Thank you all for a wonderful four years at PRIA

Thu, May 19 2016

Well. What can I say? It comes with great sadness that I am announcing to you today that I will be leaving my post at the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

This is my thank you to those for helping me during my time at this 67 year old organisation.

After almost four years working for PRIA in various positions and locations, the time has come to pass the baton on to the next wave of warriors to carry the flag forward. 

This was a really difficult decision for me as most people who know me well understand that I have lived and breathed PRIA for almost my entire time here. The news comes after confirming a fantastic next step for me in my professional career with CBS Interactive, as a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Asia Pacific. Whilst I am very excited/scared about my new role, it does come with great sadness as PRIA has meant so much to me over the past four years.

For those that don't know or for those unaware of my self-proclaiming nature, I highlighted my Australian professional journey recently in a LinkedIn post. The article arose after speaking to one of my nearest and dearest colleagues, Jack and Rosie Walden, as part of their #commscorner feature. Jack was my first mentor here in Australia and I owe a lot to him for his local expertise when it came to grammar and prose. I met so many great characters (Christopher Shields, Jackie Frank, Julia Page, Sally Stewart, Helen Steel, I mean the list just goes on) while Jack was PRIA Victorian President and he really helped make Melbourne a home-from-home for me.  

(Jack Walden and I pictured at the 2013 PRIA Victorian Golden Target Awards)

It all started one rainy afternoon in Melbourne. I had been on the search for a permanent move at the time and had only finished a fixed term contact with Oxfam (which I adored - see glowing anecdotes in the aforementioned LinkedIn post).  That day was the pinnacle moment for me as the call notification of an interview with PRIA, to meet with the then National Marketing and Events Manager, Kate Johns, who now successfully runs her own agency out of South Yarra, Sidekick Communications. Hours before that call, I was contemplating spending three months in Cowra picking lettuce heads for my second year visa - my dad had a real giggle at that one. I think his words were, "Three months on a farm with your hands?" Thank you Kate for taking a chance on me.

(Taken at one of my favourite PRIA events last year, our first Vivid Ideas Exchange at the MCA in Sydney)

I started in the role of events and communications executive based in Jack's office on Flinders Lane with my portfolio including the management of PRIA's Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian activities. PRIA opened so many doors for me as a foreign professional and allowed me visit these beautiful states.  A big thanks to the PRIA SA, VIC and TAS Councils, especially Jeffrey Naqvi and Leigh McClusky (both South Australia) for this leadership on the council respectively, Jack Walden (Victoria), and Jacquie Ray and Tony Harrison (both Tasmania) for their support in reinstating the PRIA Tasmania Council, which as of today, hosted an 80 person media event in Hobart - amazing. 

(Shot taken from the 2012 World PR Forum in Melbourne)

A major highlight for me working in this role was the 2012 World PR Forum in Melbourne. This global forum saw over 1,000 delegates travel to sunny Melbourne to hear the ‘latest and greatest’ PR and Communication minds, most notably, Richard Edelman, who streamed in live 'Big Brother' style to the main plenary session. The following year, I had the pleasure of managing the 2013 PRIA National Conference in Adelaide. We had some major wins with having the South Australian Tourism Commission take us on their ‘Be consumed’ journey at the pre-conference masterclass, facilitated by the swashbuckling Steve and Cindy Crescenzo from the U.S., talking ‘Content is King’ and the conference itself was also a real hit. Adelaide welcomed almost 275 communicators in what was one of PRIA’s most popular three-day conferences and special thanks to Leigh McClusky for the Haigh’s chocolate bunnies. Finally, Melbourne had one other big one under its sleeve, the 2013 Women in PR Forum. I got to work with Jackie Frank, from Marie Claire, as well as big brands like ANZ and Qantas who kindly supported the 300-person event. ‘What women need to lead’ was a poignant theme at the time but I think you will all agree, it could not be any more relevant that it is today.


(The PRIA Victorian team pictured with Christopher Shields and the ANZ team at the 2013 Women in PR Forum at the MCEC)

The next major move was a humbling one for me, an opportunity to join the PRIA national office in Sydney as the National Marketing and Communication Manager. I will never forget when Catriona Barry called me around Christmas time 2013 to inform me of the offer. To say I was over the moon would be an understatement. Of course, my partner Su was delighted; being a Brisbane girl, the move to Sydney was a welcomed one for her with the change of weather. To have the responsibility of a national role, managing a 65 year old (at the time) brand was very exciting. Starting in February 2014, we had an EGM in the first week of my arrival and we had some amazing board members finish long terms at the time; James Wright and Tracy Jones to name a few. 

As 2014 kicked on, we were able to stabilise membership figures and implement a member level called PRelationships, which helped engage university students, Registered Consultancy Group staff members as well as those on the periphery of the industry; journalists, creatives, marketers and on. The year rounded off with another fantastic national conference, this time in Brisbane. The local council, led by Marie Howarth, were a great driving force behind its success. Even though Su tells me that it’s not right to like the local lagoon in the city, I thought it was one of the best things I’ve ever heard of  – Brisbane, you rock. Last year, we had a few brilliant days in Hobart. It was great to have the support of Jacquie Ray, all the PRIA Tasmanian Council, and getting to work with my idol, Michael Rowland.  

