Agency profile: Palin Communications

Agency profile: Palin Communications

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What services does the agency offer?
Some people think healthcare PR only targets doctors and pharmacists. This is certainly not true for our projects. 
Palin Communications is all about turning health communications briefs into memorable, multifaceted campaigns that smash goals and drive meaningful change for our clients.
Our services include media relations, stakeholder relations, media training, digital activations, social media management, content development, corporate reputation building, issues & crisis management, research, events and much more.
The one thing common to all our programmes is stakeholder or third party management. Because good PR is driven by what other people say about your issues and products - not by what you say about them.

What size is the agency?
Palin Communications is a boutique agency with a team of 10 specialist consultants. This means we’re big enough to take on significant health-focused briefs, but we can all still fit around a table at our favourite Asian restaurant for lunch in Chatswood.

Where does your agency have an office?
Palin HQ is in Chatswood, but these days our team works remotely for the majority of the working week. Flexible work has always been a part of Palin life - but especially so this year.

Do you have a particular area of focus?
Palin Communications is specialised in health, medical and wellness PR. We create and manage projects for our clients across the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, health services, consumer health, not-for-profit and complementary medicine sectors.
Specialising helps keep you sane. You know what you do, you know what you’re good at and you know what to pass on.

Who is the founder and why did they start the agency? 
Martin Palin and his wife Gabrielle founded Palin Communications in the mid-1990s.
Martin originally had a public health background working on health education and harm reduction campaigns for state and federal governments. He managed the NSW Quit Campaign for a few years in the early nineties.
After a brief stint in a multi-national PR agency, Martin figured he could establish an agency that was a bit more respectful of people’s lives and interests, but still be run in a way that was commercially profitable. As a specialisation, health PR was much less developed in the 1990s (and dominated by the multi-national agencies), so Martin saw an opportunity to provide specialised advice and service that had a sprinkling of public health experience.
Tell us about the leadership team
Palin Communications has always looked for opportunities to nurture, elevate and promote its consultants. Karina Durham has been promoted to General Manager in recent months - a first in the agency’s history - and takes the lead in supporting each consultant’s professional development plans and career progression.
Every consultant is encouraged to show leadership in their own way. This could be by exploring industry mentoring and education opportunities (i.e. through contributions to PRIA and industry initiatives), pursuing (and often securing) industry awards, and finding their own management styles early in their careers.

What is next for your agency? What is the five year goal?
We’re on a mission to show that a well-balanced agency life can be a reality. We’re working to ensure life at Palin Communications is filled with great teammates with strong values and appreciative, smart clients who want to collaborate and celebrate shared success.
The Mindful Movement is an internal initiative that has been developed to ensure Palin Communications remains proactive and accountable around mental health. It reflects our commitment to reviewing and implementing measures to promote our team’s wellbeing. This is a big priority for the team now, and moving forward.
We’re out to create a stimulating environment that fosters individual career progression while minimising the drudgery and repetition. Call us idealistic - but we’re a high performing team, and we’re definitely making progress.

In a sentence, describe your ideal relationship with a journalist
One where there is trust, openness and communication, so we can work through opportunities and brief them quickly on issues and stories we know will be of interest.

Tell us about a campaign you are currently working on or are particularly proud of
We’re really proud of award-winning work around Franklin Women and AbbVie Australia’s ‘Women in STEMM Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon’. The event brought together 40 women in healthcare to improve gender balance on Wikipedia.
Only 250 (largely outdated) Wikipedia articles existed about Australian female scientists. The event resulted in 35 new and 68 updated articles.
Our PR efforts generated 34 media stories (52.8 million reach across 200 countries) including BBC World News and lively social media discussion which sent the event #trending. It shows what can happen at the nexus of an important cause and an innovative pharma client.

Any key PR trends your agency is keeping an eye on?
Health literacy around vaccines is going to be a huge challenge in our sector. We’ve loved working on vaccines over the years - flu vaccines, meningococcal, whooping cough and others - and we’re really excited to see how we can use our experience to increase awareness of how vaccines get developed, approved and distributed to deliver powerful public health benefits.
Mental health is another key area - and there are two dimensions for us. First is the growing focus on mental health for people that work in our industry and the Palin team is strongly invested in that. We’re looking to lead by example and help to showcase best practice when it comes to how agencies can support their teams in this space. Second, is continuing to take on mental health related projects – new treatments, services – in a responsible, evidence-based way that avoids stigmatising the issue.

What skillsets do you look for in new hires?
We’re ultimately looking for bright people who are curious about health communications, eager to learn, mature and ambitious. Fearlessness when it comes to asking questions and taking on new challenges is also an important trait across our team.
Culture is a priority at Palin Communications, so we’re always on the lookout for team-focused superstars who might fit into our tight-knit, handpicked team. 

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