#IWANTYOURJOB: DESKSIDE WITH MONTARNA MCDONALD
Can you give us the low-down on your average day?
“In my world, there is no such thing as an average day – and that’s why I love what I do. My days start super early; I’m usually at my desk checking emails and social media before 8am with a skimmed Cappucino in hand. I really need that quiet time to plan the day and catch up on overnight developments. Mornings are spent pitching stories and brand angles, briefing in press packs and proposals to our designer, monitoring all communication mediums for mentions of our clients, researching magazines and newspapers for opportunities, and work-shopping as a team on our creative concepts and upcoming projects. A typical day will involve at least one catch up with a client, and I’ll either head to their offices (I like to find out what’s going on in their HQ and chat to the staff), or we’ll grab a coffee or lunch at a restaurant. As the agency is so fresh, we’re always being invited to meet brands and pitch our ideas, so the afternoon could see me sitting in a boardroom with investors and executives taking them through a PR proposal, or heading to a fashion store to meet the designer and talk about what The Audience Agency can do for their brand. Late afternoon I’ll be back at my desk catching up on the day’s activity and scheduling product dispatches for the next day. There’s no fixed finish time in our industry – only when the day’s work is done will I switch off my screen (and even then I tend to work remotely from home).”
What does your work wear “uniform” look like?
“I wish I could stick to a uniform – it would be a whole lot easier and my wardrobe space would thank me for it! But every day is different in communications and my plans dictate what I wear – it could be a casual ensemble for a day in the office, or a head-to-toe new season look if I’m visiting high end clients or hosting brands at an event. Quite often I’m in a denim flare teamed back with a shirt, earrings and a heel – classic, chic, and suited to various situations. And while I always want to look groomed and stylish, comfort is a big factor too with the long days and dashing to different meetings and appointments – which is why I’m currently also loving a 3Ž4 knit pant or skirt with a loafer or sneaker.”
What advice would you give, on giving it your “all” on a job interview? (Appearance/outfit/hair & makeup/attitude etc.)
“ First impressions really last and if a potential employer can see from the moment you walk in the door that you’ve made an effort to look smart, that’s a great start and could give you an edge over your competitors. Go to the top of your budget for a chic, professional outfit and then add a little twist to show your personal style – it could be a statement heel, elegant belt or on trend jewellery. Keep makeup muted and natural and hair under control – no wild beachy curls for a job interview! I personally love a low ponytail with a little body for a chic corporate look. Do your research on the company and also the person interviewing you – while they will be taking note of your answers relating to the role, the small talk before and after the interview can often help seal the deal too. And always follow up with a thank you email as soon as you’re back at your desk.”
What kind of employment positions shaped you into what you are today?
“My first job was at the designer boutique Tuchuzy in Bondi – I’ve always had a love of fashion and this gave me a great insight in to the retail world and also introduced me to some of my favourite labels. When it came to choosing my degree, I veered towards communications as I knew that this could be applied to various industries – I quickly realised that it wasn’t designing fashion I was interested in, it was telling the brand story and building up labels. I was then lucky enough to start my career in PR while finishing my studies; I bagged myself an internship and then juggled exams and coursework with work experience and part-time PR roles. It was full on and hectic but it gave me such a head start in the industry – I had five years’ experience and a black book of contacts by the age of 23! After Uni, I took on a marketing role with Belinda International, gaining experience on the retail and sales side of the industry and working with some of my favourite brands such as Stella McCartney and The Row. It was around this time that I started to be approached by brands and contacts to manage their communications, and I knew it was time to create my own agency.”
Being a young businesswoman, how do you manage a healthy social life on top of running your own business?
“I try not to stress about it to be honest, I just roll with the punches. It is tough but it’s handy that a lot of my friends are the people I work with so my social and work life, often blend together. I’m very lucky to have very understanding and supportive friends and family around me too – they’ve got used to my crazy schedule as it’s been this way since my late teens! It’s all about time management and I do my best to spend time with everyone and find windows of opportunity to squeeze in catch-ups.”
Describe the aesthetic of TAA workspace?
