Well, I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar… Well almost. I was working in a bottle shop in Double Bay after leaving five years of journo- ing at News Limited, two years of bumming around Europe and two years learning about wine and “marketing” at Roseworthy College (in South Australia) and, seriously, the phone rang and a recruiter asked for me. We had a meeting and he asked if I wanted to apply for a job as a PR manager at Mildara Blass wines. It was either that role, with its company car and lavish expense account based in gorgeous Albert Park, or keep delivering cheap brandy to the matrons of Sydney’s eastern suburbs. They missed me. Not entirely reciprocated.
What was your big break?
I think that constitutes a big break don’t you reckon? That and meeting Angie Bradbury while doing my Masters of Marketing at Melbourne Business School – she became my founding partner at Liquid Ideas. She also let me copy her notes when I’d fallen asleep drunk in lectures.
What changed after your break?
Everything. Better shoes, more success with the ladies, a nice car (which I crashed within a month), less evil looks from my parents. I could afford to buy a dodgy apartment in St Kilda with a transvestite called Ken on the corner… All sorts of good things. Oh, and I changed. A lot. Hopefully for the better. A good job does an awful lot for your self-esteem. I was a complete prick working in that bottle shop.
What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Everything. I thought I knew everything when I was 28 and realise that really I knew nothing (well, marginally more than nothing). I do however look at my former self and am impressed by my gumption/stupidity/over-confidence at creating my own business (in early 2000). I promptly failed to arrive for the first day of Liquid Ideas as a result of a heavy Chemical Brothers concert the Sunday night preceding, but hey, that’s another story.
Is it harder or easier for people to break into the industry today?
Look, to be honest, it’s no easier or more difficult. Hard work, a proper bloody work ethic, an understanding of new media, a willingness to do a LOT of crappy jobs in your first few years and a passion – a voracious passion – to learn more about EVERY thing EVERY day will lead you on the path to success. There are no shortcuts.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Knock yourself out. Not literally, figuratively. There’s a mountain of opportunity in public relations, or public engagement as some people are calling it now – we are hardwired to understand the nuance of relationships, persuasion and conversation which are the key pillars to success, whether via new or old media. And do some marketing subjects at university. If you intend to be in brand-focused public relations you need to know stuff about marketing – if only to understand what the brand manager is talking about.
Stuart Gregor is the founder and creative director of PR agency Liquid Ideas.
This feature first appeared in the tablet edition of Encore. To download click on the links below.