Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind with Angela Cowley, Managing Director at Eight Communications

Angela Cowley is the Managing Director at Eight Communications, a boutique PR consultancy specialising in hotels, lifestyle, property and tourism.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

Growing up I wanted to be Catriona Rowntree and had my heart set on becoming a journalist, living in Sydney and travelling the world. I also wanted to work in magazines.

After leaving Brisbane for Sydney to study journalism at UTS, I soon fell into ACP Magazines (now Bauer) and the esteemed Qantas The Australian Way inflight magazine.

I was lucky to be mentored by some great editors and features editors and it was here that my passion for travel and in particular, hotels and design took off. After more than 4 years at the magazine I jumped over to the ‘dark side’ and got a wonderful start in PR at Mirvac Hotels & Resorts.

After a year and a half there, Accor acquired the group and I moved across into the Accor PR team and travelled, learnt how to hone my craft, (met and worked with Catriona Rowntree) and later became charged with looking after more than 250 hotels across the Pacific.

I had an amazing 7.5 years with the company and have incredibly fond memories of my time there. In September 2018, I threw caution to the wind and left the company I loved to set up Eight Communications, a boutique PR consultancy specialising in hotels, lifestyle, property and tourism. I had always wanted to do my own thing and the time seemed right.

Fortunately, a number of great projects fell into my lap as soon as I launched and so far it has been an amazing 18 months.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Pre-Covid, my day started off with dropping my 6 year old at school and my two younger children at daycare. My 6 year old has consistently risen at 5am (or earlier!) from birth so it is generally a very early start for our household!

After the madness of drop offs, it’s then a stop at Clodeli for my morning caffeine fix, then to my home office where I get straight into the emails, read the news of the day, check media clips for clients and speak with journalists and clients.

I try and get most of the little jobs done in the first 3 hours of the day and then use the afternoon to get into strategy and writing. One of my hotel clients is based in Singapore and they come online around midday, so there’s often a lot of corporate comms and PR planning done in the afternoon with them.

Before I know it, it’s 5pm and its time to collect the kids. Often I’ll have catch ups with media or industry colleagues in the afternoons/evenings, so having support at home is a huge help. I’m counting down to when these social events can be put back in the calendar.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Previous to starting my own consultancy, my role at Accor didn’t allow for much flexibility which I was 100% ok with as PR in a head office environment is so unpredictable and I was often called into meetings at the last minute and putting statements together on the fly. I thrived off this and at times, I do miss it! Now, I have total flexibility – which is a blessing and a curse.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Right now in the current environment we’re in, I’m finding it hard to differentiate between work and life – it’s all one at the moment! Sometimes it’s a struggle to work out what day it actually is.

Going back to life pre-Corona, part of the reason for establishing Eight Communications was for work-life balance. It means the world.

Before going out on my own I was working around the clock – walking the kids to daycare sometimes before sunrise so they were there at 7am so I could be in the office by 7:30 trying to squeeze all the household admin into a weekend, let alone trying to find some time for myself -it was hectic!

Now I have the time to balance my work with all the little odd jobs during the week, so my weekends now are purely focused around the kids and family. It has brought a great level of calm to our household and I am so thankful for that.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

I think there are a few things that have helped me get to where I am. I love a deadline and set them daily to make sure I get what I need done. I find there’s nothing like a sense of urgency to get through the day’s tasks. Writing to-do lists is also part of my routine. I like the To-Do app – it’s very basic but a good way to keep track of what’s been actioned and what still needs doing.

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I’m big on biographies, usually ones with a political bent. I’m fascinated by American politics and have read all the Trump exposés – they make for an equal mix of entertainment, fascination and bewilderment.

I recently read In Extremis: Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin, the life of intrepid war correspondent Marie Colvin. She was a fearless woman, possibly one of the bravest journalists the world had seen. I take inspiration from strong women, regardless of the field they are passionate about.

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I try to take myself out of my comfort zone on a very regular basis. I never want to be complacent and in the world of PR – now more than ever, the landscape has changed so quickly that it is important I am at the forefront and ahead of what’s coming for my clients.

But back to comfort zones – while it might come as a surprise to some, I am actually a bit of an introvert and don’t like the limelight, so putting myself out there is not only important for me personally, it’s important for my growth and keeps me fulfilled.

As well as that, between us, the last thing I do every day before going to bed, is go into my childrens’ rooms and watch them sleep. It could be for a couple of seconds or a minute or more. It makes me appreciate life, what we’ve created and after a hard day’s work, puts everything into perspective every time.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I’m a big reader of lifestyle blogs and glean a few great insights on work-life balance from unassuming Australian women doing amazing things in their daily lives.

I’m a bit late to the party, but I think what Emma Isaac (CEO of Business Chicks) has created is pretty incredible. I think she has 5 kids as well? I’d be interested to read more about how she balances work and life.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

While the world we find ourselves in now is incredibly unsettling and at times downright scary, it has also made us all stop for a minute and truly appreciate the small things. It’s also forcing us to get back to basics and not sweat the small stuff.

For example, I now don’t seem to mind that my kids have walked paint all through the house and there’s flour all over the floor from attempting to make pancakes! I think this weird sense of calm that’s been brought on by the pandemic is a bit of a silver lining and one that I’m planning to carry on through my work life.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.