Telum Vox Pop: PRs that moved to Australia from abroad

Telum Vox Pop: PRs that moved to Australia from abroad

Leaving the comfort of your home country to work abroad, though exciting to some, can feel quite daunting to others. Telum spoke with a number of PRs who have moved from the UK and US to Australia about challenges they've faced, their overall experience, and any advice they have for someone who might be considering such a move.

What were the main challenges you faced?  

Kate Evans, Account Manager, Corporate, BCW Global - moved from the UK
I think a key challenge for me has been adjusting to a totally new and different media landscape. There are fewer publications, which means it’s harder to get coverage for clients, and the landscape is much more nuanced and localised. This means you really have to focus on the quality of coverage, not quantity. A key thing I had to learn in my first week was who owns which national publication!

Another challenge has been getting to grips with how parochial Australia is. I’ve quickly learned that every story we take to press or create for clients has to be through an Australia-specific lens - which is super different from the UK!

Liam Bettinson, Senior Performance Manager, We Are Different PR - moved from the UK
I know it isn’t the case for everyone, but I actually found the process of moving to Australia relatively seamless! 

I wanted to work out what PR looked like in the market before moving, so I made an effort to meet and network with agencies while I was still in the UK. I’m really glad I did it too, as it meant I could secure a great job in advance and have peace of mind that I could focus on setting everything else up when I arrived.

That being said, there is a fair bit of "life admin" that needs your attention upon arrival in Australia - whether that be setting up my TFN, medicare, or superannuation, getting a new phone contract, setting up a new bank account or even finding a new home - and it can feel slightly daunting when you’re first going through it. Thankfully, I managed to get through everything fairly quickly - and I’ve got a really supportive team (including a few other Brits) who helped with any of my life admin concerns or questions!

Kateri Mackey-Moseley, Communications Manager, Nestlé - moved from the US
I was very fortunate in my move to Australia, both personally and professionally. Personally, my husband (boyfriend at the time I moved) is Australian, so I was moving over to live in an established apartment with someone I loved and a built-in community of his friends and family. Professionally, I already had a six-month comms contract lined up with a state branch of a national NFP.

However, after that six-month contract ended, the challenges started to roll. COVID hit and a lot of positions fell dormant as companies went into hiring freezes while they navigated the pandemic landscape. On top of that, I found myself pigeon-holed into entry level positions because the visa I was on only allowed a six-month employment term per employer. This made it hard to be a competitive candidate for positions with long-term internal growth opportunities, or more senior positions that expected long-term commitment. It was only after applying for my residency that my long-term employment prospects picked up because I had fewer restrictions around my employment.

Madison Gee, Senior Account Manager, Madden & Assoc. - moved from the US
Aside from the small hassle of packing up my life and bringing it overseas (picture a small apartment crammed with moving boxes), for me, the initial acclimation to a foreign environment came with a certain level of imposter syndrome - particularly in the workplace. Prior to starting my new role in Australia, I prepared myself to face an inevitable learning curve - so much so that it became too easy to slip into a habit of automatically considering myself a "non-expert" at nearly anything, hyper-conscious of the fact that it may be done differently here. I’ve found that by regularly reminding myself of my experiences and achievements, I’ve been able to reckon with the fact that the endless new things to learn in this world can complement - not substitute - my own abilities.

What are the main differences in terms of the PR and communications industry?

Kate Evans
A key difference is the size of the industry. The PR and communications industry is a lot smaller here. Because of this, however, the workload is far more varied than I would’ve imagined, as clients want their comms teams to do everything. Because the industry in London is massive, clients might’ve had one agency to do their media relations, one to do government relations, and another to manage their reputation. Here, we do everything, which has been fantastic from a learning and growth perspective.

Australia also definitely gets roped into a lot of APAC-wide projects and new business briefs. Clients that are looking to launch into the rest of APAC often use Australia as the hub for this activity - meaning you have to quickly get to grips with everything that is happening across the region!

And because we are so far ahead of the rest of world time-wise, we do have to be a bit more flexible with our hours when working with global clients or clients based in other regions. Having late night calls put in your diary isn’t at all unusual!

