In Wellington, New Zealand, success arises through partnering

"The economy is pretty strong, especially the creative, digital, and education sectors"

In Wellington, New Zealand, success arises through partnering

What distinguishes PR in Wellington?
It has a strong focus on communities and stakeholders and a genuine interest in two-way engagement.

From an international perspective, this market is small. You couldn’t survive if you were a massive shop trying to cover everything. They talk about six degrees of separation - in New Zealand it’s two or three degrees. That allows you to be efficient and innovative, but there’s a higher degree of scrutiny because everyone knows somebody. There’s no way to hide in Wellington.

Why couldn’t a massive shop survive in Wellington?
Small and dynamic businesses function well here. You scale by partnering.

Because of the nature of briefs, you partner up and bring in different skills to be effective. We often work with engineers, lawyers, investment bankers, and change management consultancies - that’s how we form effective teams.

You grow different relationships through clients helping you put them together or building a consortium to go after a piece of business. Clients increasingly want one combined team rather than a bunch of different organizations.

Best and worst things about living in Wellington?
The worst thing is the weather. It’s changeable because we live at the bottom of the small island facing down toward Antarctica. But you can’t beat Wellington on a good day. It’s a vibrant, exciting city with fantastic craft beer, food, and environment. It’s compact, easy to get around, and easy to do business. It’s highly networked too.

How demanding is PR in Wellington?
There’s a lot of competition from other consultancies or sole practitioners. The biggest change in our business has been the move from traditional full-service with a concentration on implementation to senior counsel issues management, because a lot of clients don’t have large in-house teams. They’re looking for different things than 10 years ago.

What are the biggest industries in Wellington?
The economy is pretty strong, especially the creative, digital, and education sectors. We’ve got some cool ICT companies that started here and went global, such as Zero. Then there’s the film industry, which includes Weta Digital and its sister company, Park Road Post. We have a strong gaming development scene as well.

The economy isn’t volatile, largely because we’re the capital city, which gives us a good base. The dollar has come down a bit, but generally the economy is in good shape.

Is there a lot of government and public affairs work?
We work with the public sector on a range of programs, but there’s also work with the private sector supporting public engagement, and interfacing with the government for international businesses looking to invest, its ongoing frontline service efficiency program, and change communications with government divisions.

Advisory consulting has continued to grow, particularly reputational risk management and profiling. Behavior change work has also grown substantially in government and corporate sectors.

Organizations are interested in community engagement and that plays out on social and digital, but also learning how they operate and listening to their needs and wants.

What advice would you give someone moving to work in communications in Wellington?
Do it. And don’t underestimate the two degrees of separation. Make contacts. Be prepared to drink a lot of coffee. Many people from the Northern Hemisphere come to work here, particularly from our Australian office. It constantly surprises people how strategic and leading-edge some work is.

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The Public Relations Institute of New Zealand 64-9-358-9808
69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland

International Association of Business Communicators Wellington
IABC Wellington, PO Box 25417, Featherston Street, Wellington 6011 +1 415 544 4700

Network of Public Sector Communicators

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