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Jenny Hassam: more than rhetoric

Jenny Hassam

Jenny Hassam has a background in strategic marketing, communications and PR built in London, Europe, US and Australian markets. She now runs award-winning agency Rhetoric PR which builds profile, credibility and web traffic, with clients including Bow Wow Meow insurance, Pregnancy, Baby and Children’s Expo and Kitchen Warehouse. Jenny generously shared her background and career insights with us …

You’ve studied and worked in England – were you born there?
Yes, I was born in lovely South London and lived 31 years over there. After I got married to an Adelaide boy in Surrey, I applied for a spousal visa, got it back within two weeks and hopped on a plane three months pregnant with just the rucksacks on our backs! People often ask if I’ll move back and I always say I’ll never rule out the possibility as I love England and miss it, and my family and friends a lot.

The reason I moved to Adelaide was because of my hubby Nick! He did a nine-year sales job on me about beaches, fresh food, fishing, wine areas, so we decided to give it a go. I met Nick when I was 23 years old backpacking across Asia for nine months. We met on some dodgy boat heading towards Ko Phangan for a full moon party. He was traveling to the UK to work and I was traveling to Australia to work, and the rest is history!

Your qualifications include a marketing diploma. What does that bring to your PR practice?
My original qualification was a science degree. My first proper job after I came back from travelling was at a publishing house which produced transport and urban environmental titles. I worked my way up as to being a Conference Producer and as part of that role I needed to market each conference and wanted to study marketing so I could do the best job possible. Also, my Dad was a Marketing Manager for a software company and worked for Apple in the eighties and my grandad ran an Advertising Agency in South London, so I think it might be in my blood a little, and I wanted to find out more!

The qualification gave me the confidence and grounding to understand the basic principles behind marketing strategy and implementation on which I lay the foundations of PR strategy and implementation now.  However, I’ve found just doing the job has been the best way of learning the world of PR!

Can you tell us about a campaign you’ve enjoyed working on?
We worked with a great startup a year ago which was about to launch a new website offering medical certificates (sicknotes) online for $19.99!

The owner was super-chilled, trusted our advice, had the ethos of ‘all publicity is good publicity’ and understood that this was quite a controversial idea and one that might get a bit of backlash.

The concept was at the beginning stages, so the first couple of months we spent project managing web build, creating branding, messaging and copy for the website and setting up their social media channels.

When it came to the launch date we sent a media release and pitches out nationally to media contacts spanning mainly consumer, including TV, radio, online and print. The first media outlets that picked it up and ran the story were Mashable and Business Insider – viral websites with millions of monthly followers. Once it had hit the viral websites everyone started paying attention and social media started lighting up. In WA a national medical association started criticising the idea, which added fuel to the fire, and we started getting requests from radio and TV. It was crazy and lots of fun. The CEO of the company was brilliant at media interviews, although he was a GP and completely new to PR, and we then hit front page of news.com.au. All in all we worked with the client for six months gaining 23 media hits including Channel 9, Channel 10, Australian Financial Review and Australian Women’s Weekly.

It was a great story, with an inspiring leader who wanted to disrupt an outdated sector and using tech to make people’s lives better in a fun and interesting way – our ideal client.

We’re working with them again this year!

Rhetoric PR does great work finding media exposure for clients. How do you keep up with media outlets and opportunities – tell us about your media consumption habits.
I’m a 38 year old mum of three running a busy PR Agency so if I’m consuming news it will come via my social feeds, particularly Facebook. The news outlets I mainly follow are The Advertiser, Mamamia, The Advertiser Business and the Australian Financial Review. I also consume far too many articles on how to be a better parent…part of my loves the irony of reading an article on being a great parent while your kids tear up your house haha!

I like to spend time in professional groups on Facebook particularly a US PR Group and women’s entrepreneur groups in Australia, mostly which I’ve paid to join.

Then if I’m out running or driving (when I don’t have kids in the car) I love listening to podcasts. I try not to listen to Adelaide radio is I find it too male-centric. My favourite podcasts at the moment are Forbes Mentoring Moments, Dent Podcast with Glen Carlson, Perpetual Traffic, Foundr and Mamamia’s podcasts. I’m also planning to download Audible so I can start consuming books while I’m on the move too.

Jenny Hassam

Jenny Hassam

With regards to keeping up to date, our jobs at Rhetoric keep us up to date on a daily basis. We’re constantly talking to our contacts, finding out who to talk to about what, doing research, building rapport….and we subscribe to Medianet too, which helps!

When a client comes to you with a media idea that isn’t “news” … what do you do?
I have to say I’m not your typical PR. I’m very positive and always give things a crack. What I’ll do though, if I really don’t think its newsworthy, is try and create something out of it that is. So reposition it to a specific target market, rewrite the copy, change the messaging, suggest another idea or try and ‘hook’ it around a media holiday/special day in the year that might give it more legs than they’re terrible idea in the first place. I suppose that’s why I love my job so much, it’s second nature for me now to see something that might not be awe-inspiring and tweak, change and manoeuvre it to create something that someone will love!

Saying that, my clients are all pretty good and will take my advice and not hound me with irrelevant ideas. Most of our clients haven’t done PR before so they’re not constantly giving us terrible ideas, and, as I say to my clients, give us as much information and content as you can, then we can syphon off and create content we deem newsworthy for relevant audiences.

Time for a fun question: what bands did you love when you were a teenager?
I was an indie kid in the nineties, which in the UK meant I liked guitar music, wore Converse trainers, played my Dad’s guitar and went to a lot of live gigs in Brixton. So, I liked Echobelly, Ash, Radiohead, Coldplay, Pulp, Blur, Oasis, Elastica, Hole, Green Day and Mazzy Star. My favourite song from that era is Karma Police by Radiohead.