When it comes to public relations, corporate communications, social media and crisis management campaigns, Bec Brown is the go-to gal you want in your corner. Founder of The Comms Department, and with a client roster that includes Australian Radio Network, NBC’s Hayu and Universal Music, Bec is one busy lady. While it might not be possible to have her on your speed-dial, with her new book, ‘You’ve Got This’, all business owners can have a little bit of that Bec business magic in their back pocket.
As a little girl, Bec saw herself on Broadway or starring in a musical in London’s West end. Growing up in the country it meant leaving home as a teenager to pursue her dream. After years of hard work and dedication, although Bec “love performing”, she realized that she just wasn’t happy. “I knew straight away I needed to find another purpose”, she says. “I just thought about all the things that I loved to do. I loved to write, I always liked asking questions, I loved reading, and I loved the media. I was just always fascinated by it. I loved how they would tell stories in the media. At first, I thought I would be a journalist”.
As the frontwoman for her band and experienced in doing the PR required to get them gigs, Bec decided that she wanted to “tell stories for a purpose”. Always up for a challenge, Bec moved to Sydney, because she “didn’t know anyone”, went back to university and got a temp job as an assistant to a CEO. Bec studied media and communications, majoring in PR. “I just fell in love with it”, she says. “I loved that you could create change; that you could work behind the scenes to create media stories. I loved writing a media release and pitching a story and making it all happen. Then I’d see it appear in the paper the next and rub my hands together knowing I did that”.
Serendipity was definitely working for Bec when a short time her “dream job” popped up. “That was as the National PR for Universal Music, the biggest record company in the world”, she says. “To join music and publicity was a bit of a dream come true for me. So that was a great role”.
“Luck met with preparation, grit, hard work and running with it all the way”
Bec believes that luck has played a considerable part in her career and her life. “Luck met with preparation, grit, hard work and running with it all the way” enabled her to not only get her foot in the front door but also create The Comms Department.
After five years of working with some of the biggest entertainers in the world, Bec decided to go out on her own. “I loved music, but I also loved a lot of other things” she recalls. “I wanted to have my own company where I got to promote things that I was passionate about”. Her four loves media, entertainment, travel and lifestyle, are now the focus of The Comms Department.
A happy accident!
Knowing you want to start a business and actually doing that are two very different things. While Bec had a clear vision for what she wanted her company to be and the areas she wanted to work in, starting it became more of a happy accident.
“I knew that I wanted to consult and I wanted to promote things that I was genuinely passionate about and believed in”, she says. “I wanted to do brilliant work; great creative, interesting work at a high level of excellence with brilliant people”.
Finishing up with universal music and on her last tour, Bec spoke about leaving the company to the manager of the international artist she was touring with at the time. Not only did he give her some fantastic business advice, but as a result, Universal became her first client. The advice? “Be really selective around the clients that you take on. You have to absolutely believe in them. If you don’t believe in them, it doesn’t matter how much money somebody tries to throws at you. In the end, you have to be able to sell that product to the media and to everybody else, and it’s your name that’s on the line”.
While it was hard not thinking about the dollars in that first year of the company, Bec took that advice to heart. “I remember that first year, turning down a couple of things and thinking what am I doing? I can’t turn down work, but it was the best, best piece of advice ever” she says.
Now, by being selective, Bec has a strong client base and often turns down more work than she takes on. With strong long-term partnerships and relationships built over many years, Bec has built a strong business foundation. “My clients know that I’ve chosen them as much as they’ve chosen me”, she says. So, her focus remains on working with and employing brilliant people.
Bec built her team slowly, growing by one person each year. The Comms Department now employs nine staff across Australia and New Zealand.
The power of connection and building relationships
Growing up in the country, Bec has always been acutely aware of the importance of connectivity. While a great tool, social media and presenting a perfect lifestyle brought with it a lot of pressure. Add that to the need, particularly for women, to be all things to all people, and Bec decided it was time to step-in. You’ve Got This became a way to share some business wisdom. Essentially a career handbook for creative women, it distils Bec’s twenty-plus years of creative experience into a step-by-step guide to succeeding in business.
Working in the competitive and fast-paced landscape that has become 2020 can leave the best of us feeling stressed, anxious and frustrated. There’s pressure to not only stand-out from the crowd and be successful, but it’s that very definition of success that often alludes us. Bec is adamant that it comes down to connection and building relationships. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, the way you communicate can be your biggest ally or your worst nightmare. Bec sets out some do’s and don’ts when it comes to connecting.
- Social media – don’t post for likes, instead comment and interact with posts that resonate with you. Engage through your DM’s and get to know people, their personalities and what they stand for. It’s a great way to meet your potential ideal client and build your network.
- The way you say something can be as important as what you say. The best communicators create an engaging and entertaining experience, so watch your tone, the way you articulate and say what you mean.
- Show up on time, do your homework, contribute early in meetings, always introduce yourself and make sure you listen.