I must also make note of the Golden Target Awards. This year will be its 40th iteration here in Australia and it’s such an amazing project to work on. The blood, sweat and tears that go into it each year is just phenomenal. From the 200 or so entries that enter, the few finalists that win at the nationals, the 70+ volunteer judges that participate, the executive committee, national judges, state finals, national finals and everything that goes on in between, there simply is no other awards like it here on these shores.  It’s not just commercial gain here but an end goal to promote the best of the best work from the industry in the given year, adjudicated by those who have been in the industry for their entire careers. It saddens me that I will no longer be part of the management team for this project. Although, I may become an entrant for this year, that would be a nice way to round off my time at PRIA.  

(PRIA team snapped at the 2015 Golden Target Awards National Finals in Hobart, Tasmania)

Outside of the aforementioned projects, for your ease, here are some of my most memorable projects:

  • Being part of PRIA's management team for national conferences in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart
  • Building and growing our social media influence. In 2015, PRIA was voted the 92nd most influential PR brand globally on Twitter by Onalytica (online analyst organisation)
  • Forming strong relationships with the media and industry publications like B&T, Mumbrella, Influencing, Telum Media, AdNews and the main papers
  • Launching the industry first jobs board, PR Central, which is getting over 16,000 job views
  • Introducing ‘PR Insights’ our refreshed monthly newsletter with a Cosmopolitan magazine look and feel – increasing our open rates
  • Introduced systems and integrity to our data collection and giving members the choice to pick what emails they want to get from PRIA
  • Relaunching the Mentoring Program with the New Emerging Practitioners Groups in New South Wales
  • Hosting countless webinars with industry experts like Carol Moore, Cecelia Haddad and Kimberley Lee to name but a few – I do apologise for the accent during these
  • The taking over of the PRINKS brand, which now has 70 professionals  on average gathering every month or so over a few casual drinks – it’s all about the connections
  • Increasing the entries to the GTAs year-on-year. It’s not to say we ‘started from the bottom now we’re here’, quite the opposite, but to be a custodian over these awards was a real honour. Special thanks to Kieran Moore, Allison Lee, Grant Smith and Angela Coombes (all previous GTA chairs) and Jason Gemenis (our master behind the designed branding)
  • Being featured on Piktochart’s #userstory for sharing PRIA’s brand and heritage in a digital age
  • Most recently supporting the transitional to a new website in the future, this was always my number one goal in this role. I understand the member experience is so important for an industry body and although it hasn’t been fully implemented in my time, I can take solace in knowing that the wheels are in motion.

This most certainly is not the end of my PRIA journey, merely the next phase. I shall remain a loyal member and no doubt will be involved in some volunteer capacity over the coming months and years. It has been a roller coaster but one I would not change for the world. PRIA gave me the opportunity to stay in this amazing country and meet all the fabulous people from across the PR and Communication industry.  

(At last year's Mentor Program launch at APM College, Sydney)

I will miss the small team here terribly and my last day will be Monday, 23 May 2016. PRIA are currently advertising for my replacement effective immediately and if you know anyone interested, as them to email their resume

This has been a very emotional piece for me. I just wanted to thank you all - many I have not named as the list would just be endless. I encourage you all to stay involved in your industry body and I feel proud to be leaving the Institute in the stewardship of Jenny Muir, our current national president, the current board and of course our fantastic staff; Johnathon, Ashleigh, Sarah, Selina and Helen.

You can still get me on 0452 460 933 and my personal email (don’t laugh) is Catch me on social via Twitter: @neilosul Instagram: @neilosul LinkedIn: neilosullivan

(Darkness Into Light Sydney, taken from 7 May this year at Bondi Beach)

In my spare time I also volunteer on three not-for-profit organisations; The Light Ball Sydney (a charity ball held to raise funds and awareness for mental health - beyondblue), Darkness Into Light Sydney (a global fundraising walk that raises awareness and funds for mental health, which only took place last weekend raising $50,000 here in Sydney alone - batyr), and Eyes4Everest (a group of optometrists that travel to Nepal each year to support local natives with better eye care).

For soccer fans, I play with Dunbar Rovers in the NPL3 NSW league. Follow the team here if you wish!

Last but not least, in my other spare time (don’t start), I am close to launching two new start-ups, Nimbus&Co (an infrared sauna space in Bondi to unwind and detox – launching mid-July) and 7-day meal plans (an online meal plan PDF that can suit your dietary needs for just $14.95) with my partner Suzanne. Be sure to follow both on Instagram and please support both if you can when they launch!

That’s it for now but I am sure we will meet at some point over the coming weeks and months.


Author: Neil O'Sullivan, National Marketing and Communication Manager (for three more days), Public Relations Institute of Australia. 

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