2001: Apple releases the iPod; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hits cinema screens; Wikipedia publishes its first piece of content; unleaded petrol costs 80 cents per litre; and Sydney boutique PR agency Llewellyn Communications is born.
Founded by communications expert Lisa Llewellyn, LlewComm has evolved into a major player in Australia’s comms sector, with a portfolio that includes a myriad of national and international brands such as Cochlear Ltd, the global leader in implantable hearing solutions; Rheem Australia, which keeps Australians in hot water; Swimart, the pool and spa professionals; ASX-listed Waterco, innovators in water treatment systems; Germany’s Viega, pioneers in installation technology since 1899; Scotts Australia, garden and lawncare experts; and Homeloans, one of Australia’s biggest non-bank lenders. Just to name a few.
After toying with the idea of starting her own PR consultancy for a few years, Lisa took the plunge and launched LlewComm in October 2001.
While initially working as a freelance journalist and PR consultant, Lisa soon secured her first ongoing client: Doors Plus. “Back then we had dial up internet and the digital space was really in its infancy,” Lisa says. “But how quickly it changed!”
Doors Plus was just the start – and doors indeed began opening for LlewComm from then on. Lisa added brand names including Telstra, Brookfield Multiplex, Australand, Mediherb, the Swimming Pool & Spa Association, and EcoSmart Fire to her client portfolio in those early days.
Senior level counsel sans the huge fees
By creating a business model that offers senior level counsel sans the huge fees typically charged by the larger agencies, LlewComm has steadily attracted clients across a variety of sectors.
“I wanted to be able to provide solid strategy, media relations and editorial (content creation) services,” explains Lisa, a seasoned journalist who trained with Fairfax in the 1980s. “The written word is more important than ever now and I have ensured that we have very versatile and experienced writers on our team. I love writing and am very particular about things being written well and creatively. And I make sure that the writers/content creators on the team are able to write across many different styles, depending on what’s required.”
LlewComm only has senior consultants with vast experience across content creation, PR, digital and social sectors, along with a network of highly skilled contractors whose expertise the agency taps into as needed, depending on client campaigns.
“In addition to skillsets, I look for people with a sense of humour, who are quirky and get on well with others,” says Lisa. “They also have to like dogs, as our welcoming committee is comprised of two office dogs. I was once looking for a consultant and placed an ad that stipulated applicants must like dogs. One guy came back and said, ‘I’m the person you want, but I don’t like dogs.’ I politely replied that a) we had office dogs and b) one of our largest clients was a dog training company – so he wouldn’t be suitable. It pays to vet staff!”
The media industry has gone through the “wringer” over the years as Lisa can attest, with the number of journalists and media outlets contracting.
“I’ve been in PR for 25 years, and the level of change in recent times has been enormous,” says Lisa. “If you hark back to the early 1990s when I started in PR, we were sending out media releases via fax and post (yep, snail mail!) and also labelling and sending out transparencies. Life is so much easier now and the news is more immediate.”
With the digital world becoming increasingly important, traditional PR is no longer what it was. Today, as they say, “content is king”, which definitely suits LlewComm’s team of trained writers, who create authentic, engaging content for clients across a broad range of platforms.
“I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved,” Lisa says. “One of my colleagues once remarked, ‘We may be small but we achieve BIG things.’ We also have the added advantage of being agile and thus being able to modify or change our approach with a campaign. We believe in our clients’ businesses and are genuinely invested in achieving great results for them.”
Llewellyn Communications highlights over the past 15 years:
- Winning the job to handle a consumer awareness campaign for Cochlear Australia and New Zealand. “Our boutique agency beat two large multi-nationals – and that’s probably one of my proudest moments,” admits Lisa. “We continue to handle Cochlear’s PR to this day and have uncovered and told myriad beautiful stories about Australians and New Zealanders who have received a Cochlear or bone conduction (Baha) Implant. I would have to say a major highlight was handling the 30th anniversary of the world’s first multichannel Cochlear Implant and working with the amazing Professor Graeme Clark, the inventor. What a gorgeous man.”
- Handling PR for a major event in 2007, “The Return of the Horse”, to celebrate the end of the devastating Equine influenza epidemic that almost decimated the industry in Australia.
- Working with Rheem Australia on a range of issues management matters, particularly with changing regulations, rebates and governments.
- Watching the company behind the award-winning EcoSmart Fire grow and spread its wings across the world. “The Fire Company was a start up when we began working with them and today EcoSmart Fires is in 75 countries around the world,” explains Lisa. “These fires are making design statements in residential and commercial developments across the globe. It has been a privilege to help them grow.”
- Coming up with the name behind The Swimming Pool & Spa Association (SPASA NSW) consumer magazine – Pool+Spa Essentials and producing and publishing the magazine for four years. It included assembling a team of trained journalists to write the articles, sales reps to sell advertising and finding a printer who could print the magazine within a tight budget.
- Achieving some fantastic media coverage of the wonderful work that LlewComm’s pro bono client Deaf Sports Australia does.