PR Pros: Tony Nicholls of Good Talent Media On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro
A focus on helping clients — We’ve sold media training for a long time, it’s very competitive and it’s a bit of an older product now. I was the first person in Australia to offer all media training clients 12 months ongoing support as part of their media training packages for free.
Have you seen the show Flack? Ever think of pursuing a real-life career in PR? What does it take to succeed in PR? What are the different forms of Public Relations? Do you have to have a college degree in PR? How can you create a highly lucrative career in PR? In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” we are talking to successful publicists and Public Relations pros, who can share stories and insights from their experiences.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tony Nicholls.
Founder and Director of Good Talent Media, Tony Nicholls, is an accomplished journalist with more than ten years’ experience with the ABC, SBS and Network Ten; covering thousands of news stories across Victoria, Australia, and the international media.
Tony has seen the rise of digital media transform communication and the news cycle forever; making new demands of journalists, politicians, and media spokespeople.
Riding the wave of change, Tony understands old-fashioned news values as well as what drives the new digital media landscape.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was a working television journalist and that was a boyhood dream of mine to work in broadcast media. I started in radio and I thought, ‘Wow, this is incredible.’ So got my voice all over the news, then TV quickly reached out to me. Suddenly, I’m doing television. Wow, this is even bigger and better than I’ve ever dreamt.
What I’ve noticed about myself was when it came to interviewing the talent, I was always trying to get the best grabs out of them, always trying to get the best soundbites out of them. Now to do that as a journo, it took a lot of effort because most interviewees are rubbish. Most interviewees don’t know their stories. They don’t understand how to sound bite for the media. So, what I noticed in myself was I was very good at getting the grabs out of out of interviewees, out of the talent. I was very good at taking nervous people and turning them into really good talent, which made me look good.
My packages looked really hot because the interviewees were performing really well. So, it dawned on me, and as I was looking around the press pack in other colleagues, I noticed as they were rushing through things they were more taking from interviewees opposed to helping interviewees tell their stories and get their messages across.
I’m more of a relationship person, so I was a bit on the softer side, and I didn’t really fit in journalism in a way, in that I was trying to get the best out of people all of the time.
So, my transition into media consultancy was really easy because it was just me helping people become good talent. So that was the birth of Good Talent Media. Sitting in the ABC Southbank newsroom thinking, ‘Well, what are the next steps for me? How can I be a better dad, and be home a bit more?’ So, I thought, ‘Well, I can take these skills I’ve got and create the next generation of good talent’, and we’ve been doing that ever since here at Good Talent Media.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
A carefully managed PR partnership between Jesuit Social Services and Good Talent Media resulted in significant media coverage on the very day all eyes were on Prince Harry and Meghan’s baby bump.
‘The Man Box’, a Jesuit Social Services (JSS) report on being a young man in Australia, was released on the very same day Meghan and Harry, who now live in LA of course, flew into Melbourne.
Despite the royal hysteria, the report and its findings soared in the press. The story was spun through the daily news cycle via ABC News 24, ABC TV, ABC radio, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Guardian Australia, Triple M, SEN, The Conversation, Buzzfeed and more.
So how did JSS successfully ‘Harry-proof’ their story, and secure national media in the midst of a Royal visit?
They found a print media ally.
One of the best ways to ensure press for your client is to find a major print partner. Media consume media. And media read what’s in print every day, often ripping it or pursuing it for their own platforms. Despite what you might think, the print business is still a very influential content model which often sets the day’s news agenda.
In this case, we offered Fairfax (the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age) an exclusive print story and helped them prepackage it. The story came together seamlessly, and it was ready two weeks before the official JSS launch date — a date that we didn’t realise at the time had a royal insignia.
JSS were reassured by the fact that their story was ‘locked away.’ Fairfax were satisfied they had a strong story. GTM knew that their story was in good hands.
We chose to work with Fairfax because they have a history of solid, equitable and fair reporting on topics like this.
