1. As a journalist for half of your career and a communications professional for the other half, how are you feeling about both of those industries at the moment?
It’s not just a lot of my friends and former colleagues in the media and in communications who are doing it tough right now, but also most of the employers and clients I have worked for. There is a world of professional pain out there at present. I am fortunate to have worked full-time since I was 17 so my wife and I can cope financially with the first quiet period of my career. It is why I have reached out to so many people in the past six weeks to see if they are okay.
2. What has the feedback been from those who are now relying on Jobseeker or JobKeeper through no real fault of their own?
A lot of them are feeling pretty bereft: Highly-skilled professionals who are no longer spending over half of their waking hours working. It is a big change and challenge mentally. When I did the third level of my Cricket Australia coaching accreditation, sports psychologist Dr Peter Kremer told us the most important thing we can do is to ‘focus on the things we can control’. That advice is absolute gold right now because there are so many things happening that we have no control over. My wife is tired of overhearing me telling friends and former colleagues to focus on the things they can control but, luckily for them, they are only hearing me say it once
3. What are you doing to cope?
My typical week through the summer for the past decade has been work on weekdays, cricket training on three evenings, playing cricket on Saturday and Sunday, and regularly going to cafés, restaurants or the theatre. My winters for the past three years have been five days of work, Saturdays playing winter cricket, and going to watch Melbourne Storm and Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park and Hawthorn at the MCG. So, absolutely everything has changed for me.
I am now cycling, hiking, playing golf and tennis, buying takeaway coffee, subscribing to three daily newspapers and writing an illustrated biography of four-time British Prime Minister William Gladstone. I’m staying active, both physically and mentally, so I’m in a great space when my next contract lands. I am getting a bit bored with golf though, so I’m now regularly playing nine instead of 18 holes.
4. You mentioned that many of your past employers are struggling at present? Of them, who is doing it toughest, and who has been unaffected?
What can I say?: Universities need overseas students, tourism needs international visitors, public transport needs commuters, theatres need full houses, charities need donors with disposable income, professional sports clubs need crowds, and newspapers need advertising. They are all hurting. It is only two of my past UK employers, EE Mobile and price-comparison site Moneysupermarket.com, who are continuing to thrive.
5. You spent a decade working in the UK. Is there a business niche there that you wish was also available in Australia?
While I was in the UK, I insured my car annually on 10 occasions. The whole process took less than 10 minutes and I got back quotes from more than 100 car insurers, from the cheapest to most expensive. This is a real price-comparison site, with consumers answering one set of questions and getting quotes from all of the market. Here, if I wished to get car insurance prices from 50 insurers, the process would take about eight hours.
If iSelect or comparethemarket.com.au wish to become proper price-comparison sites, rather than a pale imitation of one, they need to get every car insurer onto their website. Insurers in the UK save a fortune on advertising because they can rely on getting their business through price-comparison sites. They can also attract particular types of drivers, vehicle models and locations by producing competitive prices specific to them. It is an absolute no-brainer and, for the record, the insurance on my Nissan Juke expires in February.
6. What is your message to those in the communications profession that you haven’t reached out to yet?
Today’s situation won’t be the reality forever. You are still the same great person if you aren’t working at the moment.
Successful communicators are excellent at maintaining a positive outward appearance during times of crisis. While this is a tremendous skill to have professionally, it might not be so good personally. If cycling, hiking, golf, tennis, café lattes, binge-watching ‘Morning Wars’ on Apple TV and every other possible activity has no appeal to you during this hiatus, then please reach out to someone that you can confide in. We are all in this together and there will eventually be a much rosier future.
One positive is that a key quality every communicator needs is empathy, and this experience should enhance that quality for us. We are also, thankfully, unlikely to ever see again the selfish ‘superhero’ turning up to the office with a dose of the flu.
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