Unleashing the potential of communications: Q&A with Amanda Cirillo

Unleashing the potential of communications:  Q&A with Amanda Cirillo

Icon Reputation’s Amanda Cirillo has spent her career working across key agency roles before finding her passion in partnering with business leaders on strategic communications. She relishes making a tangible impact to business outcomes, by working as a true partner in integrated communications campaigns.

Just promoted to Associate Account Director, she shares her insights and experiences on what it means to unleash the potential of communications for a company, culture and community.

What motivates you to get out of bed and go to work each day?

Every day, I’m able to do work that really matters - and I’m not sure how many PR practitioners out there could say the same! Whether it’s rolling out strategic initiatives alongside a company’s leaders, putting out communications that unite employees in a shared culture, or raising awareness of issues within the community.

It’s motivating to work with business leaders who see us as a partner in translating strategy into action. That’s when it is possible to help them realise the true potential of communications in contributing to their business goals.

What is your philosophy towards communications?

Communications - and brand - lives and breathes throughout an organisation and its people. Yet, too often it is boxed away as an isolated department. Every employee is part of the communications team, it’s intrinsic to every decision - and if it’s an afterthought, it will almost always go wrong!

I am an advocate for integrating messaging across audiences and channels - the distinction between internal and external communications no longer exists.

You cannot have one team preparing the PR for an announcement completely separately from another team writing the shareholder letters. Whatever you say to your employees, you should also be comfortable with it appearing on the front page of the paper. Similarly, the values you expound in corporate social responsibility campaigns or cause marketing should be backed by tangible actions - and believed and embraced by your employees.

What do you predict as a future trend in the industry and how should we adapt?

A trend we’ve seen in recent times that will continue is “authenticity on overdrive”. People want to know the face behind a brand, and whether a brand is walking the talk.

Another one is personalisation; it has been around for some time, but the rise of things like TikTok has taken curated social media feeds to another level. One person will have a completely different experience on the same medium as another. For content creators, segmenting audiences by demographics such as age or gender or location is becoming less important. Moving forward, we should be creating content targeted to audiences based on belief systems and values.

Linking to this idea is the way that opinion is now taken with the same credibility as fact for many people, which has become strikingly obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic. The debate needs to shift from whether or not it’s right, to how PR professionals can operate in this new dynamic and remain ethical. The Australian Government’s COVID-19 vaccine campaign is an interesting example of the government relying purely on fact to influence people’s attitudes and opinions - time will tell if this can be effective amidst the emotion and misinformation that has surrounded conversations on COVID-19.

What do you enjoy most about working at Icon Reputation?

I have really valued the trust and support I’ve received at Icon Reputation, which has been confidence building. When we spend so much time in our work, you need to be around genuinely nice people, colleagues and clients. There can be stressful times, but it makes all the difference when you know someone has your back.

What advice would you give to an up-and-coming PR?

Don’t feel as though you need to be the loudest person in the room to be good at PR. The best PRs I’ve worked with are listeners, they are curious and always ask “why”. The real art of PR is not telling people or businesses what to do, but asking them the right questions to help them get there.

One of the best things I did for my career was starting in a generalist role, learning different skills across all types of industries. In order to master one specific area - such as social media or crisis communications - you need to understand how all the different tactics impact and interact with each other.

Be a sponge - absorb as much information as you can! PR is fast-paced, and you can’t rely on someone holding your hand and explaining it all to you. Whenever you can, join workshops and brainstorms, listen to the water cooler conversations and read in detail that email you’re just cc’d on.

Amanda Cirillo, Icon Reputation

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