Telum Spotlight On... Samii Avdic, Founder of Solitaire Communications

Telum Spotlight On... Samii Avdic, Founder of Solitaire Communications

Welcome to the Telum Spotlight, a quick insight into some of the interesting people in the PR and Communications space, as well as freelancers and those launching their own boutique agencies. Today we shine the Telum Spotlight on Samra (Samii) Avdic in Sydney. Samii recently launched Solitaire Communications following a career at various agencies, including Ogilvy, Mango Communications, Edelman and CampaignLab.

By way of introduction:
After working across boutique agency teams as well as global agency networks, I decided to step into the world of freelance consulting to launch Solitaire Communications. I wanted to take my global brand experience working with the likes of Xbox, Amazon, HP and eBay, and transform that skillset into a personalised, hands-on offering.

My speciality is in consumer tech and gaming, but I’ve worked across over a dozen industries and supported clients on all types of comms, from strategic planning and rebrands, to product launches and publicity. My passion is in delivering integrated brand solutions tailored to the unique needs of each client, and I am so excited to bring this expertise to Solitaire.

First job:
I got my first after-school job at Subway as a Sandwich Artist, a title that 14-year-old Samii thought was very prestigious. My first communications gig was with (at the time) boutique agency CampaignLab, founded by the brilliant Andy Scales, where we had a core team of four. There’s something really special about boutique agencies where everybody has to pull up their sleeves and just get into it, regardless of the task at hand.

I draw a lot of inspiration from my time at smaller agencies in starting Solitaire Communications, as I think the best comms work comes from being able to be agile, hands-on and truly immersed in your client’s business.

One thing you would change about the communications industry:
PR needs better PR. I am still consistently met with the outdated belief that PR is simply media relations and that by "having the right contacts", a brand’s story will be told. It’s much deeper than that. The right PR partner will step back and consider what a brand wants to achieve and what its audience wants from it in return. Communications professionals can’t wave a magic wand to make people care about a brand. Instead, we need to work closely with clients and figure out the 'why' and 'how' behind their story before diving into action.

Most admired person in comms:
I feel immensely lucky to have worked with some of the colleagues, leaders and clients I have. I can’t pick favourites, but I’m often drawn to people that inspire me, are smart, caring, compassionate, and in particular manage to juggle the demands of a dynamic industry with a robust personal life and hobbies, while supporting those around them to do the same.

Most admired journalist: 
I have the deepest admiration for those who speak on behalf of the voiceless and lift the lid on the heinous practices behind animal agriculture. The work of people like Chris Delforce, Ann Cottrell Free and Matthew Scully has forever impacted the way we perceive and address the treatment of animals.

Advice to anyone starting out in comms:
Think like a storyteller. Ask yourself what is actually interesting about that pile of data in front of you, that brief, or that press release? Why would your client’s audience care? Pull that out and shine a big bright spotlight on it. Your role is to carve out what’s interesting and to get the right people to listen.

Essential daily reading:
Outside of reading as much news as I can, I also like to read whatever my client’s audience reads. I immerse myself in what they consume, from their news sources, social channels and sub-Reddits to understand what they actually care about, and how to authentically speak to them as a brand.

Favourite book:
Any fiction or fantasy novel that lets me actually switch off from the daily grind and escape. Sarah J Maas has me hooked at the moment, and I’m making my way through everything she’s ever written.

Favourite film:
My comfort movie is Under the Tuscan Sun. I love the homage to authentic Italian food, the journey of discovery, the romanticisation of a simpler life, and the grace of Diane Lane as the leading lady. I’ve purposely never read the book because I love the movie so much - tell me if that’s a mistake! I’m actually travelling to Tuscany later this year and will be visiting Cortona, the small hillside town where they filmed a majority of the movie.

Dream holiday:
I’m taking it this year - see above! To add to it, I'll be staying in a farmstead in the centre of Tuscany and renting a car to visit all of the ancient towns. I'll be eating and driving my way through the Italian countryside and I couldn't think of anything better.

Clickbait fact about you:
"Sydney woman does long-term damage to her wrist after a two-week video game binge" - when the game New World came out, I played it every second I could between work. I played so much, and without enough breaks, that I developed something called "Gamer’s Thumb" and am still getting treatment for my wrist to this day. I’m happy to say it feels like I only have a few months of treatment left!

Quotable you:
"It's PR, not ER" - we so often get caught up and overwhelmed by client deadlines, demands, competing priorities and the sheer volume of work. I like to tell my teams to take a second and place some perspective on the work we’re trying to do. Nobody succeeds if they burn out.

"Trust your instinct" - our industry is not a prescriptive one and there is usually more than one correct answer. Sometimes we just have to try things and use our learned skills to adapt and pivot as needed.

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