ShortPress Small Talk series: BENCH PR


Small businesses in Australia continue to push the boundaries of our ‘glocal’ economy. The ShortPress Small Talk series profiles a diverse range of small business owners to find out what they do and what makes them tick.

Melbourne PR agency BENCH PR specialises in the business to business and technology markets. We sat down with the agency’s founder, Jocelyn Hunter, to learn more.

ShortPress: Describe your business in less than 50 words.

Jocelyn Hunter: We’re a communications consultancy specialising in the technology and business to business markets. We represent some of the world’s largest tech brands and also some of Australia’s fastest growing technology-driven companies. In 2015, BENCH was awarded Highly Commended at the CommsCon awards for Small PR Agency of the Year.

SP: What inspires you as a small business owner?

JH: Firstly, our clients – they’re talented, driven individuals. Particularly our Australian clients – those who run their own businesses. The guys at Outware Mobile and EYC3, who are running multi-million dollar fast growing businesses, employing hundreds of staff. They’re inspirational.

Or people like Zoom2u CEO, Steve Orenstein, who is on to his third startup business. He’s such a grounded individual who set up his first business when he was 19 years old – he takes everything in his stride.

My team are definitely an inspiration. I have a wonderful team. They’re experienced PR professionals who have worked in some of the most amazing agencies and organisations all over the world.

Lastly, my family, back in the UK inspire me. My Mum and Dad ran three businesses while holding down a full-time teaching job and raising three children.

SP: What does a typical day look like?

JH: That’s why I love what I do – there is no typical day! I hate routine. I can be at home working or I go into our wonderful co-working space, The Cluster on Queen Street in Melbourne.

I spend a bit of time in Sydney and sometimes business takes me to Japan or Singapore. My days are usually busy with face-to-face meetings or calls with client teams in the US, the UK, New Zealand and Singapore. Then I’ve usually got events to attend most evenings and I try to catch up with journalists for a beer or coffee when I can.

And then there’s the day-to-day work I need to get through: reviewing media releases, opinion articles or case studies, new business enquiries, pitching story ideas to the media which I still love to do and reading anything and everything I can relating to our clients and technology in general!

SP: What have your biggest challenges been and how have you overcome them?

JH: I think my biggest challenge is finding good people. Most of our competitors have issues with staff churn, but I’d like to think I’ve overcome this problem by treating my team well. I’m also not afraid to resign clients, which we have done in the past, if it means I keep my team happy.

SP: What about your biggest learnings?

JH: To trust your instincts. If you think a potential client isn’t a good fit, chances are you’re right. Keep your existing clients happy and really invest in those relationships.

So many agencies go off and chase new business and forget their existing clients. Never take your clients for granted. Don’t worry about the competition. I used to. I don’t anymore. It’s wasted energy.

SP: If you could start over, would you do anything differently?

JH: I have to say, I don’t think I’d do anything differently. I didn’t intentionally set up a PR agency on the other side of the world. I was only looking for enough work to keep me going and interested. Seven years later, I’ve got a super savvy team of six, working for some amazing businesses, disrupting their industries.

SP: What advice would you give to budding small business owners?

JH: Don’t waste time on a fancy website, business card or office. Start selling. Do you offer something that other businesses are willing to pay for? If you do, that’s great. If you don’t, then you need to go back to the drawing board. The earlier you can get cash into the business the better.

SP: Who are the business leaders you look up to and why?

JH: Peter Jones, the UK IT and telecoms entrepreneur, and Lord Alan Sugar. Both tell it like it is and don’t suffer fools gladly.

SP: What does the future hold for BENCH PR?

JH: Asia is the short answer. While we already represent some of our clients in English-speaking Asia and act for some as APAC agency lead, [we’ll be] managing activity with other agencies across the region, more of our clients are looking to Asia for expansion.

Photo: Daniel Sheehan, Sheehan Studios