Publicist and project manager
Tanya Ha has a passion for the environment, a degree in chemistry, and experience in the fashion industry and the media. It all added up to a job as public relations manager for environmental campaigners, Planet Ark. Find out more:
Job description: Works with media and celebrities to promote messages about the environment; manages a website; speaks on radio and television; runs Melbourne office of Planet Ark
Subjects studied: Mathematics I, Mathematics II, Physics, Chemistry and Art.
Further training: Tanya completed a Chemistry Degree at the University of Melbourne (3 years); and a Graduate Certificate in Scientific and Technical Writing at Deakin University (1 year part-time)
Salary: About $40,000 a year.
Even before she completed her degree in chemistry, Tanya Ha recognised her interests were too widespread for her to be content working in a laboratory as a research scientist. She had a passion for the environment, a love of writing and humanities, and was already working as a fashion model.
For a while Tanya was at a loss for a career in which she could put all of her talents to use. But then she discovered science communication. She now works as public relations and special projects manager for the Planet Ark Environmental Foundation, an Australian organisation which shows people how to reduce their impact on the world around them.
"I decided to specialise in science communication. It's an important and growing field. And people with good scientific knowledge and good communications skills are rare."
So Tanya signed up for a post-graduate course in scientific and technical writing, and also attended public relations and marketing classes at night school, even though she had no idea where it all might lead.
Saving the planet: Eventually, she began working in public relations as a freelancer. A job with Planet Ark was followed soon after by the offer of a permanent position. In addition to managing areas of the organisation's public relations and key education projects, she also runs the Melbourne office.
Planet Ark was established in Sydney in 1991 by tennis player Pat Cash and charity campaigner Jon Dee. It works with celebrities such as Cash, Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Mark Philippoussis and Judy Davis to sell its message of environmental awareness. It has, for instance, recorded more than 300 community service announcements for television, established a greeting card recycling campaign and encouraged the planting of hundreds of thousands of native trees.
Making things happen: Tanya loves the satisfaction of making such things happen through her job, even though the workload can be heavy because "non-profit organisations are inherently under-resourced".
"Science communication is a growing field now that many research organisations are expected to operate as businesses. Many scientific organisations are developing marketing departments for the first time. Environmental sciences are also a happening field: the world is on the edge of a resource crisis, so sustainable design, technology and energy are huge growth areas."
Science provides the key to many different career alternatives, she says. "Make sure you've taken the time to find out some of the many options that branch out from science before deciding for or against it."
Public relations officers plan, develop, put into place and evaluate information and communication strategies that present the organisation to the public, clients and other stakeholders. They also promote good information flows within the organisation.
Public relations officers may perform the following tasks:
- keep an eye on public opinion about an organisation or particular issues
- develop and implement communication strategies for the organisation
- advise management on communication issues and strategies
- plan public relations programs including the preparation of cost budgets
- present arguments on behalf of an organisation to government, other organisations and special interest groups
- respond to enquiries from the public and other organisations
- respond to enquiries from the media, arrange interviews with journalists, prepare and distribute news releases and make statements to the media
- write, edit and arrange production of newsletters, in-house magazines, pamphlets and brochures
- assist in preparing organisational documents such as annual reports, corporate profiles and submissions
- write speeches, prepare visual aids and make public presentations
- oversee production of visual (film or video) and audio electronic material, including managing websites
- organise special events such as open days, visits, exhibitions and functions
- conduct internal communication courses, workshops and media training.
- interested in people
- good analytical skills
- able to write concisely
- good oral and written communication skills
- good organisational skills
- enjoy current affairs
- able to work under pressure
- aptitude for working with computers.
Find out more about a career public relations.
Public Relations Institute of Australia (National Office)
PO Box R629 Royal Exchange, NSW 1225
Tel: (02) 9247 6944
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).