Throughout 2015 PRINZ will be interviewing 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 PR practitioner in 2015.
This month we feature Auckland-based Chris Galloway, MPRINZ, a senior lecturer and Discipline Leader of Communications at Massey University. Chris’s Discipline Leader role is about leadership and co-ordination of the varied communication courses – especially in PR. Chris arrived at Massey after 10 years teaching in Australia, where he completed his PHD in “risk-literate public relations”.
How long have you worked in PR/Communications industry and how did you start out?
My first PR role was in 1984 at Network Communications in Auckland, where I joined after a stint in computer industry journalism in Auckland and Singapore. After that, I worked in-house for an international software company, moving to Telecom during its adjustment to privatisation. I was the media relations manager in Auckland at a time when Telecom was very much the company people loved to hate. It was a challenging but rewarding time! I then spent three years in parliamentary relations management for Telecom before shifting to the New Zealand Meat Board as General Manager, External Relations. Time at Public Trust in the management team followed before a move to teaching in the early 2000s. I enjoy the life – but try hard to make sure what I’m teaching and researching remains relevant to coal-face professionals.
What attracted you to the industry?
I enjoyed the variety and the autonomy I was given to innovate and also to develop new client relationships. I learned that a little creativity can take you further than a big budget might.
What do you think is the most significant industry change you’ve experienced?
Undoubtedly the advent of the internet. Scholars in the past have depicted our role as helping to contribute to the “marketplace of ideas” voices that might otherwise not be heard. Now everyone with an internet connection can do that for themselves, so that calls for re-configuring our understanding of PR’s role.
What has been your favourite piece of work / research or experience to date?
I once worked for a technology firm selling equipment to financial services companies to help them manage their growth. The firm had struggled to reach top people in finance. We came up with the idea of a bonsai tree as epitomising controlled growth and sent them to the top 50 New Zealand finance executives. It was the first attention-getting stage in a four-phase plan and it worked wonderfully well.
What is the most valuable piece of career advice you were given?
I can’t recall a single piece of advice. I’ve been fortunate both as a practitioner and an academic to work alongside some innovative thinkers who were not afraid of doing something different and were happy to let me spark off their insights.
Who were or are your mentors?
I worked under John Green at Network: a talented and thoughtful practitioner who informed his work with extensive reading of the latest research. In teaching, I’ve worked with excellent learning designers to help ensure that students “get” what they need to – and have a great time doing so.
What do you expect of / hope for young practitioners that is useful for them to know?
We know from our contacts with employers that what they look for is people who can think critically, independently and creatively. Here, by “critically”, I mean not accepting the status quo as a given – being able to evaluate it carefully and present alternatives. We rate these sorts of thinking skills above technique: technique is easy to learn, but developing appropriate mind-sets, much harder (and ultimately, more valuable).