When my husband was offered a job in sunny Port Macquarie, Australia, we were living in our home country of the Philippines with our daughter.
I was working as an Account Director at the Philippines subsidiary of DDB Global, a worldwide marketing communications network owned by Omnicom Group, which is one of the world's largest advertising holding companies.
I was also handling the agency’s largest account on retainer - a digital services and telco giant - as well as other globally renowned consumer brands.
Yet my husband and I both knew what it was like having one parent working overseas. We did not want our daughter to miss her dad like we had missed our parents. So we packed up our lives and headed to the great Down Under together.
It was exciting arriving in a whole new country, and settling into my new beautiful beachside surroundings at Port Macquarie.
But finding work that was comparable to what I had been doing back home was hard.
Transitioning from managing large client accounts and overseeing multiple teams to freelancing was a shock. Cue a year-long period of searching for something more stable, while hoping, praying, contemplating returning home, and hoping again.
But in December 2019, I landed a job with Third Hemisphere.
From big global brand agency to boutique
Third Hemisphere is a boutique PR firm that specialises in showcasing the work of groundbreaking finance and technology companies.
Its rapidly-scaling clients have many commonalities, such as the need for long-term and significant influence over capital markets, and broad market education due to their unique innovations.
To describe the work of these companies as “game changing” is an understatement. They are solving some of the world’s most pressing problems and inventing entirely new industries in the process.
It is impossible not to get excited by the work of these inspirational companies.
My mind has been opened up to a range of new questions around my own environmental footprint, how I might invest in high-growth companies myself, and whether my superannuation is being invested ethically.
Is it sometimes intimidating? Yes. Is it exciting? Always!
Because of Third Hemisphere’s smaller size, it selects these clients carefully, and works closely with the executive team on formulation and execution of media strategy.
It’s a level of closeness with the client I hadn’t experienced at DDB. Working in a smaller team also means I am hands-on with almost every single aspect of each PR campaign.
When some larger firms were letting staff go throughout the pandemic, Hannah and Jeremy instead sought to make sure my family and I were looked after during the challenging times. I take this as a testament to the kind and good people they are, and the values we all bring to this firm.
In these still crazy times, I am grateful to have made the move to a specialist and boutique agency.
PR in Australia vs Philippines
There are some similarities I’ve observed while working in PR both in the Philippines and in Australia:
Storytelling. A good story is always the backbone of a successful PR campaign, regardless of where you are from. You must then deliver the story in a way that works best for your target journalist: here's how, in our opinion.
Journalists. The relationship between PR and journalists can be symbiotic, but often also contains a power imbalance (not in the PR’s favour!). Having strong professional relationships with key journalists based on mutual respect is critical for a high functioning PR anywhere in the world.
Writing. The persuasive use of the written language is a primary currency of PR, regardless of where you are in the world. Top level writing skills are critical!
Impact. The ability to influence the news media is a powerful tool wherever you are in the world. We can therefore choose to use our platform and our network to preserve a status quo which most likely benefits an elite few; or, we can leverage our skills to spark change that creates a better future for all.
There are also some differences:
Structure of the news landscape. In the Philippines, there are at least 10 daily broadsheets with nationwide circulation. But online news platforms, and not always the digital counterparts of these print publications, are at the frontline of news reporting. There is a strong and robust network of bloggers and online-only journalists to whom PR teams send media releases and build relationships with.
In Australia, I’ve observed that the landscape is also largely driven by digital platforms, but still led by established mastheads. There are also far fewer options in Australia, making it quite a challenging environment for PRs.
Cultural norms. The way we do PR is a reflection of our sociocultural, and even political, structures. Cultural norms will always shape the way we build relationships with journalists.
For instance, Filipinos are renowned for being hospitable. We go the proverbial extra mile for people whose opinions we value most. This is reflected in the way we build and maintain relationships with journalists.
Here in Australia, professional courtesy in media relations is, of course, a given. But journalists also have a very high “bullshit-o-meter” as Hannah calls it, meaning it is quality and substance that will win you the story every single time.
What I’ve learned from starting over again
I never imagined it would be easy to restart your corporate career in a new country as a woman in your late 30s. But I am incredibly proud of where I’ve landed.
I now have a much better understanding of what it means to embrace change no matter how scary it may seem, and especially to keep an open mind and a strong heart.
My PR career in Australia is an ongoing journey of learning and growing.
These are two things we can never have enough of, no matter how old we are or how long we’ve been in this industry.