Overcoming setbacks and dealing with change
The year 2020 has been unique. As Bec sat editing her book in early March, Covid-19 was being to have an impact. “In that week, all of our clients were impacted in a variety of ways. Being across media, entertainment, travel and lifestyle, some immediately panicked and pulled all of their work. In contrast, others believed that they needed us now more than ever”, remembers Bec.
With everything shifting and changing every 24 hours, Bec says her and the team were “creating a plan and throwing it out the next day”. Bec was also personally impacted with a pilot-husband working in international travel, and elderly parents living interstate. In a moment when it would be valid to panic, Bec decided that “you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control your reaction to it”, and that’s precisely what she did.
In all situations, Bec believes “there are facts, and then there is drama. The first is reality, and the second is a choice”, she says. “So, every day I just kept coming back to that and coming back to it and coming back to it”. The lessons on overcoming setbacks and dealing with change in You’ve Got This are around taking an exocentric view; not getting caught up in your own head, but focusing outward.
Apart from changes to diet and exercise, through 2020, meditation has become an essential part of Bec’s daily routine. Bec believes that meditation “is an absolute game-changer in making sure that I respond to things instead of reacting to them. Meditation and mindfulness build resilience and grit”.
Bec recommends waking up with Sam Harris, Headspace and 10 per cent Happier as her meditation platforms of choice. She believes that “anybody who wants to do powerful, exciting, passionate work, or to create a success needs structure” and meditation can help you achieve that.
When it comes to measuring success, Bec says there are two questions she always asks – am I doing brilliant work with brilliant people? And am I truly passionate about this; do I believe in it?
As her idea of success has changed, Bec has begun re-evaluating her purpose. As she wrote You’ve Got This, it became clear that her purpose is to “help people to learn and evolve while also being happy and contempt. And when I say people, I mean myself too”.
“A lot of the time, those two things are loggerheads”, says Bec. “I know plenty of people who are evolving, learning and trying new things, but it’s at the expense of their happiness or their lifestyle or their relationships. I know I’ve been absolutely guilty of that in the past. I’ve jumped into things at the expense of my relationships and my health.
“Now things have moved again; it’s less about winning or less about success and more about evolving. That’s something that we’re going to be doing for the rest of our lives”.
Knowing your values and building your dream career
“Every decision we make needs to be steeped in what our values are, what we actually stand for and who we are”, says Bec. This is the perfect time to take stock of what you actually believe in and what your values are”.
When it comes to building a dream career, Bec believes it all comes back to your values. “It’s something you need to keep reassessing”, she says. “What you valued ten years ago may not be what you value now”. Bec suggests doing an audit of what you value; make a list – it might be health, family, money, security or service to others.
“Look at what works for you and just you. It can’t be what you think other people want you to be doing. It can’t be what your family wants you to be doing. It can’t be what Instagram is telling you to do. It’s got to be steeped in what feels right for you”. If you’re not sure what your values are or how these might relate to your life and career, Bec suggests a meditation practice, “getting still and see what comes up”.
Once you know and understand what your values are, you can build your dream career, whatever that might be around those. Bec believes that everything you do should be guided by your value system. “There’s no point in building a career if it’s at complete odds with what you actually value”. It’s the one piece of advice Bec wishes she’d received when she was younger and one of the reasons she wrote her book.
“Get up, dress up, show up!”
It’s Bec’s go-to mantra and something she now lives by. As a young performer, Bec says that she often found it hard to do that. Now it’s one of the key pieces of advice she gives to anyone who’ll listen. “When you’re performing”, says Bec, “you can do all the rehearsing in the world; what actually matters is opening night. The same can apply to our jobs. You might have to do a presentation at work. For example, you’ve done all of the background research and prepared the presentation, but if you don’t show up on the day and deliver it, then what’s the point?”.
Bec’s advice to her younger self is simple. “If you’ve said that you’re going to be somewhere, be somewhere. It doesn’t matter if what you’ve prepared isn’t perfect, you have to just get up, dress up, show up and give it your best”. The mantra isn’t new though, Dolly Parton is credited with saying it. “Dolly is the epitome of what a great professional should be”, says Bec. “I say if that saying’s good enough for Dolly; it’s good enough for me”.
Bec’s best business tip
Bec’s business advice is simple, “you’ve got this”, it keeps her going, no matter what else is happening in the world, and it inspired her to write her book. “When self-doubt creeps in, you’ve got this. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do, and after 2020 that’s all of us right now. So, just keep saying to yourself, ‘you’ve got this’. It’ll get you out of a million situations that you don’t want to be in. If you’re having a great day, you can say, yeah, you’ve got this. It reminds you of how powerful you are. If you’re having a terrible day, you just speak to yourself like you would your best friend and say, you’ve got this, and it changes your mindset”.
With Bec in our corner and such great tips in her new book, one thing is for sure, we absolutely have got this!