Changing the way of work in the PR game

FINDING an attractive way to get your message across is becoming easier by the week.

An increasing number of corporate communications professionals are setting up as ‘one-man-shows’, although that description is not actually very appropriate.

The tendency is, in fact, for Perth’s female PR workers to leave their companies or consultancies and start their own businesses. This phenomenon has not been formally studied, but anecdotal evidence from PR firms and the consultants themselves confirm a definite trend exists.

According to Porter Novelli director Paul Downie, the State Government has reduced its PR expenditure and some ex-government employees have therefore decided to enter private practice.

“There’s quite a few of them springing up. I think there’s a legitimate need for them – I think they can find markets,” Mr Downie said.

“They believe they can offer specific services as industry specialists and they’ll attack that one area.”

Kathrina Read, who last month established her own practice, said she decided to go solo so she could escape “the box” at her company and be more creative in the solutions she could offer clients.

“I like to work at the corporate end of the market, whether that’s private or public,” Ms Read said.

“It’s where the sophistication is – it’s not so much the money, I think, but clients at that end understand the need for PR, so therefore when you offer them solutions they ‘get’ them, more or less.”

That most private consultants seem to be women reflects the modern state of the industry, according to Curtin University senior lecturer in PR, Nigel de Bussy, who said 95 per cent of his students were female.

“It’s a worldwide trend. It’s undoubtedly a worldwide fact that for some reason the young people coming through into public relations are overwhelmingly female,” Mr de Bussy said.

Some female consultants start private practice for more personal than professional reasons.

Cheyenne Martin worked for 17 years in the corporate world, including seven at AlintaGas, but decided she no longer wanted to work to someone else’s schedule.

“My reasons for retreating to a home office all centred around freedom, health and raising a teenager,” Ms Martin said.

“My understanding is that these are generally the same reasons other women opt for self-employment and a home office.”

By working from home, Ms Martin can pursue her love of writing while providing marketing communications advice to the businesses, and pay more attention to her health and golf swing.

The trend is cyclical, however, according to Mr Downie, who suggested many private consultants would eventually return to larger consultancies or companies.

PPR/RHK has already made allowances for such eventualities. Two of PPR’s female staff work for company clients on a part-time basis from PPR’s offices, but on other weekdays they use the same offices to work for their own private clients.

One of these consultants, Jackie Sklenka, said the arrangement with PPR allowed her to “have my cake and eat it too”.

“The individual client contact is what maintains your relationship with a client, and if you’re only working two days a week then you lose that continuity,” Ms Sklenka said.

“This arrangement allows it to be seamless for the client but allows me to have a life as well.”

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