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‘Clients still see media relations at the heart of PR’: Robyn Sefiani reflects on life after winning at CommsCon

After co-winning Mumbrella's CommsCon Award for Midsize PR Agency of the Year, Sefiani Communications' founder Robyn Sefiani reflects on challenges the agency has faced, embedding a sustainable culture and maintaining strong momentum.

What has been the biggest change for Sefiani Communications Group since co-winning Midsize PR Agency of the Year at Mumbrella’s CommsCon Awards in 2018?

The significant change for us this year was the smooth transition of Sefiani Communications Group (Sefiani and sister agency Kite) leadership. Justin Clark was appointed Managing Director on 1 July and after nearly 19 years at the helm, I moved to the new role of Chairman and Reputation Counsel to focus more on expanding our issues, crisis and reputation management practice.

Justin and our talented senior leadership team are doing a fabulous job as our next-generation leaders and it’s an exciting time for us and the agency’s development. We’ve just entered our twentieth year with vibrant and ambitious plans for continued growth and innovation.

How does Sefiani keep its momentum going to win more awards?

We’re an ambitious team, constantly motivated to be a market leader by up-skilling and investing in our people and continuously evolving our service offering to meet and anticipate market needs.
We enjoy each other’s company and genuinely like working together. Workplace wellbeing is important to us too, so we look out for each other.

Our business grew 30% in 2017 – so we consolidated this year embedding new clients and doing great work for current clients. We continually ask ourselves and each other: what can we do better, what can we do differently, who is doing the best work around the world and what can we learn from that, who inspires us?

Sefiani co-won Midsize PR Agency of the Year at Mumbrella’s CommsCon Awards in 2018

What are some of the biggest challenges Sefiani has faced over the past year?

We’re all doing more integrated work, yet many clients still see media relations at the heart of public relations programs. The shrinking pool of journalists and challenge for attention prompted one of our employees, Shane Allison, to ask for our support as he and a business partner developed an innovative technology platform, Public Address, to more effectively engage with journalists via a campaign management platform.

The other challenge for us and the industry a whole is the growing mismatch between job creation and available talent pool. Around 3,000 communications graduates enter the Australian job market each year but only a portion of those enter agency roles. Termination of the 457 visa program hasn’t helped as the flow of qualified professionals from the UK has dried up.

How has Sefiani kept its culture while growing at a rapid rate?

We encourage our people to express opinions, suggest ideas and give frank and fearless advice. They know if they make a mistake their colleagues will rally around to help fix it fast. What drives us is doing great work for clients and we love celebrating successes as a team.

Everyone at every level (and we operate a pretty flat structure) is trusted and empowered to work flexibly as needed on or offsite. Our people work hard and smart and most are out the door by 6pm. We believe in work life balance, making time to keep fit and have a social life, be present for family and friends and be curious and keep up with news and current affairs.

What importance does winning and entering awards have on the culture of an agency like Sefiani?

Winning awards tells us we’re on the right course as an agency and we’re up there with the best in the way we run our business, develop and grow our people and do outstanding work for clients. It motivates us to be at the forefront and keep our standards high.

There’s nothing like an award win to bring the team together to celebrate the success of an account team, individual or the agency. It’s especially good to celebrate award wins with clients too, especially after collaborating on high profile campaigns.

Awards help attract new clients and reaffirm to current clients they are with a strong agency. Awards also prompt direct approaches from high-calibre people wanting to join us. An impressive senior account manager from a global agency recently contacted us because she’d read about two of our award-winning programs that deeply interested her.

Looking to 2019, what are your goals?

2019 is our 20th year as a successful independent agency and we have ambitious plans for ourselves and our clients. Our team led by Justin Clark will build on our strong track record of growth and great work, while introducing new ideas for service diversification and further integration. My personal goal is to work closely with Sefiani’s crisis and reputation management specialists to build the market-leading reputation management practice in Australia.

We’ll continue to do intellectually stimulating work to help clients solve business challenges and move the needle even further in our creative thinking to help clients seize opportunities.

Our investment in technology will continue for enhanced social listening capability, crisis management and journalist engagement.

We’ll continue to give back, supporting causes we care about. One of these is the Pancreatic Cancer Foundation which is seeking to raise awareness and research funding support from the federal
government to help fight Australia’s second biggest cancer killer. And we’ll continue to invest in the professional development of our people, our biggest asset.

The first entry deadline for CommsCon Awards 2019 is Friday December 21

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