Agency Profile: Icon Agency

Agency Profile: Icon Agency

Telum is looking to highlight the diverse and vibrant agencies in the Australian and NZ PR agency landscape in upcoming editions of our PR Alert. We are looking to encourage networking, business opportunities, and to celebrate the great initiatives being worked on. If you'd like your agency to feature, get in touch.

What services does the agency offer?
Icon Agency is one of Australia’s most awarded independent PR firms. Our multidisciplinary team works at the intersection of PR, web, advertising and digital marketing. Specialising in government, B2B and corporate PR, our mission is to build and promote brands with purpose through integrated behaviour change campaigns and cross channel communications. Founded in 2002, the firm operates at the forefront of modern PR and communications, helping clients adapt to disruptions like the declining influence of paid media, direct-to-consumer brand marketing, and the experience economy. We’re renowned for integrated, multi-channel PR, strategic communications, change management and digital transformation and marketing.

What makes us different?
  • Integrated team and capabilities.● Data-driven, creatively led PR.
  • Scale and depth: creative, planning, data, content, video and media buying in-house.
  • Breakthrough multi-channel behaviour change campaigns.
What size is the agency?
Employees: 60+
Global reach: Member of PROI, the world’s largest network of independent PR agencies with 150 offices in 90 countries.
Clients: Mix of major government departments, global corporates, large Australian enterprises, not-for-profits and SMEs.
Practice areas: PR and Communications: Digital, Creative, and Reputation.

Where does your agency have an office?
Melbourne - 132A Gwynne Street, Cremorne VIC, 3121.
Sydney - Suite 1, Level 11, Tower 1, 495 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood NSW 2067.
Canberra - Suite 4, 32 Thesiger Court, Deakin ACT 2600.

Do you have a particular area of focus? 
We specialise in strategic communications, change management and behaviour change for government and corporate clients in Australia and Asia-Pacific. Specialist practice areas include:
  • Waste and sustainability.
  • Energy and renewables.
  • Fin-tech.
  • Defence.
  • Cyber security.
  • Technology (business, education and IoT).
  • Education.
  • Health (hospitals, mental health, health networks)
  • Aged care & community services.
  • Government.
  • Corporate communications.
  • Professional Services.
  • Reputation Management.
Who is the founder and why did they start the agency?
Icon Agency was founded in Melbourne, Australia by husband and wife team Joanne Painter and Christopher Dodds. Their vision was to combine the disciplines of PR, digital marketing and advertising into a new, integrated model of creatively-led communications.

Tell us about the leadership team.
Our seven-member leadership team is responsible for the agency’s strategic direction, growth, culture and operations. It includes:
  • Joanne Painter - Managing Director and Co-Founder.
  • Chris Dodds - Managing Director, Digital and Co-Founder.
  • Hazel Tiernan - Group Account Director.
  • Matthew Thomas - Director of PR.
  • Mark Forbes - Director of Reputation.
  • Gerard Roche - Senior Digital Producer.
  • Matthew White - Head of UX/UI.
Managing director and Co-Founder Joanne Painter has a prominent role in the Australian PR industry and her reputation as a leading innovator of communications practice has been a key driver in lifting the agency’s profile and reputation among key decision makers in the government and corporate sectors.

Managing Director of Digital, Chris Dodds, takes a prominent role in shaping Icon’s innovation agenda and public profile. His board memberships, public speaking and contributions to Icon’s digital strategy have been fundamental to establishing the agency’s digital strategic advantage.

Group Account Director Hazel Tiernan has over 20 years of experience specialising in integrated marketing and communication design, project and production management and integrated campaign management.

Our Head of PR, Matt Thomas has moulded the PR team into a fit-for purpose engine room of growth and exceptional client results. Strategic hiring choices have created new service offerings and revenue streams.
 
In 2020, we launched a dedicated crisis communications and brand reputation business unit, Icon Reputation, which is led by Mark Forbes. Mark is a Walkley-award winning journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of The Age in Melbourne who specialises in reputation building communications strategies.

Gerard Roche and Matthew White are responsible for all the digital output of the agency, driving integration across the agency as well as delivering the large-scale digital solutions that have established Icon’s national reputation for digital transformation.

What is next for your agency? What is the five-year goal?
Our vision is to be Australia’s pre-eminent integrated communications firm, working at the leading edge of digital service design and development to help clients navigate and thrive in the experience economy. We strive to be a force for positive change and social good, contributing to a more sustainable and inclusive world through our own practices and those of our clients. We aim to be an employer of choice; the destination for forward-thinking, creative, curious people with a passion for what’s possible, and the drive to achieve it.

In a sentence, describe your ideal relationship with a journalist.
The ideal relationship between a PR and a journalist is based on mutual respect, trust and understanding, knowing that each plays a separate yet connected role in modern media.

Tell us about a campaign you are currently working on or are particularly proud of.
Our recent campaign with the Alcohol and Drug Foundation ‘You Haven’t Been Drinking Alone’ is one that we are particularly proud of. COVID-19 brought new stresses and changes upon the world. As a way to cope with these changes, up to 30 per cent of Australians admitted to drinking alcohol daily (up from 6 per cent in 2018). We were asked to lead a campaign to help encourage Australians to be mindful of their drinking at home and engage in more positive, healthy behaviours. The campaign targeted parents with young kids after research showed that Australians weren’t just drinking more in lockdown, they were drinking in front of their children. The challenge with this campaign was that alcohol is a sensitive topic to approach.

Our solution was a serious message in a humorous advert, a tongue-in-cheek video showing young kids hopping on a video call with their friends, talking about long work days and quarantine life while knocking back juice boxes, glasses of milk and other ‘bevies’. The campaign video generated over 200k views organically, exceeded campaign targets by 500 per cent and was the winner of one national and two international awards.

Any key PR trends your agency is keeping an eye on?
  • The Hybrid Office - Post-COVID the PR agency workplace will look different and operate with new rules. Employees (and employers) will take the opportunity to redefine their working week, with work from home becoming the norm not the exception.
  • Cloud-based and collaborative - Any PR agency that hasn’t moved to embrace cloud-based networking and SaaS collaboration tools risks being left behind as digital transformation gathers pace.
  • More freelance, less permanent - Just as the gig economy redefined mobility and food delivery last decade, COVID has given new impetus to freelance and gig-based workers across the creative services industry. Running counter to this is the ongoing battle for talent. So expect this space to be dynamic and volatile for some time.
  • Data, digital and integrated - While specialisation will always be important, larger PR agencies must continue to embrace a full spectrum of digital services. Media planning, creative strategy and creative ideation, once the remit of advertising, will also become core to business. We know this because it’s one of our success drivers.
What skill sets do you look for in new hires?
  • Digital literacy.
  • Cross-disciplinary content capabilities (video, social media content, graphics).
  • Expertise with data and data visualisation.
  • Cultural and linguistic diversity.
  • Life experience.
  • Great writing and storytelling.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication.

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