Karina Durham is an Associate Director of Client Services at PR agency Palin Communications, where she works with clients across health and medical sectors.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I have always had a passion for the medical industry and for writing, so it felt like these worlds aligned for me when I found myself working in the health PR space.
Once I completed my Bachelor of Communications (Public Relations and Journalism) degree, I went on to explore the consumer PR sector and event management. These areas both delivered some valuable lessons for my career – especially in time management, multitasking and the art of ‘thinking on your feet’ – but, it is in health PR where I thrived professionally.
Over the past decade I have dedicated my career to working with clients locally and globally at leading health PR agency Palin Communications.
It is a privilege to work with organisations who are making meaningful changes in the pharmaceutical, not-for-profit, medical technology, research and other emerging sectors. What truly keeps me in this niche pocket of the PR industry is that I can see how our behind the scenes work with our clients translates into a positive and tangible impact on patient care.
My continued passion for the medical industry also led me down the path of getting my degree in nutrition and dietetics. I love being a perpetual student so I’m currently looking into completing a Masters degree to make sure I’m learning as much as I can about nutrition – and weaving this knowledge back into my work.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m sure every PR professional will say a similar thing, but no two days are the same. One thing that is relatively consistent is that I’m a (very) early riser.
I’m often up and active by 5:30am to exercise, tend to emails and work on any major strategy development or writing before 8:30am. That way, my mind is clear and I’m in a calm rhythm by the time my whole team has started their day.
Recently, my days have been filled with taking briefs on exciting new projects, overseeing my active client portfolio, preparing for competitive pitches, liaising with journalists at consumer and health professional media platforms and staying on top of my own and my team’s professional development plans.
I also make time to progress our new agency initiative, The Mindful Movement. I wanted to make sure our team was getting the support they needed when COVID-19 hit, so I worked with some of my consultants to create this bespoke initiative to keep the agency focused on good mental health and wellbeing practices.
In a very short period of time, we have managed to fully engage with our whole agency, decipher what they really want from the business in terms of mental health support and implement changes that matter.
These include establishing a mental health and wellbeing policy, better over-time tracking, education sessions with the experts in this space, and importantly, a thriving social calendar so we can keep having fun even while in isolation.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Our agency was founded with a culture that acknowledges and accepts that everyone has a life outside of work. Since day one, Palin Communications has worked hard to be respectful of this at all times.
We have always been an agency that has operated in a manner that allows people to work from home when needed, so this has allowed us to adapt quickly in 2020. On a daily basis, my team relies heavily on platforms like Zoom, MS Teams, Webex and Slack to stay connected with our clients and each other.
A key learning for me over the past few months has been that even though we have changed to work in isolation, it is possible to continue to run a high performing, engaged and productive agency. Based on this, we are most likely going to adopt a hybrid model of office and remote working moving forward.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
For me there are a few non-negotiables when it comes to what I want to tick off my to-do list everyday – exercise, connection with family/friends (even if it is just calls or texts), engage in meaningful work and supporting my team.
The notion of work-life balance for me means that I am able to achieve all of this to some capacity.
The best piece of advice I received early in my career is that you can’t fault the “five minute rule” when you are trying to get a lot done in your day. I always make sure I complete tasks that will take less than five minutes first. That allows me to use the remainder of my day to focus on the bigger things.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I have made a conscious effort to read a book or listen to a podcast everyday so I’m taking in new ideas, information and points of view.
Related to this, I have tried to reduce the time I spend on my phone mindlessly scrolling – especially at night time to make sure I’m giving myself the chance to properly wind down from the day.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
My list of favourites seems to change all the time, but for the moment here are some at the top of my list:
Favourite books: Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k and the sequel Everything Is Fucked are brilliant reminders to simplify your thinking and that you sometimes have to roll with the punches. Lots of LOL moments and they’re both nice, quick reads.
Favourite podcasts: “The Food Medic” for interesting nutrition advice delivered by Dr Hazel Wallace and amazing special guests, “The Doctor’s Kitchen” where Dr Rupy Aujla gives you healthy recipe ideas and explores the not-so common themes related to nutrition and, “Hollywood Crime Scene” because the presenters Desi and Rachel are unabashedly hilarious as they share compelling true crime stories.
Favourite newsletters: I always make time to read “The Conversation” on a daily basis. Not only for the health news, but it always gives such a great variety of stories across a range of topic areas from the perspectives of leading academics.
Next on my ‘to read’ list are Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois Frankel, and Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I am a diehard Apple fan and cannot live without my iPhone and MacBook. I just love how easy it is to synchronise everything. I’m even contemplating getting an Apple Watch so I become fully immersed!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
An interview with anyone who works in the medical industry would be very valuable.
I am pleasantly surprised every day to see the unwavering dedication that all primary health professionals, allied health workers and specialists have for their patients and profession. Their days certainly don’t start and stop when they see and speak to patients.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
We have all been unsettled by this year’s events, and it’s safe to say the majority of us have worked exceptionally hard to pivot and adapt to a very different type of work-life balance.
While this has taken a lot of energy over the past few months, we still need to make time to explore the things we love. Whether it is kick-starting some post-grad studies, signing up to some virtual conferences, making the time to read or mastering a new form of exercise, we need to prioritise and look for the joy.
What works well for me is to reflect on my “win for the week”. It is always a nice surprise to look back and remind yourself what you have achieved.
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