Founder and director of Sydney based The Audience Agency, Montarna McDonald started her own business at twenty-three. With an aptitude for staying ahead of the digital and social curve, Montarna is a PR Powerhouse and part of the new-generation wave driven to continually evolve in reaction to the latest and ever-changing trends. And, she does it in style.
Tell us about your formal background, how did you get your start?
I’ve been in the PR industry since my late teens, working part time for Sydney agencies while studying for my Bachelor of Media Communications. After some amazing positions and career-defining experiences I had my ‘now or never’ moment in 2014, which is when I launched The Audience Agency, and I haven’t looked back since!
Was there a cue at which you felt it was the right time to establish your own business?
I’d always loved the idea of running my own jam – I personally believe that my personality and work ethic really suit being my own boss! But the time felt right when friends and contacts started approaching me to do their PR, even though I didn’t have my own agency at that stage. I thought the demand is there, I’ve got to give this a go, the time is right.
What has been your biggest challenge, and best or most rewarding project?
I love a challenge, and The Audience Agency’s biggest ongoing task is staying agile and adapting to the ever-changing communications industry. We are constantly monitoring technology, social media trends, creative content, immersive consumer activations and more to stay at the top of our game. We’ve had so many rewarding projects over the years but most recently, I was really proud to manage a partnership between Tinder and Mardi Gras Sydney where we created the ‘All Types, All Swipes’ parade float and launched Tinder profile settings for people of all gender identities. Seeing this campaign come to life for both TAA and individuals nationwide in such a landmark year for same-sex equality was one of my personal career highlights.”
Any advice for young individuals or startups wanting to create their own business?
Make sure it’s an industry you love, as you’ll be living and breathing it for years to come. Do your research and planning but try not to overthink things or you may never take the plunge – be confident and back yourself. Brief your family and friends to be your cheerleaders and sounding boards – you’ll need that support during the highs and lows. And most importantly surround yourself with good, like minded people who have skills that complement your own.
What is the process in selecting or taking on a client for The Audience Agency?
We’re so lucky that a lot of our new clients come to us through word of mouth recommendations. The Audience Agency is a boutique team, so we work with a select number of clients to give our staff the time and resources to dedicate to each account. Usually we start off with a chemistry meeting, working out the brands’ objectives and goals for their communication, and then our whole team collaborate on the creative proposal. If the brand is happy with our recommendations, we map out a timeline and bring them on board with an initial strategy session.
What is the best piece of professional advice you’ve received, and why?
I read a great section in Ben Horowitz’s book called The Hard Thing About Hard Things that essentially said don’t complain. You can make a million excuses about why something didn’t work – but no one cares. Be a solutions person, fix things and get on with it.
Do you have a mentor?
I have a few – my parents, for their entrepreneurial spirit and instilling such a positive work ethic in me from an early age. And my fiancée who hears the ins and outs of my day over dinner and always gives me amazing unbiased advice.
What excites you about the future of your industry?
We’ve already seen the lines blurring between PR, advertising, media and creative, and I think that trend will continue – which is exciting for us because we can broaden The Audience Agency’s specialisms to give brands the full communications package under one roof.
How big a part does technology and social media play in your personal and professional life?
It’s huge. Digital and social media are now The Audience Agency’s primary sources of brand coverage. We’re exploring new technologies in everything we do – for example we just staged an interactive photo studio for Tinder at the recent Vogue Codes convention, which was a huge success. Plus, I’m always using social media for ideas in my personal life – current obsessions are interior design and wedding inspiration.
How would you describe your personal style and how do you apply this to work?
I’d say my personal style is eclectic veering more towards the masculine side. I mix high fashion with daily basics and strive for my look to be effortless! My favourite designers are always changing but current loves are Re/Done denim, Celine, Chanel, Albus Lumen, Christopher Esber and Posse. I’m lucky that in this industry you can be as creative and experimental as you like when it comes to work outfits. Dressing in corporate clothes would be my sartorial nightmare! You can spy Montarna’s style via her personal Instagram @montarnamcdonald