You've Got This: A Sit Down with Bec Brown
On a sunny and temperate Thursday a few weeks ago, TCI had the chance to sit down and chat with Bec Brown. She’s an all-round BossTM with a career in music and a degree in Media and Communications which majored in Public Relations under her belt, she’s the founder and managing director of a premier Australian PR firm – The Comms Department and to top things off, she has just released her first book – out today! – called You’ve Got This: The Essential Career Handbook for Creative Women. The Creative Issue gushed at the chance to talk all things careers, creativity, and her new novel with Bec whose book will be donating proceeds to two charities: Fitted for Work and Life Changing Experiences. So, let’s dive in!
Once pleasantries were out of the way we got down to the nitty gritty and asked Bec about herself. Who is she? “I am the founder and managing director of The Comms Department. We are a public relations corporate communications and crisis management company. We are based in Sydney but have a team around Australia and New Zealand. I am married, with two cats and no children but twelve nieces and nephews.”
We were curious about what it takes to start your own PR firm and the story goes a little something like this. Bec began her career in music. She had earned a degree at the Conservatorium of Music in Adelaide, and “performed in operas, musical theatre, jazz, and pop bands.” But at 25 she found herself in a rut, what she calls her “quarter-life crisis.” Upon realising her path in music was obscured, she thought about what else she would love to do. “I just realised that as much as I loved performing, it wasn’t making me happy.
“So, I started to look at what else I might like to do. I really loved the media, I loved writing, I loved problem-solving, and I was a very curious person, so I was always asking why. I actually thought about journalism for a while but because I was promoting myself and my band for stage roles and to get gigs, I thought this thing called PR might be a good idea and I didn’t really understand what PR was at the time.
“I had moved back to Australia and had moved to Sydney and while I was still gigging at night, I was working as a temp exec assistant during the day and in my spare time, I was doing a graduate diploma in Media and Communications which majored in Public Relations. So I did that and not long after came my dream gig which was at Universal Music and I suddenly go to combine my two loves of music and publicity. And it was an incredible role getting to work with both international and domestic artists signed to Universal. Universal is the biggest record company in the world, so the calibre of artists that you are working with was extraordinary. But then after about five years of that – and again dream job – but relentless.”
Bec was working the job around the clock, starting early, and finishing late. But as she realised a work-life balance was most important to her, the seeds of starting her own business were planted. She set up The Comms Department, and the rest is history. “We started to take on clients in the media, entertainment, travel, and lifestyle industries. We just slowly grew, that was nearly nine years ago now. One of the great things that we’ve done, which has served us quite well during these weird COVID times is we’ve never had a central office, so we’ve all worked from home or remotely ever since we’ve started. And it’s good because working in the media environment is 24/7. You’re always on thanks to media and social media so if you need to add in a commute into an office every day you would just end up living in the office. And that’s the complete opposite of what I wanted to do and why I set up The Comms Department.
“I wanted some lifestyle balance. To be able to be at home, to be able to travel to be able to exercise to see my family. So it’s worked really well for us. We have an all senior team…of nine at the moment across Australia and New Zealand.
“We look after the Australian Radio Network and all of their stations around the country. So, in Brisbane that’s 97.3, 4KQ, and iHeartRadio. We also look after streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Hayu. Again, working with really great amazing actors and script writers and show runners and directors. So we’re constantly surrounding by great creatives. And I think having had the music upbringing that I had, when you’re surrounded by creative people you start to learn how their minds work…Which is why I think we’re really good at working with creatives.”
As this interview was a celebration of the release of Bec’s first book, You’ve Got This, we asked about the process behind the whole publish, and what lead Bec to want to write such a book.
“The book came about for three reasons. The first one was that over time I was starting to get more and more graduates, young professionals, or people wanting to start their own businesses coming to me for advice. I was just giving that advice out all the time and I love to write, so I would generally compile most of this and I was writing so much of it that I just started saving it all because I was starting to get asked the same questions over and over. I’m quite time efficient so I would just pull out what I’d previously written and send it off.
And on top of that though – I really struggled when I had that quarter life crisis back when I was 25 when I was changing careers, moving from music to PR and I felt really directionless, and not supported, and I didn’t know who to turn to. So, I wish I had a book that would tell me what to do and what the tools I’m going to need and how to use those tools. I kind of created a book that I wish was around when I was transitioning careers based on the advice I was giving out to everybody anyway. And then the third one is there’s two charities I really admire in the work that they do in supporting women. And this was a great vehicle for me to fundraise for them, so part proceeds are going to go to both charities.”
Of those charities, one is Fitted For Work an organisation aimed at helping all kinds of disadvantaged women find and keep work. They offer “pre- and post-employment programs and services that are available nationally. They develop confidence, self-esteem and lots of skills and knowledge.” The other organisation is Life Changing Experiences. “They have two different programs they deliver. They are all about helping with marginalised girls and to help them grow into becoming strong, independent, women. There’s one program called SISTER2Sister. That’s been designed for girls aged twelve to eighteen. And they create a youth development program for them with mentoring, education, and welfare support for any vulnerable or disadvantaged teenaged girls.”
But what kinds of women would Bec want to reach with her book?
“Any woman who wants to work in the creative field. Whether it’s media, entertainment, whether it’s the arts, design, photography…all of those fields. A lot of them don’t have a really structured career path. So for example, if you’re becoming a doctor or a lawyer, by no means is that an easy road to go down, but it’s quite a well-documented path of how you become one. Whereas, creative fields can look a bit more “whish-washy”. And so, it’s creating some kind of structural framework, for people to work from in order to build a career…It was just something I had to do.
