Bec Brown - Industry Profile

Bec Brown - Industry Profile
Q. Huge congrats on your first book you clever thing! How did this come about?
Thank you! You’ve Got This – the essential career guide for creative women is out today through Penguin and is for anyone wanting to succeed in their career or with their own business. It’s full of tips and real-life stories on what works and what doesn’t based on the latest research (and some on my own shocking mistakes, which I’m very honest about.) With this ongoing global event that has left the Aussie job-market so uncertain, it’s a timely guide that offers practical solutions and easy-to-action advice, to help people reach their creative and earning potential and find career fulfilment, minus the anxiety or burn out.
I wrote it as many graduates, young professionals and those wanting to start their own business were coming to me for advice, so it was time to compile that knowledge. I had a rough time navigating my career in my late teens and twenties and at times I felt rudderless. I wish someone had handed me a book like You’ve Got This as getting practical and honest advice from someone who’d gone before me would have been a game-changer. Ultimately, if this book can help just one other person to not go through some of the angst that I did, it’s done its job. Part author proceeds from every book sold will be donated to two incredible charities that support women - Fitted for Work and Life Changing Experiences SISTER2Sister program.
It’s also been beautifully illustrated by designer Inga Campbell and reads more like a magazine than a book, so it’s an easy coffee-table style book to dip in and out of.
Q. Describe your journey in a nutshell (where you started, when you started, how many staff, and your role)
For the past eight and a half years I’ve worked at The Comms Department, but I wasn’t always in PR.
At uni I studied at the Conservatorium of Music and earned a music degree and started performing straight away. I sang on stage in musical theatre and opera, in jazz and pop bands, and I was even a children’s entertainer (think a cross between The Wiggles and Hi-5.)
But at 25, I had what I call my Quarter Life Crisis and it made me move home to Australia and completely change careers. I went back to uni to study media and communications, majoring in public relations. And after a few years I worked my way up to a dream role as the National PR Manager for Universal Music and was there for five years. It was an incredible company to work with, managing PR campaigns for some of the world’s best-known artists – Dolly Parton, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Sting, Andrea Bocelli, and many, many more.
But at 31 I started to get restless again – I was yearning to try running my own business and be able to have more control on who and what I was promoting and, as my world view broadened, I realised that I also wanted to work within other industries that weren’t just music, so I started The Comms Department. It started as just me as a consultant but I soon had a lot of great projects that I couldn’t do alone so over the years I’ve slowly built a team. I now work with a team of nine brilliant people spread across Australia and New Zealand, servicing household-name clients all over the world.
Because I’m also really interested in understanding people and the way our brains work and how we as humans can work together to achieve incredible things, I recently completed a certificate in social psychology. This has been really helpful when working in crisis comms and managing teams.
Q. What do you think your business and your team excel at (areas of expertise)?
One of our core strengths is working with media and entertainment clients. Knowing exactly how those industries work, who the key stakeholders are and what they need, and the best way to work with creative talent who are at the very top of their game is something that we’re very good at.
We also do a lot of work in crisis management. Much of this is behind the scenes so not work you’ll tend to hear about publicly.
We’ve also never had a central office – we’ve always worked remotely, either at home, on the road while travelling, or from our client’s offices. That’s made us very nimble and adaptable, both which are needed when working in the 24/7 media environment and when working in crisis comms.
Q. What brands are you currently working with?
In addition to regular contract clients, we look after the PR for Australian Radio Network (ARN) and ARN’s iHeartRadio, Amazon Prime Video, Bras N Things, hayu, Live Nation, Cover-More Travel Insurance, World Travel Protection and AIDR’s Resilient Australia Awards. We also have several other crisis communications clients who we work with behind the scenes.
Q. What measures have you put in place to adjust to the Covid crisis?
Because we’ve always worked from home, our day-to-day initially didn’t change too much. We were already set up and used to operating remotely as a team – video call meetings had been the norm for us for years. That said, we’re certainly not used to always being at home, and really miss our in-person client meetings, events and media catch-ups.
We’re fortunate to work across a diverse range of industries — media, entertainment, travel and lifestyle — so each of our clients have been impacted in different ways and to different degrees. Ironically, media companies have seen their largest audience numbers in years as more and more people are tuning in for news and entertainment, but fewer businesses are spending on advertising with these media outlets, so media are having a really hard time.
After taking an initial hit in the early stages, we’ve thankfully had a lot of work. There’s also been additional crisis work from clients who urgently need to communicate to their customers or staff. In that respect, all of our clients have needed us more than ever, and we’re always looking for new ways to provide a valuable service and help navigate them through these strange times.
The hardest part has been the changes in the media space, with many of our hard-working and talented journalist friends being stood down, or working reduced hours. These are valued business contacts who have become dear friends over many years of working together and we’re very much committed to finding ways that we can help.
