Telum Media has featured an interview with Icon's Group Managing Director Joanne Painter in its latest 'Australia PR Alert', a subscriber-based publication read widely in the industry. We've re-published it here with their permission. 

Telum Talks To... Joanne Painter, Group Managing Director,

You founded in 2008. Why did you create the agency and how far have you come in the last few years?

My involvement in Icon (the parent group for dates back to 2002 when I left The Age to go agency-side. I’ve always loved marketing and digital development so Icon was the perfect fit. Over the years we kept winning more comms-focused work to add to our core creative and digital capacity so it made sense to create a dedicated PR division within Icon. We formed at the perfect time, when demand for integrated solutions was taking off. The real growth, however, has been in the last two years as the agency’s reputation and profile has grown.

What does it mean to be a digitally-led public relations agency?

It means having digital in all its manifestations - SEO, apps, web development, social media, etc - in our DNA. evolved from a digital creative agency so everything we do leverages this intellectual property and mindset. When we approach a solution we are channel agnostic. Our focus is on the communication challenge, the client objective and creating great work that achieves the desired result.

Why has joined PROI Worldwide?

PR today is global. Communications are cross-border and multicultural. While I have worked hard to build Icon as a proudly Melbourne agency, we are also actively engaged with our region. Our newly created PR service Icon China, which features Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking consultants, is part of this outward vision. Becoming a member of PROI Worldwide has long been a goal of Icon. It’s the pre-eminent global network for independent agencies and shares our focus on innovation, excellence and collaboration.

You’re part of Icon Inc, what are the benefits and challenges of being part of, what is traditionally, a marketing agency?

Having amazing digital and creative teams as part of an integrated offering gives us so much more latitude when it comes to planning and executing solutions for clients. It gives us scale and depth that more traditional PR agencies can’t match. Clients also love that our model is simpler, more efficient and easier to manage.

Even though Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city the perception is that media and business happens in Sydney. What do you think about this?

We have a lot of Sydney-based clients - many of whom choose Icon because we’re Melbourne. There’s a cool factor to Melbourne, an engagement with the "new" that a lot of bigger agencies don’t have the agility or freedom to explore. That said, a Sydney office has been on the cards for some time. I just need to clone myself! 

Having sat on both the journalist and PR sides of the fence, what do you think each profession could learn from the other?

Both industries are evolving rapidly - and the line between advertorial and editorial is increasingly blurred. The lesson for both is to evolve or perish.

Where do you get your news from?

A complete mash-up of sources: online newspapers (The Guardian and Huffington Post are favourites), BuzzFeed, Smart Company, endless travel blogs, Twitter and Facebook. And of course Telum!

Favourite blog or online influencer?

Probably Crikey but I tend to graze a diverse field. Lauren Bath is my favourite travel blogger / Instagrammer but that’s probably because we played a small part in helping to launch her career.