Navigating COVID-19 with Timothy Weller, Associate Director ANZ at Telum Media

June 11, 2020

Telum Media’s Timothy Weller explains how the PR, Media and Communications industry sector is working through COVID-19.

Since the beginning of March, Australia, alongside the rest of the world, has been dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. All businesses, industries and functions, including those in Sales, Marketing & Communications have been learning to deal with a new way of working.

The PR, media and communications industry sector entered 2020 full steam ahead. However, the economic effects of the coronavirus on corporates and agencies means, that whilst there was an increased need for good communications, the supply for the requirements were challenged.

As part of our new interview series “Sales, Marketing & Communications Industry Insights”, the team at Carter Murray spoke with some of our valued clients, speaking about current challenges and opportunities facing each industry sector during this unprecedented economic environment.

We look back over the last 6 weeks with insight from senior Sales, Marketing & Communications professionals about how they have been navigating the challenges during COVID-19 and the impact this has had on their businesses and their teams.

Stephen Key, Consultant at Carter Murray spoke with Timothy Weller, Associate Director Australia and New Zealand at Telum Media, an Asia-Pacific media relations platform connecting media and communications professionals.

Timothy Weller
Associate Director
Australia & New Zealand
Telum Media

1. What are the biggest challenges currently facing your industry sector? PR, media and communications are all industry sectors which Telum Media supports, and we are more fortunate than most as a lot can be done remotely behind a laptop and on the phone as we have been forced into over the last few months during the COVID-19 crisis. Digital disruption has been taking place for some time challenging the traditional models of business in media and PR, with new models and platforms bringing with them new challenges such as fresh skillsets to learn and the seemingly impossible task to build and maintain relationships with rapidly-changing journalists while still doing value add client work. With Telum Media being the leading media intelligence platform across Australia, New Zealand and the wider Asia-Pacific region, we help PRs and journalists to connect and to engage through up-to-date contacts, story and commentary requests, in-depth latest news and moves, and in-depth interviews with senior media editors and PR practitioners. Our role is to be up to date with the latest information on any media changes, which is more important and challenging than ever during such a time of change as we are seeing now.

2. How has your business been able to adapt to the new landscape we are currently operating in? We are technology business and we have in-market teams distributed across ANZ and the Asia Pacific region who talk to journalists and PRs every day, so supporting our clients virtually has been a pretty smooth transition. We do miss the face-to-face meetings and coffees to build personal relationships and understand better what a client or prospect is wanting to achieve with their business communications objectives, but the shift to video calls, webinars and email messaging as the contact channels is still very manageable.

3. How do you see behaviours changing as we move from an ‘in-person’ or ‘on-location’ to an online interactive with clients and customers? We are constantly trying to remain engaged with clients, so when everyone is stuck at home on back-to-back video calls, we have seen a lot of people actually taking the time to chat and that has enabled us to dig a bit deeper on their needs, pain-points, and really see how we can help them. Being deliverables-based is always the best policy for employers and employees alike, so as long as our team are able to work comfortably and efficiently from their own homes and clients remain the top priority, the interactions are for the most part, business as usual as much as possible. We are also known for our networking and “meet the media” events but we have been successful in shifting those into new formats like video interviews and webinars, which were already planning to do.

4. How has your daily routine changed since working remotely? My fitness has improved believe it or not. Utilising the time saved during COVID-19 lockdown on my morning commute across to the Sydney city on the ferry from my place in the Northern Beaches has been well-spent doing cardio exercise each and every morning after a coffee. It’s much easier to stick to than attempting to gym after a hard day’s work. Besides that (like everyone on the planet) we are practically living on video calls. From our 15min stand-up every morning, to pitches and client meetings, we are continuing to be visible as we can both internally with our colleagues and with prospects/clients. At the end of each day we also provide a brief round-up across the Telum global team for how we are progressing, so as always, communication is key across the board.

5. How do you feel the new working conditions caused by COVID-19 will impact future company policies on staff working from home? I feel that there has now been a standard set whereby globally there are entire sectors that have proven the work-from-home model can work and work well. Obviously, there is a benefit for teams and management to be face-to-face when sharing cross-practice ideas, team meetings, and other aspects, but I think some kind of flexibility will be here to stay.

6. Have you continued hiring new roles? If so, what types of roles are deemed business critical in your organisation? Coming in to what will be our sixth year in Australia, Telum Media is rapidly growing across all areas of the business in client management, customer service, and sales, so the challenge is having the confidence to hire having never physically met a new recruit so we can continue to support our media and communications clients. From the country data teams needing to keep updated on all the latest journalist moves and continue to build out the quality of our media intel, to BD’s needing to understand the product inside and out in order to present effectively to prospects, the training and onboarding we have is quite intensive so a combination of face-to-face and online training is far more preferable than purely online. Having placed a hold during the worst of the crisis, we will definitely start opening the doors and taking resumes again sooner rather than later in order to hit the ground running when we come out the other end.

7. What are the most difficult areas of your business to recruit for? And, once the pandemic is over how will this affect your business? The cross combination of having (some) technical skills and attention to detail in order to be work within an intelligence platform, coupled with the networking skills and interest in media and PR needed to service our clients, is quite a tricky mix to find. Having experience within either sector is a definite plus to give an understanding on how journalists and PR’s work together but having the core fundamentals on how to attract new business and build or manage your client base is also important. Coming out of COVID-19, there will be the biggest global PR campaign imaginable as businesses globally will be attempting to get back to normal (and will need to communicate that they are doing so), I would foresee a large push in a variety of sectors needing to engage with media. Watch this space.

8. We welcome further observations on how you, your organisation or your industry sector is adapting to the Covid-19 crisis. Moving to online has been a forced shift across the media industry, with unfortunate closures, or changes to publishing models. At the same time the public is turning to trusted media outlets for information they can trust. Telum’s mission to help organisations and journalists to engage better, in more targeted ways, will only become more important and we just need to make sure that we are helping both sets of stakeholders connect as efficiently and effectively as possible.

For more information about recruitment for Sales, Marketing & Communications professionals in Australia during Covid-19, please contact Stephen Key, or one of the Carter Murray Australia team.