Greer Quinn is the Managing Director of Forward Communications, an Australian public relations agency, specialising in internal and external communications including strategy, brand awareness, change management and positioning.
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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’ve been working for more than two decades experience in media and public relations, including a mandatory stint as a journalist at the ABC (Brisbane). Aside from my communications skills, clients tend to hire me because I’m a commercially minded strategist.
Seeing a project through, from conception to delivery, gives me enormous satisfaction. I never lose sight of the overall objective when it comes to producing written or visual materials whether it be for internal or external communication purposes. I live by the motto “start less, finish more.”
During my career, I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of Australia’s top companies, which naturally led me to develop my own brand.
I’ve since exited my start-up, but within the 18 months I stewarded my former vegan beauty brand, it was featured in the Oscars gift bags, listed with PETA, Logical Harmony and Truly Cruelty-Free and was listed in US stores Nordstrom and Dermstore and Canada’s Hudson’s Bay.
I love the excitement of a newsroom and the pursuit of a story, but as a relationship-oriented person, I prefer the camaraderie, creativity and collaboration that comes with working within the corporate communications space, whether that be external or internal communications.
I think ex-journos make the best PR people because we instinctively recognise a good story and know what it’s like to be in the journalist’s shoes, so are therefore, better at pitching. From a work fulfillment perspective, in PR, I still have the chance to enjoy great conversations, learn from others and capture people’s stories.
Forward Communications clients have included: Rio Tinto, Suez, VicRoads, The Reject Shop, Griffith University, Dairy-Free Down Under, Carlton & United Breweries, Heinz, Dairy Farmers, National Foods, Origin Energy, Xstrata, Peabody, TJM Equipped and RailCorp NSW/Transport NSW.
2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m quite structured and unstructured at the same time. Ideally, I like to start the day with a 6am hot yoga class. Next best option is a 5:15am boot camp class or jog before I get the kids up and off to school.
My working day begins with a chai tea while I check emails, news of the day and social media, while responding to anything urgent. I schedule my deeper “thinking” or creative work earlier in the morning. This tends to take the form of writing stories, strategies, scripts or developing tailored workshops.
From mid-morning to midday, I attend meetings with clients or collaborators and conduct recorded phone interviews. During the afternoon, I’ll do admin, edit and submit quotes/proposals.
If I’m catching up with one of my freelance creatives, I try to make it a “walking meeting”, whether they’re with me in-person or on the phone.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I was working remotely before it was cool to work remotely. When I founded Forward Communications 17 years ago, it was unheard of for a work-from-home freelancer to work with Fortune 500 companies.
But I was very fortunate to score a gig with a major Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) brand, which turned into a four-year project where I was responsible for running their regional and rural PR campaign, launching new products and producing e-newsletters.
They had the budget to work with Australia’s top PR companies, and indeed they had, but had never received the results I achieved.
In the first year, we increased media coverage by a staggering 64 per cent. They kept me on, purchasing the maximum number of hours I could offer while my children were babies and toddlers, until they achieved their unicorn exit.
I was fortunate that the core team moved on to work with other great companies and took me with them. This was the foundation of a steady stream of quality corporate work, which continues to keep me engaged and inspired today.
As time as gone on, I’ve expanded my own agile workplace to ensure Forward Communications can scale without compromising personal touch.
I love that freelancing has allowed me to be an available mother to my two boys who will soon turn 12 and 15. In the early days, I used to pay a babysitter to come to our house during the hours that I worked outside their nap times.
These days, I just do a little gesture with my fingers to form a “W” and my boys respect I’m on a work call. The other great thing about working remotely is that it’s easy for me to keep working while traveling.
I have worked from Bali, New Zealand, Thailand, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Uluru, Byron Bay and Hobart. I’m able to work from clients’ offices as required and I’ve even taken my laptop with me on yoga retreats! This month, I’m working from Italy and Ireland.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?
In recent years, I’ve started recording and transcribing all my interviews. This means I can refer back to transcripts to develop different angles for new content.
Also, it means during the interview, I can be really present because I don’t need to take notes.
It’s also a really good way to provide media training to a client. It makes them accountable, so if they say something to a journalist, they need to be prepared to be quoted.
On a more micro level, it also draws attention to bad habits – like mumbling, saying “um” or “like” too many times or using excess jargon.
A great photo library pre-loaded onto Dropbox for each client is invaluable when it comes to pitching media stories and briefing designers.
There are loads of time-management apps out there, some of which I use, but nothing beats the good old-fashioned feeling of manually crossing things off a list. So, I still love to write a “to-do” list up on my whiteboard and cross things off as I’ve completed them.
5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance is about taking care of our human side, so that when we’re working, we’re operating on a full tank. Life isn’t all about outcomes – it’s about joy and good health too.
Things that bring me joy are my family, friends, nature, travel, creative pursuits and clients I love (and who appreciate me). Good health comes from caring for our emotional wellbeing, eating well and exercising.
When I am feeling balanced, I laugh more, I sleep better and I’m more present to loved ones and clients. We’ve all got to be responsible for administering our own oxygen mask so that we can serve others.
6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?
Yoga is such a great resilience tool for me. I actually took up the practice when I began my working career. There are a few postures that are indicators of where I’m at – if I fall out too easily, feel tight or tired, I know I need to get back on track. People think yogis are chilled out, but the truth is we all get on the mat calm down. Yoga figuratively and literally balances us!
Sometimes, to get through deadlines or tough times, I temporarily drop out of balance, but I try to connect back in as soon as I’m able through quality time with family and friends, eating well, exercising and more yoga!
I’m also a big believer in a daily dose of sunshine, so I try to take our labradoodle “Paw Paw” for a walk each day.
7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
I tend to read for relaxation, escapism or gaining insight into understanding humans, so I gravitate more towards novels and memoirs, rather than self-help books. A recent favourite is Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe. He’s a journalist at The Australian and one who I pitched to in the early days of his journalism career, which started in Brisbane.
I’m finding that at the speed at which the communications landscape is changing (and my busy schedule), I’m also loving podcasts. I alternate between listening to “journalistic” podcasts to “learning” podcasts.
The Australian’s Who the Hell is Hamish was a great example of long-form investigative journalism. It made me miss being a journo, as unlike our daily news bulletins, The Australian podcasts reveal much more of the journalistic process.
Both journalism and communications require high levels of emotional intelligence, so I love listening to a journo in action – particularly during in-depth interviews. From a learning and business perspective, Mark Bouris is a current favourite, but I’ve also been getting into Gary Vee, Kate Toon and fellow Gold Coaster Stevie Says Social.
A former ABC colleague of mine and I are in the process of designing a podcast and potential online course, and we’re definitely feeling inspired by these forerunners.
8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
Being truthful is something I practice daily. I am a big believer in honesty for long-term health and happiness, but also in business. The truth will always set you free, even if it hurts in the short-term. It’s sometimes hard to tell a client that they’re not newsworthy enough to make it onto the TV program or magazine of their dreams, but I’d much rather undersell and over-perform.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
If you only allow exceptionally kind people into your inner circle, life is less complicated. People say not to mix business with pleasure, but I love working with friends or becoming friends with collaborators and clients. We invest a lot of time and energy into our work. It’s important that work also brings positive human interactions and kindness is key to that!
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