and still not winning), and re-frame the debate about women in the workforce to be one about benefiting our country as well as ourselves.

After all, isn’t looking beyond ourselves what women are good at? Even John Howard thinks so.


This post was originally published on Women’s Agenda, as a result of my research conducted for Global Voices in late 2016.

Why engaging a PR consultant is like dieting

Why engaging a PR consultant is like dieting

Soon we will cross over from winter into spring – although, judging by the temperature this week we’ve skipped spring altogether! With spring always comes talk of diets…and I know, diets (or working with a PR person?) might not seem too exciting.

But humour me for five minutes of your time (depending on how fast you read!), and I think you’ll be glad you did.

1. At first, it might be a little bit uncomfortable.

When you start to think about working on your business’s image and changing the way you are perceived, there might be a few uncomfortable moments. Bringing on a ‘third party perspective’ could very well uncover a few things about your business that hadn’t been apparent before, like those love handles that crept up on you. But this isn’t pain without gain – it’s our job to push you that little bit beyond your comfort zone so that you can really start kicking goals.

2. After a while, you will start to have ‘skinny days’.

This is when you’ve got through the uncomfortable season of tweaking your brand, collating some great new materials and putting yourself out there (although we think all of those things are great fun!). You’ll catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror (or have a client compliment you) and think wow, is that really me?

3. It eventually becomes a lifestyle.

While any change to the way you do things can feel uncomfortable at first, after time you don’t even notice that you’re doing anything differently (and you can’t believe you haven’t done this before!). Marketing your business and putting an effort in will eventually just become another part of your life.

4. Then you run into someone you haven’t seen for years and they say ‘wow, you’re looking amazing’!

This is when it all pays off – you win a huge new contract, you end up with a shiny award in your cabinet, or you start to reel in new clients via word-of-mouth. And while you might remember a few hunger pains, it is totally worth it. Isn’t it?

Summer bodies are allegedly made in winter – but the best businesses (and bodies too!) work on themselves all year round. It’s not about what you lose, it’s what you will gain!