Founders / Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind With Phoebe Netto, Founder & Managing Director at Pure Public Relations

Phoebe Netto is the Founder & Managing Director at Pure Public Relations, a boutique firm specialising in PR for small and medium-sized businesses, charities and not-for-profits.

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

I am the founder and Managing Director of Pure Public Relations, a boutique agency in Sydney and Melbourne. I honed my PR skills working with agencies large and small, but felt frustrated that small and medium-sized businesses and not-for-profits couldn’t access the expertise that big budgets could.

I started my own PR agency in 2010, which was the natural next step. I saw a gap in the market to do things differently, where results were the only KPI worth measuring.

The flexibility that comes from having my own business came to be incredibly important to when I added two young daughters and sitting on the boards of charities into the mix!

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

My morning alarm is set for 3:50am, even on the weekend. It might seem early to some, but over time I’ve learned that my brain works best early in the morning, and I struggle to work efficiently later in the day.

The extra hours allow me to get a large volume of work done, have my best ideas, and get a head start on my day before client and media requests start coming in. You will never do big things when you are distracted by small things, so I get my most important tasks done first thing. But before anything else, it’s reading, prayer and gratitude and, of course, coffee.

The early start also gives me time to make a start on some housework, make my girls’ breakfasts and get ready. I drop my kids to school, and when I have the car all to myself, use the time to record voice memos for my team or dictate articles that can be transcribed.

The rest of my day involves planning, brainstorming, having conversations with my team and clients and pitching to the media.

On a typical day this week, my working time was spent like this:

Before 6am, I finalise a media strategy document, suggest a PR timeline for a potential new client and prepare an issues management statement for a client. At 6am, I’m media monitoring by reading the major news of the day, as well as less mainstream news that relates to my clients.

I’m looking for news and events that might impact on our planned media announcements, and opportunities to leverage timely stories with our client’s news or perspective. I also check for mentions of our clients in the media.

After dropping my daughters off to school and preschool, it’s time for emails. I check my emails often as we need to be very responsive to media, and much of what we do for our clients is timely. By 9:15am I’m editing and finalising articles such as opinion pieces and advice articles for clients.

At 9:45am, I check the news again and read articles that relate to our clients. It’s always helpful to know what type of articles journalists are interested in before we pitch our clients to them.

Next up I chat to my team and discuss updates, before taking a short break at 10:30am. After a 30 minute break I’m back at my laptop, media pitching, replying to important emails and doing client updates.

At 12:15pm I head to a local café with my laptop for lunch, and use the time to catch up on admin and brainstorm media opportunities for clients. The early afternoon is filled with writing letters, phone scripts, and talking points for a client who needs to communicate some tricky changes.

I’ve got a conference call with a client at 3.30pm, and I decide to take it outside to get a change of scenery.

After that, I spend some time responding to media enquiries, and at 5pm create several instructional videos using to brief our writers on new articles, Q&As and background documents to be written for clients.

The end of the work day usually varies depending on my kids’ activities. After my children are in bed, I reflect on the day and write tomorrow’s to-do list using

I aim to be in bed pretty early, so I can get enough sleep to be sharp the next day.

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

The bulk of my work simply needs a phone, a laptop and an internet connection. This means I work from home a fair bit, but can also continue to work when I’m away from my desk. I record voice memos for my team while driving the car, and can finish writing an article for a client between café meetings.

PR can require some early starts for overseas conference calls or to speak with breakfast TV and breakfast radio producers, so being able to work remotely makes it manageable.

Flexibility for me also means that I’m able to attend my daughters’ school performances, mentor weekly at a school through a program for disadvantaged children, take my children to their appointments, and spend more quality time with them.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I am a huge fan of to plan out my to-do list, order tasks and colour code them by importance. It allows me to do a brain dump of things that need to be done and break tasks down into chunks.

Instead of putting a whole project or big task on your to-do list, break it down into steps and schedule those steps. I can schedule tasks over hours, days, weeks and months. Then you can simply do the next right step and as you accomplish these small steps, you’ll gain confidence and momentum.

Before you know it, you’ll have completed the whole project. Plus, marking tasks as complete is very satisfying!

Another tip is to always set boundaries, including for yourself. Manage expectations and plan for times when you can’t be contacted by having alternative arrangements in place. If you don’t, there’s no way you can be fully present in whatever activity you’re doing.

Never underestimate what you can do in 30 minutes. In 30 minutes or less you can plan a to-do list and delegate tasks to stop you feeling overwhelmed. In around 30 minutes you can get a healthy meal in the oven. In 30 minutes you can do something meaningful with your child.

Delegate. If someone can do something as well or better than you, consider if you can afford to outsource it. Often, you’ll make more money than you save, and if it means you’ll be able to enjoy time with your family or stop feeling overwhelmed, then it’s worth it.

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

I don’t want work life balance, because work shouldn’t have equal importance and weight compared to other aspects of my life. It’s not a realistic expectation, because even at work, life is never far from your mind and vice versa.

Instead, I juggle many balls in the air. I know that while it is a (sometimes anxious) juggle, some of those balls are made of glass and need to be treated differently, while others can be dropped. Being able to understand which is which is, for me, a good work life combination.

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?

To remind myself that not all good things are right. Saying no to something frees you up to say yes to the right things. Often you don’t need to say ‘no’, but you do need to say ‘not yet’ without a fear of missing out.

I also aim to be in bed pretty early so my brain is sharp the next day. Getting enough sleep improves my efficiency, increases my motivation, and helps me to think clearly about what deserves my time, energy and thoughts.

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

Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance by Marcus Buckingham.

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

Encourage or support someone else – I even schedule this into my week to make sure it remains a priority. So much of our day is spent doing things that we want to do for our own benefit, or because a client or manager asked us to.

By making a point to look beyond your bubble to help someone else gives you perspective and adds purpose to your day. That perspective allows you to objectively view the demands and pressures of your time, without it being what drives your day.

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

Decide what you want your work and life to look like for you, rather than comparing yourself to how others combine the two. Then own it without feeling like a victim. Suffering is a huge drain on your energy, and will stop you from being able to make the hard decisions that will lead to positive change.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!

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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.