But often mapping out a financial path that goes along with a creative passion just isn’t something that’s naturally ingrained. And it certainly wasn’t in me. I didn’t know anything about making money when I set out. You’ve Got This is really great at explaining how to do that. To be both creative and commercial. Because I think we all deserve to have a wonderful, fulfilling career, but I think we also all deserve to make great money doing it. And that money is to support ourselves, our family, and the wider community as well.”
After taking in all Bec was saying about her target audience and the motivations behind the publish, we were dying to know her to take on what makes a Creative Woman in 2020.
“Creativity is a really interesting word, isn’t it? It all comes back to the word create. I think, in this world there are creators and there are consumers…Sure we all consume. I’m sure we all watch beautiful play or musicals or shows, we all read people’s books and online stories, we all watch television or streaming services or movies, we all go and look at beautiful artwork in art galleries. But the creators are the doers. Without creatives, this world would be lost. We just need creatives.”
Of course, we were not going to leave the interview without asking about how COVID-19 has impacted not only Bec’s industry but that of so many others. In a pained voice, she went on to say that not only has COVID devastatingly impacted the creative industry from a financial perspective, and a live event perspective, but that there is hope to be found within the ashes of tragedy.
“It’s impacted the creative industry so much. From a financial perspective. From a creative perspective, there have been some upsides. But not to underplay it. Obviously, it is a very challenging time. There are some industries that have been left out of financial government assistance…But in short, we have a lot of really creative clients. And when COVID hit, it impacted them straight away. All the live events have essentially been put on hold. And so many friends and clients who work in the live events industry, and while it’s incredibly challenging for them and quite heartbreaking, it’s also so impressive watching the adaptability and resilience that’s coming from these people at the same time…
“I do think at the end of all of this one of the great things that have happened is the advance of tech and the prevalence it now has in normal everyday people’s lives. Before, getting my parents or other family members to do a video call with me was impossible; now it’s just second [nature]. And the same applies with live events. I really wasn’t a fan of going onto a webinar, I would much rather go to a live event. I’m sure we all still do but I’m very happy to jump on them now it’s all so normal…I think the buzz word for anyone wanting to thrive or survive through COVID is adapt. And I think the creative industry is incredibly good at doing that because they are creative by nature.”
Finally, we wrapped up the interview with a few final questions on any advice Bec might have for those wanting to find work in these uncertain times and ended on a sweet note for those wanting to know her thoughts on her book’s release.
“I think while it’s often scary, staring over or beginning again, can be one of the best things we get to do. I just think there are endless possibilities ahead. But before moving ahead I really do recommend taking the time to evaluate where you are now. And is the direction that you want to move in truly in line with your values and who you want to be. And if it is not, perhaps this is your chance to consider a new path. But if it is, do an audit of your skills, both your soft skills and your hard skills. See if there are areas you’re going to need to improve and if there are can you start that process straight away.
“[Seek] out anybody who has gone before you, and just ask some questions. That’s the other thing I’m seeing during this COVID times people are being very generous with their time, and being supportive of one another, [people] are more likely to give you a hand. And second to that, I think, is and I talk a lot about this in the book, and that’s about creating and maintaining your professional, personal brand. When you’re in a competitive market, you need to take some steps to stand out from the crowd. But in order to do that, that’s linked back to knowing who you are and what your values are.
“You need to really work out what you stand for before you can start communicating that to the world…A lot of the time we are online a lot more than we are in person at the moment so doing an audit of your social media account is really important because your digital presence is more important than ever, now that we can’t see each other. Check that your LinkedIn is up to date, what’s on your Instagram? What’s on your Twitter? And do a review…And then lastly, personalisation is everything. I know that, for example, when we’re working in PR we know that sending out a one size fits all media release, isn’t going to work if we’re trying to secure media stories, we need to tailor our approach, and create a pitch that’s totally suited to the journalist that we’re speaking to. So, looking for a job is exactly the same.
“Your cover letter and CV needs to be really tailored to the job you’re going for and take the time to thoroughly read that job description, do research online about the organisation and just tailor it to answer each of those points. Make it really personal. People want to know you…making sure you tell people your “why” really helps to make a connection. So why have you chosen that particular field, why is it important to you, what do you want to do with that, if you tell your prospective employer that, it goes a long way.
“The purpose of this book is for women to create a sustainable and fulfilling career, while also earning a great income, minus the anxiety and the burnout. And the reason I’m doing it is so women can be creative and be commercial. That’s going to be the most satisfying part of this book being released is seeing that light bulb moment happen that happened for me. Unfortunately, that happened for me over many, many, years and I think everybody who gets to read this book is going to have that short cut that I wish I had.”
Bec also mentioned the illustrator of her book, Inga Campbell, whose beautiful work paints the pages of You’ve Got This. Be sure to keep an eye out for Inga’s Tips! The link to her website is below.
But as that final question came to a close, we felt for a moment relieved. Not only was there someone like Bec out there to tell us things were going to be fine, we knew that there are so many women out there who are experiencing the same thing. And with that sense of camaraderie came hope. A hope for the future, and for the future of our peers. A hope that it’s going to be ok.
What: You’ve Got This: The Essential Career Handbook for Creative Women
When: Today! September 15, 2020
Where: At your favourite bookstore
How Much: Paperback – $ 29.99 eBook – $14.99 Audiobook – $28.00
Link to You’ve Got This here