Tania Bawden is a journalist-media adviser in the Office of Communication and Engagement at Flinders University, where she writes media releases about exceptional research work, scientific papers and other highlights and special events at Flinders. Read more about her role and her previous experience in newsrooms …
What tasks make up most of your day-to-day role at Flinders University?
Identifying research news and contacting scientists to explain (and simplify) their work is closely followed by other writing duties, including daily web blogs and internal communications. Regular emails to journalists and prompt responses to media enquiries are required on a wide range of news and research issues and topics. New pictorial and audio content for the website and special publications are also required on a regular basis.
our communications require a fair share of formality but
still need to be fun and engaging to encourage media coverage
How does ‘higher education PR’ differ from corporate PR/promotions?
I’d say that higher education ‘PR’ is a cross between corporate and government PR/promotions. Funded largely by the Australian Government, universities have a wide range of stakeholders and partners – not least our student community. Therefore, our communications require a fair share of formality but still need to be fun and engaging to encourage media coverage – and ‘approval’ by our government and community stakeholders including students and their parents. Reputational management and image-building is key to our University’s success.
You were with News Ltd for 17 years. Is there anything you miss about working in a newsroom?
It all began back in high school when I was a ‘copyboy’ at the original Murdoch papers, The News and Sunday Mail. The bustle of hot-metal printing presses and a crowded, smoky (no cigarette bans then) newsroom included incessant noise from telex machines, old-style typewriters and yelling subeditors. With printers’ ink ‘in my veins’, I had plenty of job opportunities in country media and the ABC, as well as various media outlets in London and Europe in the 1980s and 1990s before returning to The Advertiser. Since becoming tabloid under News Ltd ownership, there have been myriad changes at the Adelaide paper. Staff numbers have dropped as technology and advertising trends change by the minute, making newsrooms still exciting but very different places in the 21st century.
Tell us about PRIA SA and your role.
I joined the SA council of PRIA last year, to help with the 60th anniversary of the organisation in South Australia. The monthly meetings and special events have been a professional development opportunity and chance to catch up with old buddies and colleagues from the media and other PR and communications roles I’ve had in government and non-government organisations. It also has been a delight to see some graduates and new PR practitioners step in to the PRIA local branch to expand their horizons.
It’s increasingly hard to avoid the Australian
average of two hours on social media
How do you keep up with media outlets and opportunities – tell us about your media consumption habits.
It’s increasingly hard to avoid the Australian average of two hours on social media, including on weekends when it seems easier to reach for the iPad then head for the deli for a copy of The Weekend Australian or weekend AFR. Nonetheless, I still enjoy catching up with the daily print media, some magazines and journals and our evening local news bulletins and also follow more specialist websites, e-newsletters and blogs covering current affairs and the higher education sector.
What advice would you give a third-year university student who’s keen to work in PR?
With an increasingly tricky job market, the more practical experience you have with multiple technologies, social media platforms and video the better you’ll look. Of course work experience always works a treat, even if you volunteer to flick out marketing and promos for your casual job or parents’ business. These days, your own website seems the norm too. Always keep your ear to the ground and chase the PR firm or industry you’re most passionate about. This will always shine through in your internship, job application, interview and employment to follow.
Time for a fun question: what’s been your best-ever Mother’s Day?
As my three kids grow up and leave home, I most fondly remember receiving their cute preschool and primary school art and craft presents – some of which are gathering dust in the shed. Going even further back, the best-ever Mother’s Day was enjoyed with both my mother, grandma and nana when they were alive.