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Montarna Pitt is the founder and director of The Audience Agency, a full-service communications and media firm with clients in all areas of business, including fashion, hospitality, travel, food and lifestyle.
An icon and maven in the Australian PR industry, Pitt has run her business from its humble beginnings in her parents’ basement with grace and tact, garnering a number of high-profile clients and building brands to success.
Her business was thriving, and then the global COVID-19 pandemic hit to shake up the way she, and all of her clients, had worked until this point. Lucky for Pitt, she’d always worked to be agile, and managed to pivot her business too, as she says, “roll with the punches”.
We caught up with the entrepreneur to find out more about how her business has adapted through this turbulent time.
Katie Skelly: Thanks for chatting with me today Montarna! Tell me more about The Audience Agency and why you launched the firm.
Montarna Pitt: I was in my early twenties and I’d been in the PR industry for a few years. Some of my contacts asked if I’d take on their PR as a freelancer and it got me thinking about doing my own thing. I mulled it over for a few months and talked through with my nearest and dearest — they all advised me to go for it, so I took the plunge.
The Audience Agency was launched from my parents’ basement when I was 23, with myself and one team member sharing a computer. Today, we’re a boutique agency known for our nuanced approach to communications, working with contemporary brands such as Penfolds fine wines, REVOLVE, Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel and Denada ice cream.
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Work from home style- for Director @montarnapitt it’s all about cosy knits and oversized styles. . . . . . #theaudienceagency #agency #pr #publicrelations #creativeagency #content #campaign #clients #client #agencywork #creativeagency #branding #sydney #sydneyaustralia #sydneybrands #brandexperience #socialmediacontent #australianpublicrelations
KS: Such an inspiring tale. Talk me through your digital presence. How has having an online presence helped your agency?
MP: My digital presence, primarily on Instagram, has grown organically over many years. It hasn’t been intentional but it has been beneficial in contributing to awareness for The Audience Agency. As time has gone on my social media and agency have worked hand-in-hand — after all, PR is a very people-focused industry and everyone likes to see who’s behind a company and a little about their lifestyle.
KS: When did your business and clients first start to feel the effects of COVID-19?
MP: I think we all started to pay attention when people begun to panic-buy toilet paper! But there was a massive shift when we were directed to work from home, restaurants and consumer businesses were closed and social distancing was seriously brought into effect.
For my business this meant no events for the foreseeable future; all hospitality clients taking a break; retail clients switching to online-only or waiting on delayed shipments of samples. Almost overnight, everything shifted for every vertical of business in The Audience Agency’s brand stable.
At the same time, we’ve had businesses reach out looking for our guidance on how to navigate this limbo and communicate their messages and new offerings, so it’s a very mixed bag and we’re rolling with the punches each day.
“We’re rolling with the punches each day.”
KS: What does it mean for you now? Have you had to pivot your business or the way you operate?
MP: It was changing every day for us. So far it’s meant we’ve had to scale down on every aspect of our business to allow us to be flexible for our clients and support them with whatever they need. For some, it’s taking a break from PR so they can weather the storm and, for others, it’s re-doing strategies and undertaking long-lead planning for the second half of the year.
We’re all working from home, which luckily we’re all used to as I’ve been WFH since the birth of my daughter seven months ago and two other staff members have young children, working flexibly in the office or from home when it suits them. It’s still strange for us not to be able to catch up in the office, but we can all connect digitally and luckily do our jobs from anywhere.
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As COVID-19 forces the fashion industry to make numerous pivots, Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele announced a new direction for the brand: abandoning the traditional fashion calendar and moving to a seasonless schedule. . . . . . . #theaudienceagency #agency #pr #publicrelations #creativeagency #content #campaign #clients #client #agencywork #creativeagency #branding #sydney #sydneyaustralia #sydneybrands #brandexperience #socialmediacontent #australianpublicrelations #gucci #fashionindustry #adapt #newdirection #adaptbranding
KS: It’s such a luxury to be able to work safely from home. Tell me, how can consumers support your brands now in the short term?
MP: They can shop online for those brands with digital stores, keep engaging with your favourite brands on social media and order takeaway or delivery from your top venues, bars and restaurants.
KS: Lord knows I’ve been doing enough takeaway… Do you think the way you operate your business will be changed for good?
MP: Yes, COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the world, one that we haven’t yet fully seen. I don’t think anyone will operate in the same way they did prior to this pandemic.
KS: As a business owner, how are you staying motivated? What drives you?
MP: I’m motivated to support my team, my clients’ businesses and their families, and our wider community. I’m driven by the culture of supporting each other and looking through the storm to the better times beyond.
KS: Before I let you get back to it, what do you think we’ll learn from this experience?
MP: Other than the importance of washing your hands (!!!), the power of community, the importance of flexibility and the beauty of life’s little moments. Personally I’ve found that having my life sized down to my home and immediate family has given me a deeper appreciation for the world I’ve carved out for myself.
“The power of community, the importance of flexibility and the beauty of life’s little moments.”
Find out more about The Audience Agency and its clients, who can help support now.