Liam Bettinson
Before making the move, I’d been told by a few people that the UK is ahead of Australia in terms of its approach to PR and comms, but I honestly haven’t found that to be the case at all. The work that my team at We Are Different is working on, and the work I’ve seen from other agencies over here, is some of the most creative, progressive and inspiring I’ve seen to date - and it’s exciting to see how PR strategies are being implemented in a different market.

There are some differences of course. While editorial teams and the overall media landscape are smaller in Australia, journalists are far more responsive and receptive to PRs. Pitching stories by phone is still a popular way of reaching out - which is pretty interesting when you consider that the industry in the UK is increasingly reliant on emails following the pandemic (and change in working habits).

Kateri Mackey-Moseley
While it might seem obvious to some, I really stumbled on role titles in Australia. In my opinion, unless your title is something like CEO or Specialty Coffee Taster, it’s really just a line on your email signature and typically doesn’t mean much. However, looking for a job in a market where titles like Coordinator, Manager, Specialist, Officer, and Associate were all looking for the same qualifications to perform the same roles made the experience harder to navigate than it needed to be. On the flip side, in Australia’s PR and communications industry I’m so excited to see strong women in positions of influence - from managers to founders, to heads of marketing and communications, to CEOs.

Madison Gee
Coming from the US, the most apparent difference is the sheer size of the media pool - the Australian media landscape being much smaller by comparison. That said, it’s not a limiting factor; on the contrary, I sense that this can sometimes allow a greater degree of access to reporters and ability to more easily to "cut through the clutter" with a great story.

Both countries have their own unique culture norms, workforce, and market conditions, but there are a lot of similarities as well - including the fact that the media landscape is constantly changing, so as a PR professional, it’s just as critical to stay abreast. And importantly, in both places there is a deep appreciation for the PR industry and recognition of the vital role it plays.

What advice would you give to someone in the industry considering moving to Aus?

Kate Evans
Talk to people on the ground here! I spoke to so many different recruiters and PRs in Australia when I was considering moving here, who were extremely helpful in terms of getting to know the industry landscape. It’s super important that you have the right information before making the decision to move here. I would also add - just make the move! Even if it’s just for a year / couple of years, trust me, you can’t go wrong with weekends spent at the beach, never having a bad coffee, and getting to explore a new country!

Liam Bettinson
The last three months have been so rewarding - both personally and professionally - and although there are inevitably times when I miss my family and friends (or dog), I haven’t wanted to be anywhere else but here.

If you’re seriously considering a move to Australia, my advice would be to explore the opportunities on offer - whether that’s by reaching out to a company you’ve got your eye on or registering your interest in roles online - so you can start to picture what life in a different country might look like for you.

Giving yourself time and space to consider your options is key too. I’d talked about making the move for a pretty long time before doing so, and although it would be easy to say "I wish I’d done it sooner" given how much I’m enjoying myself, I’m actually really glad I took that time to not only contemplate whether it was the right decision for me and my career, but also make sure I was ready for everything a move abroad entails.

When you’re considering a move abroad, the minefield of information can feel slightly overwhelming and off-putting, but I found it extremely beneficial to reach out to someone who’s done it recently so they can talk through their experience with you and help put any concerns at ease.

Kateri Mackey-Moseley
My advice has been and will always be "you’ll never grow if you don’t go". I’ve taken every opportunity afforded to me to study abroad, travel and explore new places and cultures, which all led up to me working and living abroad in Australia. Each opportunity has only made me a better person and a better professional.
Australia specifically has a magic of its own. No matter what industry you want to do comms work for, you’ll experience a passionate and involved Aussie consumer base who aren’t afraid to tell marketers and comms professionals when they’ve messed up, and when they’ve delivered something brilliant. I’ve also found that the dog-eat-dog nature of the American workplace is replaced instead by genuine interest in employee growth, development and mentorship. Of course, every opportunity is what you make of it and I’d recommend not comparing your experience to others, no matter what you choose to do.

Madison Gee
Stay curious and be open to seeing things differently. With any international move, there is something to gain and something to give. I think it’s important to pay attention to moments where a "transplant" perspective can bring value, and moments to learn to see from a different lens. Also, if you’re making a move to Australia, make sure to adopt a strong liking for cappuccinos and an appreciation for a good sense of humour.

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