Leadership WA Spotlight Series
Cate Rocchi is a former finance journalist and current owner of Perth Media, a strategic global public relations company. She is also Chair of Linkwest, the peak body representing Neighbourhood and Family Centres and Community Resource Centres in Western Australia, and she is an Alumni of Leadership WA’s Signature Leadership 2017 Program.
Cate began her career as a journalist at the Kalgoorlie Miner, then worked covering financial markets in London and Hong Kong, before establishing Perth Media. She is also the Chair of Linkwest – the peak body for the vital network of Neighbourhood and Family Centres and Community Resource Centres (CRCs) across Western Australia. There are more than 200 centres.
In all roles, leadership has been a key feature.
“As a reporter, you learn to be very empathetic. You learn never to judge by appearances. When I was a very young reporter, the news room would say something like, ‘This is the story. Go and do this.’ Then you would start asking people what’s going on and a totally different story would emerge. When choosing and then writing a news story, you need to show leadership. You are also assessing what is important for the public, your audience. If you’re a good journalist, you’re not just interested in the views of corporations. You are trying to find information for the public interest. That is also very important in the not-for-profit space, and to do that you have to be able to listen.”
This sense of empathy and public interest is vital in her role as Chair of Linkwest.
“At a board-level, I value each and every person for their different views: male, female, different experiences, different education, different cultural biases. It is also important to empathise with our members.
“With Linkwest, during the past four years, I have tried to go out on the ground, as much as possible, and find out what’s happening with our members, listening and asking about what they wanted, and learning what were they actually doing. What did they want from their peak body now and in the future and how can Linkwest help them? If you talk about leadership models, then that is leading as a servant.”
After working for the Kalgoorlie Miner, Cate went on to report on finance, banking and hedge funds in London and Hong Kong.
“You learn how to be adaptable, but you also understand that you can never lead at the front on your own. You are part of an industry, you’re a voice of an industry, but you also are dependent on support of others around you.”
“Not for profits will have to be adaptable in future, as WA changes then Linkwest’s members’ needs will evolve. Linkwest has recently established a Federal Government Sub Committee with the aim of arguing the case for fair support of community resource centres and other Linkwest members assisting with Federal Government service delivery.”
Initially, upon Cate’s appointment to Linkwest board, she thought her role would be limited, assisting with media strategy. But, after three years on the board and then stepping into the chair role, it has become a more complex role. “There have been some big funding cuts and many members are innovatively finding solutions to keep their doors open and thrive, but it has been an extremely difficult time.”
For her efforts in promoting diversity on boards, Cate recently won an award from the Engaging Young Leaders On Aged Care and Community Boards program.
“It was totally unexpected, because I had been going into rooms in the not-for-profit space saying things like, ‘it’s great that you have got your Aboriginal engagement plan and your theoretical policies about Aboriginal people, and that actually is on the agenda, that’s all good. But before we actually write these policies and before we actually start these programs, has anyone actually met an Aboriginal person?’”
Cate also saw a lack of gender diversity in the community centres and has advocated for more men to be involved.
“I was looking at rooms full of women and thinking, ‘this is not the future for us. We need to be half men, half women.’ I was championing that in the boardroom. Our board is fortunate to have James Jarvis, CEO of Nintirri Centre in Tom Price which runs the magnificent Karijini Experience (a global tourism event) and John Rich at South Lake Ottey Family and Neighbourhood Centre, who has just managed to secure funds for a fantastic bike track and basketball court adjacent to the centre. I am not saying a woman coordinator would not have done that, but men bring important diversity.”
Cate believes that with more male involvement on the boards of community-focused non-profits, more young men in the community will be reached.
“If young men at risk come into that community space to play basketball, for example, then they might come in later and do a literacy program, or some other community work that might then lead them into higher education.”
As far as the changing media landscape goes, Cate looks to overseas media and PR firms for good practice and leading trends. “Those that are at the forefront in this space, are providing superb content that tell the stories of businesses and organisations cleverly. Our innovative business model at Perth Media is tailored to client needs. It is flexible and seeks to provide support when required. We deliver a wide range of services but focus on our strengths: extensive media networks; creativity and first-class writing skills film scripts and blogs, as well as graphic design, and upskilling in media training. While there is a broad service list available, our knowledge in-house is focused on finance, mining, renewable energy and agribusiness. Our expertise, in many ways, has mirrored WA’s strengths, because we are part of the growing service sector to those big global industries.”
If you talk about business leadership in the changing media landscape, it has been about timely delivery, attention to detail and adaptability. That has been the key to Perth Media’s growth.
Cate is an Alumni of Leadership WA’s Signature Program, which she completed in 2017. Due to her experience as a reporter and a small business owner, she was used to working alone, but the Program helped her see the value in collaboration.
“The experience taught me not to be that leader at the front on your own. Some very wise people in our group were just enormously supportive and I hadn’t actually understood what I could do until I did the Signature Program.”
“I also realised is that everyone has got their own struggles. Everyone in that room – and they’re all senior executives – has their own battles, own struggles, own weaknesses.”
“I think the difference, long term, is how do you manage those things? How do you manage your rational behaviour, your decision-making, your ability to produce high-level work consistently?”
“Also, we all make mistakes. As you mature, it is important to reflect and review, so you improve. One of my life leadership lessons was a few years ago as a netball umpire. It’s a tough job. You need to be calm in a crisis, but also it crystalized everyone is individually responsible for their own best practice and should operate with integrity at all times. In my view, if you are not going to try your best, you should get off the court.”
Applications are now open the 2019 Signature Leadership Program.