Strategically, we knew partnering with Fairfax would result in good print and online coverage in Melbourne and Sydney.
They found a partner for radio and TV
One text message to ABC secured radio and TV coverage.
In the ‘text’ pitch, GTM offered up a great national news story with great visuals, strong case studies and good stats packaged as an exclusive ABC TV/radio story.
They saw the value pretty quickly were on board after a quick production meeting.
In the end, it took one phone call and a text message to organise national print, radio, TV and online coverage for our client.
GTM then worked with the media partners to pull together talent, information and case studies for the journalists.
During the publicity planning process, the team identified that a training workshop for Manbox counsellors would be an opportunity to capture overlay plus interview the case studies and other talent all in one hit.
ABC and Fairfax did the interviews and recorded the footage there and then. The day was over in three hours.
The upshot is that the stories were written well in advance of the launch, well in advance of the royal visit and they were almost — with the exception of nuclear catastrophe — locked in for publication/broadcast on the study launch date.
Originally, JSS had two press conferences planned and none of us had the royal visit or the baby announcement on our radar — so we didn’t realise how fortuitous our forward planning would be.
They still went ahead with their press conferences: attendance was patchy, but the story was already in the news anyway.
So how did it ‘spin?’
Fairfax launched the story in print and online from 12am. ABC began their radio and TV coverage in the morning. The story was syndicated nationally. Australia then woke up to Harry and Meghan’s baby news and the Man Box.
Guardian Australia, The Conversation and BuzzFeed picked up the story and ran with it.
But we don’t mind because we have honoured our exclusive media partnerships.
On the day after the study launch, Sydney Swans captain and JSS Ambassador Josh Kennedy spoke on SEN, Triple M and Raf Epstein in Melbourne about his experience in the Man Box.
We are really proud to lock in coverage for our client on such a tough news day.
And the PR lesson?
Don’t press ‘send all’ on your media release. Find media partners in print, radio and TV and give them exclusives.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Firefly Zipline was a public event designed to bring Melburnians back into the CBD after two years of extended lockdowns and revitalise the city’s economy and social life.
Good Talent Media (GTM) was employed by the Firefly Zipline team to deliver media coverage and media training with the aim of driving ticket sales.
GTM provided the zipline team with media opportunities in various national and metro first-tier outlets as well as key lifestyle industry outlets.
The coverage helped to solidify the zipline’s status as one of the first events for Melbourne’s public to participate in after two years of extended winter lockdowns and co-founder Emma Moad’s status as a leader in the events industry.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Building relationships — Forget about being paid for anything. Build relationships, help as many people as possible and good things flow from that. Don’t worry about revenue until later.
- Perseverance — I started out as a one-man band. That involved getting up at 4.30am and going to a gym, working in a café and doing admin from 6am to 8am, followed by media training in the morning and business development from 1pm to 5pm. That was me getting every minute out of my day, and I did that for four years straight.
- Creating leaders — Once I started collecting enough clients to have a team to service them. I just give the account managers complete autonomy to run and implement all the strategy. I’m the total opposite of micromanagement. It’s basically the full responsibility, full delegation and then supporting the team to be successful.
I’m not in any of the emails, I’m not in any of the strategy sessions and I just hire the right people to go for it. And I don’t care how old they are. They’re just talent. Age and inexperience don’t matter. It’s all about talent.
You’ve got to be willing to give. A big mistake people make in growing businesses is that they want to be paid for every hour of their time. Giving is actually the key.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you help articulate what the different forms of PR are?
You can proactively create your stories and push them out into the media, so you’re leading the narrative there through original stories. You can be reactive — so you can hop into the current news cycle and see where you can place yourself within that to participate in the news that’s happening.
And you’ve got reputation management. This is when your reputation is being called into question and you are changing context to gain control. So, you are correcting the narrative when you’re providing a mea culpa, whatever the situation is. And this style of PR is called industry leadership PR.
