Senior PR Insight: Anna Radford, FPRINZ, Radford Communications

Throughout 2015 PRINZ will interview senior PR practitioners about their career, discovering what they believe is the key to being successful in PR, what tips they were given and have used in their career, and what they expect of a junior practitioner in 2015.

Anna Radford FPRINZ, Director, Radford Communications.

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Anna Radford, FPRINZ, Director of Radford Communications

Anna has been a communications practitioner for 30 years.

Before establishing Radford Communications in 1999, she had extensive experience in the corporate and not-for-profit sectors.  Previous roles included Head of the Communications Department for the World Bureau of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in London, and Internal Communication Manager and Corporate Media Relations Manager for CLEAR Communications (Telstra Clear’s predecessor).

In more recent years, Anna has worked with clients in the security, intellectual property, adult literacy, financial services, local government, natural health products and infrastructure services sectors. Anna is a PRINZ Fellow and the current PRINZ Awards Chief Judge.

How long have you worked in PR/Communications industry?
I’ve been in the PR and communications industry for 30 years. I originally trained as a journalist and worked briefly at the Herald before deciding journalism wasn’t for me. I went back to university and finished my degree and then got a job in a PR consultancy. I then worked in-house for the next eight years until I set up my own consultancy.

Did you complete tertiary study? If so, what and when?

I studied a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in History and Political Science. I also have a Diploma in Business Studies with a PR endorsement and a Certificate in Journalism. Next semester I will be doing my first tertiary study in a long time –a level three change management paper through Massey University.

What attracted you to the industry?

I read an article about public relations and thought it sounded like an interesting career so I went and saw a career guidance counsellor. He suggested I do the PR course at AUT, which was the only one in the country at the time, however having just completed a three year degree and a six month journalism course meant I wasn’t keen to continue studying. After hearing that he suggested I get a job as a receptionist in a PR firm and wait for a job to apply for.   I didn’t want to do that and wondered whether he’d have given a male graduate the same advice!

Instead I wrote to a number of Auckland consultancies asking if they had any available positions and, if not, would they meet with me anyway so I could find out more about PR.  A couple agreed to meet me and one even knew of a junior consultant position going, which is how I got my first job. 

What do you think is the most significant industry change you’ve experienced?
The change associated with information technology, which has brought opportunities and challenges. For example, when I first started work, offices had typewriters rather than computers.  When we created a newsletter we typed it up and then had the printer run off the content as bromides (a high resolution version of the content).  Newsletter lay-outs involved cutting up the bromides and gluing the stories into place on the design board before giving the designed product to the printer. 

We’ve come a long way since then and the internet has certainly made life easier, but also more demanding. We are so connected, it’s fantastic. I am always online. But it has also meant more risk management, i.e. a bad review can go a long, long way. We have to think a lot more broadly and deeply about risk management today than we had to in the past.

What is the most valuable piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
A manager I had when I worked in-house taught me how to think and work far more strategically than I had in the past.  This has benefitted me as a practitioner and opened up more opportunities in my career, allowing me to take on work I might otherwise not have.

What has been your favourite piece of work to date?
I don’t have a favourite piece that springs to mind; it’s more the pleasure of a job well done. My favourite part of my job is that, as I’m able to think of the bigger picture, I can often get clients to lift their heads and see all that is possible strategically. That is what I most enjoy, seeing their eyes light up.

What PR discipline do you enjoy doing the most?

I am passionate about internal communications.  The way organisations and their people function and interrelate absolutely fascinates me!  My strategic insight really comes into play during internal communication work – so much so that I am currently helping a client and his management team to develop their organisational strategy (vision, mission, business objectives and values) as a precursor to their internal communication programme. 

Who do you look up to/who did you look up to as a young practitioner?
I used to attend PRINZ functions and look up to the senior PRINZ people like Rob Crabtree and Joseph Peart and wonder if I’d ever be like that! Now I look back on all that I’ve been able to do with PRINZ, being a Viva Voce APR panellist, an Awards judge and now Chief Awards judge; it has all been a great experience.

What do you expect of young practitioners that they may not be aware of?

  • Big picture thinking: Understanding that we’re sending a media release not just to get media attention but to meet an organisational objective.
  • How to set SMART objectives and appropriate measures: This will ensure your PR work has a strong and strategic foundation.
  • Business experience: It’s a bit of a circle with no beginning because you need business experience to understand how business works; I think that understanding really puts you ahead of the pack.
  • Writing: How to write really well. Whether we like it or not, writing is the bread and butter of our industry.

Anna is the PRINZ Awards Chief Judge, for insight into entry in the PRINZ Awards, see the 2014 Chief Judge FAQ video.

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