“Industrial, polished and minimalistic. The showroom reflects our fresh dynamic and I spent a lot of time planning the space with our interior designer. I personally hate clutter so it’s all about clean lines and breathing space. Everything is uniform, from the way our brands are displayed to our iMac screensavers and even our office plants!”
What sets TAA apart from the rest of the Australian PR industry?
“We’re digitally savvy while being trained traditionally, we’re young but still having quite some experience in the industry, our ‘contacts’ are our friends, and we’re hungry to prove ourselves and deliver results that exceed our client’s expectations.”
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into a career in PR? “Intern, listen and learn.In PR, experience is key. Put yourself out there – PR agencies are always looking for work experience candidates, or you can even intern during Fashion Week and other big events.Immerse yourself in social media and the digital news landscape – it’s where the industry is headed fast. But don’t forget about traditional media; soak up newspapers and magazines, get a feel for different writing styles and the types of articles that throw up opportunities for brands and clients. People skills, sales and marketing are all pluses too.”
Being such a young creative in the industry what do you think was the turning point of TAA getting noticed? What went into landing your first big client?
“TAA was instantly recognized, which was phenomenal especially in such a crowded marketplace. The agency was established based on business approaching me to do their PR, so I was in the very fortunate position that when we opened the doors we already had a handful of amazing clients under our belt ready to go. That was a major benefit when approaching media – they sat up and took notice from day one. A lot of work went on behind the scenes before we launched though; whereas before when I had worked for agencies I was pitching another persons’ business and the bosses ethos, all of a sudden it was just me selling myself. Before I netted our first client I mapped out TAA’s brand profile and our beliefs so that I could confidently pitch the agency and demonstrate why we were different. This was even more important because we were so new and had no case studies to walk through in the early days – clients were buying in to me and my reputation.
Spotify was probably the client that really got us noticed; we worked on their influencer campaigns and this type of service has become a specialism of TAA.”
What goes into creating major and exciting projects for your clients?
“Every project is different and some can be planned, executed and evaluated in weeks, others are months of preparation, revisions, approval from global offices, budget negotiations etc. At TAA, we provide three-month strategies to our clients, which map out all our activity for the months ahead, and these usually contain at least one creative activation. Past examples include staging a celebrity meet and greet and gifting day at Westmead Children’s Hospital with Onepiece, gathering a troupe of famous models on a yacht in Sydney Harbour for an exclusive dinner, and managing a series of shopping sprees for top tier influencers in new Aje stores around the country. When we’re working on major projects, invariably we increase our workloads to manage the day-to-day PR campaign plus planning these outside the box activations. Things do get pretty busy, but it’s the big impact, creative stunts that we love working on – they break new ground and we love showing clients just how successful they’ve been.”
The best advice you have ever received?
“It’s difficult to pinpoint one single piece of advice, as I’ve had the benefit of various business mentors in my career to date. One of the best moves for my business was the decision to work with a branding expert to develop The Audience Agency ethos ahead of launch. We devoted months to crafting the brand and its creative, which meant I could launch a professional agency which has a unique voice in the industry.”
The best advice you can pass on?
One amusing phrase I heard in my early days in the industry was ‘remember, it’s PR – not ER’ – grounding advice for the times when things can feel a little overwhelming!”
What’s next for TAA?
“You’ll have to keep social media-stalking us to find out…”
What’s your approach to social media and how do you use it to the advantage of your business?
“I use TAA social outlets as a showcase or gallery of our work, as well as a platform for our clients to shout out to our audience. Every image and comment we share reflects TAA’s brand ethos and aesthetic; it’s a window in to our world and is an excellent networking and new business tool.”
What are your tips and tricks into branding yourself/business on Instagram
“It’s important to be clear on the who, what, where and why of the brand and once this is clear you need to set a distinctive tone of voice. This will create continuity for your audience and they will come to know and recognise your voice. Craft beautiful, relevant content and don’t play it safe. Social media is your conversation in the digital world – do you want to inspire people or bore people?! Take a few calculated risks that prompt your audience to engage, always try and be positive as emotions are contagious and people enjoy optimism. Follow brands and people that inspire you, and endeavour to start conversations and give praise and feedback when relevant.”