So, it’s you as the national commentator on your sector not selling anything but talking about how you can change the future of your sector, what needs to be done in your sector. That’s a huge credibility position that we get all of our clients to do.
Where should a young person considering a career in PR start their education? Should they get a degree in communications? A degree in journalism? Can you explain what you mean?
I think getting a basic degree is good, but I think it’s probably only ten per cent of the journey.
I was quite shocked at actually going from journalism studies into journalism — how it was just chalk and cheese between doing your job and what you studied. I found myself in a newsroom and I had to put something to air in 15 minutes or half an hour.
So, I think it’s essential in PR that you’d get yourself as many internships as possible, you’re the hardest worker in the room, you’re the fastest learner in the room and you have the best attitude in the room.
I think that internships are where it’s at and people skills are where it’s at. You’ve got to have people skills with your team, with your supervisors and with the clients.
I think as someone starting out in the game, it’s hugely advantageous to you if you make your first job not about you at all. We’re all about great culture for the staff.
But if you happen to be the person that doesn’t make this job all about you, but you actually make it all about serving your clients, serving the employers, serving your colleagues — if you can have a bit of that selfless mentality — it’ll become all about you real fast because you’re going to stand out so much.
It bodes well for you if you can make it all about how much you can serve and help and knock it out of the park. You’ve got an enormous career in front of you,
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Networking is one million per cent how you can help everyone around you. This is a big paradigm shift for a lot of people. You are in the garbage tier of networking if you’re showing up, talking about you, trying to sell stuff and it’s all about you. You are going nowhere in your career and business is going to go nowhere or grow very slowly.
Elite networking is about showing up and being of value to people by helping them. If you can be the one who helps them with the contact they need, all the help they need or the ideas they need — and if those contacts and the way you’re helping people have nothing to do with your products and services, even better.
The biggest barrier to transacting is trust. And the biggest barrier to winning clients is trust. How do you build that trust really quickly? Forget about business and help them as a person and help them in any and every way you can, and you’ll find yourself doing more business than you know what to do with, and afterwards you’ll be hiring 15 people in a heartbeat.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
It’s just about doing a great job and getting great word of mouth. If you do a great job, you focus on one job at a time, do a really good job, they’re going to tell good stories about you and tell their friends. They’re not going anywhere. So, you’ve got that locked in recurring revenue.
Remember that education is the new sales. If you can be an educator, if you can educate everyone around you about your sector and how they can all help themselves using the skills that you know, you’ll find you’ll be helping a lot of people and a lot of those people will be asking you, can you do it for them too?
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- A focus on helping clients — We’ve sold media training for a long time, it’s very competitive and it’s a bit of an older product now. I was the first person in Australia to offer all media training clients 12 months ongoing support as part of their media training packages for free.
There’s no money in that for me, but that’s me totally focused on helping the clients so they do the media training. But when they when they’re actually being interviewed six months later, they can find me, and I’ll support them through the big moments. So that’s an example of being totally client focused. The rest of the world will want to get paid for that or try to sell that. But I’m more interested in the client doing a great interview.
Media training is very hard to sell. It’s very competitive. But we happen to be the people who give more or add more value than anyone else. So, we get good results.
2. An ability to build relationships — You need to be in thousands of conversations. You need to be in thousands of conversations at any one time that are financial or otherwise. And hundreds of these conversations might just be you helping people. Hundreds of these conversations might be transacting with people. Hundreds of these conversations might be inquiries going nowhere or relationships going nowhere. You need to be in thousands of conversations, and you need to focus on solving people’s problems. You need to be a problem solver, helping them in any way you can. And if you can do that, revenue is going to come out of that.
3. Offer relevant services — You’ve got to be in categories that are in demand. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how good you are. So, there’s a lot more demand for PR than there is media training. So that’s why we pivoted to PR really quickly. There’s a lot more demand for social media than there is for PR. That’s why we pivoted to social media.
