They say that one ‘dog year’ is about the same as seven human years. I wonder how normal human years equate to ‘COVID years’. That’s the question we posed to ourselves as we Media-Wize celebrates its second birthday on December 2nd.

When Kathryn and I started Media-Wize, we were extremely focussed on a key problem we saw in the world of PR and media relations. Spokespeople were almost never adequately prepared, had little understanding of how the Australian media really works and often bumbled their way through interviews. We saw it across tables. We heard it over the phone and we saw it on our TV screens. 

With my journalist hat on, I was frustrated that I couldn’t get a story out of some of the people I interviewed. As a PR, Kathryn was dismayed that her clients didn’t always deliver a message that resulted in good coverage, or any coverage at all. We decided there had to be a better way to help them. So, we partnered to attack this problem head on and offered, what we believe, is a unique way of preparing people for engaging with the media. 

We taught spokespeople how it really works, the tips and tricks and helped them hone engaging stories and messages. Where other PRs might be reluctant to teach how it’s done and give up the trade secrets, we unveiled them. Where other PRs might fear to rattle a client in a training and coaching session, we definitely went there and they valued what they learned from the experience. We helped them to really see why being prepared and anticipating questions is vital to media success. 

But then a funny thing happened…

We won our clients trust and they wanted us to continue to partner with them. They asked us to find those media opportunities. They asked us to prepare media relations strategies. They asked us to write content for them – press releases, customer success stories, thought leadership articles and LinkedIn Pulse articles. They asked us to pitch them for media interviews. They wanted us to walk alongside their businesses and support them in their PR journey.

That’s meant producing podcasts and videos as well as working with our clients to help them gain the media exposure they deserve. We’ve also helped them manage incidents and crises. During COVID-19 we went from a specialist media training and messaging agency into a full service PR consultancy. 

Year two for Media-Wize has seen us grow in a way we never really anticipated. Established companies like Pure Security, part Australia’s largest ASX-listed cybersecurity company Tesserent (ASX:TNT) engaged us as their retained PR agency. In just a short time, we secured national press coverage in almost every major newspaper in the country as well as TV appearances and in important trade verticals. 

We’re also the PR agency for Maxme a human skills development organisation focused on helping young Australians develop soft skills critical for employment and career success. The company’s founder, Renata Sguario, is also the current chairman of the board of Future First Technology (formerly known as PS+C Limited) and she is tackling the soft skills crisis plaguing Gen Z and Millennials as they embark on their careers. They are the first cohort in history to be born with the internet, they prefer to text rather than communicate face-to-face. 

We’ve also challenged another PR ‘rule’ and offered flexible services on an affordable project basis. We understand that some businesses don’t need ongoing PR, they need a few key stories and others are not yet ready to invest significantly, but still have amazing stories they can tell. We’ve worked with Detexian, a cybersecurity startup that simplifies cloud security for businesses, several times, helping them with specific projects. Global security company Kaspersky has done the same and we’ve helped Zetaris – a game changer that has completely flipped the world of data analytics on its head by providing a vastly simplified way for instantly connecting and analysing any data, everywhere  – helping them take their story across the country and internationally.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the world and placed businesses under immense strain. In March 2020, we looked at the world and thought this year would be extraordinarily challenging. And it has been. We’ve negotiated working completely remotely – we live about as far apart as you can while still living in metropolitan Melbourne – and expected our clients to pull back on their media relations and PR budgets. 

Instead, we experienced something different. The business community found new ways to innovate and adapt to this new normal. As the event industry was thrown into turmoil, as businesses had to shut their doors to customers, we found many companies pivoted to investing more in digital and PR to keep the lights on and keep their brands alive. We read a lot about ‘business disruption’ but the pandemic has delivered disruption at a pace and scale no one could have anticipated. Yet we’ve seen perseverance, optimism, creativity and resilience flourish. We’ve watched as people have rolled up their sleeves and found many new ways to work and tackle the challenges. 

Media-Wize is a Melbourne based business and it has been an incredibly tough period. In Victoria, we persevered through four months of the toughest lockdown rules of anywhere in the world. And, sadly many businesses have either closed down or significantly scaled back. But for those that found a way to survive and adapt there will be new opportunities. And we expect the Australian ‘never say die’ spirit to drive those whose businesses stopped operating through the lockdown to come back with new ideas and enterprises.

For me, COVID-19 has poised all sorts of challenges. Aside from the personal trials of separation from loved ones, limits on movements and the “Great Toilet Paper Shortage”, it’s been a time of learning and growth. I’ve become a little handier around the house while we’ve made a few changes to our home office arrangements and finished off a few home improvement projects.

As CEO of Media-Wize, I’ve had to learn a lot. Although I’ve worked in the media for over 15 years and lead teams as a manager, running Media-Wize is a new adventure. Understanding the complexities of PR – it’s really not just about pushing press releases around and making phone calls as some of my colleagues in the media would think – as well as ensuring we maintain a sound business and execute on our strategy and plans has kept me on my toes, constantly learning. 

So, while we are celebrating our second birthday at Media-Wize, we do so thinking about those whose businesses that have not made it through or who in the coming six months may not survive. We are extremely thankful that we’ve had great clients to work with, both on retainer and projects. We look ahead with optimism as the pandemic is brought under control and a vaccine is developed. And we look forward to celebrating our third birthday and many more.