Directors, Interviews, Marketing & Comms

Balancing the Grind With Rebecca O’Rourke, Executive Director of Communications at KWP!

September 11, 2019

Rebecca O’Rourke is the Executive Director of Communications at KWP!, an independently owned, full-service Australian marketing, communications and advertising agency.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?

I’m a born story-teller and promoter who has always loved helping place people and their businesses in the spotlight.

Since I was a child growing up on farms and at school, I’ve been fascinated by people and their tales, you know, the chatty and curious ones – I love hearing them, sharing them and it’s this passion that led me into a career in journalism and then communications.

I started as a cadet journalist at The Courier, a regional newspaper in the Adelaide Hills, and then worked as a reporter at The Advertiser before making the switch to PR, and then starting my own boutique communications business, O’Rourke PR.

The one-person operation from a kitchen table grew into a respected boutique consultancy with a host of brilliant clients. Alongside this, I have developed an online PR program called The Halo Effect, which has subscribers from across Australia.

While running my business I met an inspiring man called Ian Steel, and was introduced to his charity, Kickstart for Kids (KSFK). Each week, we support 350 schools by providing about 50,000 breakfasts and 10,000 lunches, with the help of more than 1200 volunteers.

I am now on the Board and advise on the Marketing and Communications direction for the organisation and am passionate about helping children to break the cycle of poverty and neglect.

After 12 years at the helm of O’Rourke PR, it was time for a new adventure, and that’s when full-service agency KWP acquired my business and I started in March this year as the Executive Director of Communications, the company’s newest department.

I had long been an admirer of KWP ever since I did work experience there 20 odd years ago, so it was a pinch myself moment to join the team and it’s a privilege to work with the biggest brands in SA and across Australia.

Founded in 1991, KWP is an independently owned, full-service strategic creativity company, which offers communications, media, technology and advertising services to clients across Australia with offices in Adelaide and Darwin.

With our combined strategic and creative skills sets, we have started working on some innovative new projects and products that will promote our great Australian brands and bring marketing, advertising, communications together – the way it’s meant to be.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

As mentioned, I recently started my new role as the Executive Director of Communications at KWP, heading up this new division for the company. Since I started in March, I’ve been focusing on building our new business department, a wonderful team and getting to know the wider teams and clients at KWP.

On any given day, our team could be working alongside media, advertising, creative, digital and technology to bring a full-service campaign to life. I like to check in with my fellow Executive team members to share ideas and opportunities and spend time with my team to ensure they have the support they need.

Establishing a new division means a lot of new business so we are growing our department clients across PR and communications, social media and content creation and work with those businesses and brands to ensure they are best in market.

3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

It’s starts early, usually with my four-year-old acting as my alarm clock! I am then into my first round of stakeholder negotiations with the kids, doing the working parent wrangle and getting them ready and off to school.

At KWP, there is never a dull moment and no two days are the same, and that’s just how I like it. Often, I have meetings in the morning with my team and clients and then spend the rest of the day planning workflow, overseeing new business pitches, creative brainstorming and working with the wider teams on communications strategies.

I check in with our clients, discuss proactive ideas, and ensure we are delivering our communications plans and outcomes. The day may end with a client or networking event and then I’m off home to put the kids to bed and prepare for the next day.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

As my husband and I both have busy full-time work and home schedules with two small children in the mix, it’s important to get organised and outsource any tasks that we don’t have the time or reserve energy to complete.

That means hiring a cleaner, spending time on Sunday planning the week with a shared calendar, preparing meals and ordering grocery delivery online.I love lists and keep my ‘to do’ list with me at all times. The same goes for our shared calendars.

Lastly, a big shout out to our ‘village’, which is how we make this work. That’s our supportive parents, nannies and friends – I’m not sure where I would be without them!

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5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

Balance is a bit of a mythical creature really and it means different things to different people.

What keeps me balanced though is spending quality time with my husband and children outside of work and making time for ‘me’.

It’s also being realistic about what balance looks like at certain points in your life and understanding that it’s impossible to keep all of the fires in your life burning at once.

At home, I love cooking, sharing a bottle of amazing SA wine and having family and friends over for a feast.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

I don’t really buy into trying to achieve the unattainable ‘work, life, balance’.It kind of implies that we have everything smoothly sailing 100% of the time in our personal and professional lives and let’s face it, that’s just not reality.

The greatest opportunities and learnings can come from taking risks, doing big scary things in your life and when things don’t feel balanced at all. In the end, we are all living our lives, trying to do our best and we need to focus on being kinder to ourselves and others as we navigate our way through different stages.

I focus on my priorities and being present with my family and friends, work and health and everything else is on the backburner at this stage in our lives. It’s about integrating and making the most of those people and priorities in my life.

To me, work life balance, means that you are behind the steering wheel of your own life and living it on your terms. It’s always a good idea to check in on how this is working for you as happiness is the ultimate ROI and if you aren’t happy with your life it’s time to make some changes.

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

As I’ve become older (and hopefully somewhat wiser) I’ve learnt to prioritise sleep, movement, and healthy eating. I’m also an early to bed and early riser kind of gal.I respond well to routine and think this enables you to stay on track and strive for success.

You also need to make time for fun and catching up with family and friends, even when you are tired and don’t feel like it!

8) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I really admire Emma Issacs and love her recent book Winging It. I love her bravery, generosity to women in business and her authenticity!

I am also a big fan of Brene Brown – her book Daring Greatly is a must read for everyone about having the courage to be vulnerable and ‘show up’ in our daily lives.

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

It’s really important to make a conscious decision to focus on what’s good and be #grateful (love a good hashtag) for the things that are going well in your life.

Celebrating the small wins along the way and keeping things in perspective.

10) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

At KWP there is an understanding that we all have lives outside of work, we are open to flexibility and prioritise opportunities for our team to get together and have fun.

You spend a lot of time at work, so you really need to love what you do, bring your best self each day and encourage conversations that foster ‘balance’ and work, life integration.

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