Q. What advice can you give to Social Diary members who are really suffering at the moment? What strategies have worked for you?
In my book You’ve Got This I talk a lot about how to best manage a crisis, deal with workplace anxiety, and even how to control nervousness with public speaking. There are different approaches for all these and I give practical step by step actions to take. Underpinning all of these though is learning how to be more mindful. When times are challenging – whether at work or with any generalised stress or anxiety - we need to be able to tune out the noise to focus on what’s actually important, and meditation or mindfulness greatly helps with that. It helps you to step back from a situation and see all the different possibilities so you can prioritise what’s the most urgent task to complete first, second, and so on. Apps like Waking Up, with Sam Harris, Headspace or 10% Happier are great places to start if you want to begin meditating. And when times are changing, it’s helpful to remember that while we can’t control what happens to us, we can control our reaction to it. There are facts and there is drama - the first is reality, the second is a choice.
Q. What’s your greatest career achievement to date?
Creating a business where we get to promote people, products, and ideas that we’re all genuinely passionate about and believe in would have to be close to top of the list.
However the very best part of working in this mad industry of ours are the people in it and the relationships that you develop – with your team, clients, journalists, and other industry execs - so ultimately it’s those relationships that’s been the greatest career achievement. My mission has always been 'to do brilliant work with brilliant people’. To me, brilliant work is work that has purpose and meaning, makes people feel good, and is done with the highest level of excellence. And brilliant people are those who are kind, intelligent, creative, passionate and positive, and who have integrity, vision, and a sense of humour.
Q. And your worst disaster! (something specific and funny would be great)
I went to New York on a work trip and had a huge meeting lined up with a client. I had horrible jetlag and somehow slept through both of my alarms, waking up 30 minutes before I needed to be in the meeting. I somehow managed to get dressed and across town and arrived right on time. It was an amazing meeting and thankfully my day looked like it was back on track. I caught a cab back to the hotel, congratulating myself the whole way. As I stepped out of the taxi out the front of one of Manhattan’s busiest hotels, the zip on my skirt suddenly broke and my skirt literally fell down to my knees, leaving me standing there in my underwear. In my haste to get dressed that morning, I’d accidentally been wearing my skirt back to front and it must have put a lot of strain on the zip. At least it was in front of a bunch of strangers and not the client.
Q. What’s the one simple piece of advice you would give to anyone starting out in our industry?
I have a quote in my office that says “Isolation is the enemy of excellence” – and it’s to remind me how much we need other people. When you get busy, it’s sometimes easy to put your head down and just keep working but a really important piece of the career-success puzzle is having real connections. Put simply, the more high quality connections you have, and the stronger those connections are, the more successful you’re going to be.
This may include your peers at work, but it’s also other important people in the business or the industry – who are the stakeholders within your company or industry who are important to its success? How can you get to know them, what’s important to them, and how can you become valuable to them?
And while regularly connecting with your peers is great, it’s also helpful to be levelling up – so who are people who could be great mentors to you? Maintaining regular contact with those who are smarter than us will always help us grow and evolve. Early in my career I didn’t do that, I didn’t know that it was important or how to do it – and if I had, it would have fast-tracked my career and helped me a lot. So learn from my mistake there! I talk about ways to do this in You’ve Got This too.
And another of my favourite sayings is “If you’re feeling nervous, be of service.”
This mindset makes approaching people so much easier as you’ve moved from simply talking to them, to helping them. Relationships are always a two-way street and if you’ve identified someone who you’d like to get to know, actually make the effort to get to know them. And once you do, how could you be of service to that person? This is where empathy and compassion come into play - they help you truly understand what’s important to them, why that’s important, and how you can help.
Q. Are you optimistic about the recovery from corona and are you ready for the fabulous bounce back when the industry revs up again?
YES. 100%.
And it’ll be one hell of a party when it does!
Q. If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing apart from making your insanely delicious brownies?
Ha! Maybe that’s what I would be doing. I grew up in the country and on weekends my sister and I would bake treats for our family and friends with recipes from vintage, ingredient-stained CWA cook-books, handed down from our Grandma. Then about 10 years ago when I was working at Universal Music, we had an annual record company bake-off and my chocolate brownies were awarded second place by judge (and that year’s Masterchef winner) Julie Goodwin. Rocknroll huh? When I left Universal to set up The Comms Department, the Bec Brown Brownies became our signature gift for clients and media. I must have baked over 1,000 trays of them over the years. I sold them through a café for a year but was too busy with work to keep up the demand. One day I’ll start making them more widely available, they might be my retirement plan if I ever leave PR.
Q. Your Socials: (Email / Instagram/Twitter)