There’s a lot more demand for lobbying than there is for other things we’ve tried. So, that’s really pivoted into lobbying. You’ve got to be showing up where services are in demand, so you get to know what’s in demand and being in thousands of conversations tells you really quickly what the market wants. That’s your day-to-day research.
4. Win-win prices — I think far too many people are trying to make huge profit on every transaction. It’s gouging and it’s not fair for the people that you’re dealing with — you are losing a lot of proposals and a lot of contracts because your pricing is far too high.
You try to make an enormous profit off every job. I think you’ve got to think about every client as lifelong value. So, when you start thinking about lifelong value and lifelong relationships, that adds up to considerable amounts of revenue, but transaction by transaction, the prices are a lot lower. Your lifelong values are where profitability is — if you’re trying to make huge money on every deal, you’re going to lose so many deals and lose so many clients and you’re not going to grow as fast. So, pricing is ego driven.
People think ‘I’m so bright, I’m so experienced’, ‘I deserve this money’ and you’re talking yourself out of so much money. I think win-win pricing is fair with the client.
It sets you up with so many more clients, so you win so many more deals and your lifelong value increases. In other words, the value of your business long term is way beyond what you ever dreamt.
5. Don’t have an option B — If you’ve got your eyes set on a particular career path, don’t opt out, totally commit to it.
Unsuccessful people will have half an effort and then always know they can get option B, C or D.
Successful people don’t have an Option B, C, D. Option A is all they’re going for. All their eggs are in that basket. They are totally committed, and they will drive themselves to whatever lengths it takes to get there.
This particularly applies to business owners. If you’ve got an ambition to build a business, having options B, C and D is not good for you because it stops you from putting all the effort into the business, so you don’t have an option B. Totally commit to what you want to achieve. And that forces you, that forces your subconscious, that forces your brain, that forces your effort to put everything into getting there because there’s no other choice, you’ve got to do it.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think alcohol is the next cigarettes.
I think a major impediment to being successful is people’s relationship with alcohol.
I think alcohol is an anxiety manager. Alcohol’s a habit. And alcohol is a crutch. Obviously, alcohol is an addictive substance and alcoholism is a disease.
I think if you can have a mindful relationship with alcohol where you put it in a drawer somewhere it’s seldomly used or it’s mindfully used, what’s it going to mean for you?
Then it’s going to mean that you’re going to be going to bed early and you going to be sleeping better. You’re going to be getting up early with a clear head all day. You totally set yourself up to achieve all of your goals.
I’ve had an odd relationship with alcohol, but the best thing I ever did was not drink at all between 25 and 35. And that allowed me to finish my studies, meet the woman of my dreams, started a journalism career and really started achieving some serious goals.
And that was only because I was just clear, sober, and in the moment. And that ten-year patch allowed me to believe in myself, tap into what I really wanted to achieve in life and really get things on a track in a very aggressive and successful way.
Prior to that, I was lost in binge drinking. I had a lot of ability, but just couldn’t get anything happening. And I think it was because I was just lost in a sea of booze.
So, once I realised I had that epiphany — and I remember the night I had that epiphany and standing around with a group of friends in the bar we were always in, realising in my head all these guys that I thought I was just as bright as and just as capable as really had their life on track. And I didn’t.
I thought, ‘Okay, I’m not going to drink, I’m going to stop drinking. And I finish my degree and I’m going to go for journalism and really try to make something of my life.’
And ten years of not drinking set me absolutely up for everything that I’m achieving now.
Now I drink mindfully. I’m very careful with it. I certainly don’t drink to intoxication but drink for taste and to be social, before ending up in bed early every night. I’m up early every morning, clear as a bell every day and I am living the life of my dreams. And I think that’s hugely down to my positive relationship with alcohol.
That’s the movement I want to inspire.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.
PR Pros: Tony Nicholls of Good Talent Media On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.