Managing public relations for a business can take a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Practitioners can be employed directly by a single organisation, manage multiple clients in an agency role, work for a client on a secondment, and even manage themselves as a freelance. It’s not often you find someone with experience in all four.
I recently caught up with Australia Post’s Communications Adviser, Kate Weston. Kate has worked in the industry six years in both Australia and the UK, and in this time has experienced the PR role from every angle. It is evident in the phone call that she really loves her current role at Australia Post, her stakeholders, and the business as a whole.
How many years have you been in PR and Comms?
I’ve been in communications for six years now. I got my first job in 2012 – just out of university.
Tell us about your career journey so far?
My first role was an agency role, but it was actually a secondment. I worked in-house [at Fonterra] for four days a week and my agency role on the last day. It was really quite interesting and a unique set-up, and in some ways I got the best of both worlds; I started out in an agency earning my stripes, but was also really engrained in the Fonterra business.
I felt like I had built a great foundation, and so after two and a half years I was ready to take the next step, so from there I moved over to London, UK. In London, I ended up in a newly created position at an investment bank. The business didn’t have an existing marketing/PR department, and it was a great opportunity for me to really put the skills I’d learnt into practice and work with a great team build a plan from the ground up.
After about a year, I made the decision to go freelance. In terms of relationships I was lucky that the investment bank said “we’ll be your first client”. So I was lucky to have the backing of a business straight off the bat. From there I started to build up my portfolio, gathered some new clients, mostly just from word of mouth. If you’re ever going to freelance, London is the place to do it – there’s so much opportunity.
When I returned to Australia, it did cross my mind to remain freelance, but because I hadn’t experienced a clearly defined agency role, I decided to throw myself back into the agency world. I was at WE Buchan for a year, and it was fantastic. I learnt so much and did some really amazing work with some awesome clients. By this stage, I had worked in agency secondment, in-house, freelanced, and worked in an agency, and it taught me that actually I belong in-house. Last year, I made the decision to take the leap, and here I am at Australia Post!
Give us an overview of your current role at Australia Post?
I’m a Communications Adviser at Australia Post, and I sit within the Corporate Affairs team. The team sits across the business units. With over 36,000 employees, it’s a large organization, so we have a really strong comms team to support the different areas within the business.
In my role, I support operations, which consists of all the parcels and letters delivery network. In terms of my direct day-to-day work, I do a lot of internal engagement, and this is a big highlight for me. We get to source a lot of amazing stories from the network and share these on our internal channels and externally. In terms of day-to-day, it’s never really the same! One of the things I really love is that one day I could be having a chat to a Delivery Manager out in WA, and the next day we’ll be working on an Awards campaign we have coming up!
Are there any communication challenges you face in your current role?
It’s a difficult question! The vast size of the business can be a challenge. There are so many people and so many departments, and when you are running a campaign or activating something, we want to make sure everyone is engaged, involved and understanding. So the challenge is making sure the right people are involved in the right way. And it’s something we’re quite passionate about. The goal is to bring everyone on the journey, so that we’re working as one business.
What do you love most about your job?
Probably the variety! I get to work with such a range of stakeholders and different parts of the business, and personally I love working really closely with our network. This might be a postie out in Tuggerah – they’re so important to their local community, and I think it’s a really important role to support them. I just get so much out of knowing how important Australia Post is to the community. I feel really lucky I get to work with these kinds of people.