Commshake named SA’s Best Small Consultancy

A team of professional women living and working in South Australia’s regions have proven size and location is no barrier to success, being named the best in their field for the State this month.

Commshake Media + Engagement won the South Australian Small Consultancy of the Year title at the prestigious Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) SA Golden Target Awards in October.

The tiny team, made up of only four employees (equating to less than 2.5FTE), has been knocking it out of the park against its larger, metro counterparts – with a focus on sharing some of the incredible stories coming out of SA country towns and rural districts.

The win came as a huge shock to the team, knowing they were up against significantly larger and more established agencies in Adelaide. However, the recognition from the national industry leaders (PRIA) has once again reinforced the exceptional innovation, strength and talent pool of small businesses based in regional SA.

Led by owner/managing director Courtney Blacker, the team of creatives is based in Murray Bridge, but also has strong links to the Eyre Peninsula, Adelaide Hills, Riverland and Fleurieu.

Ms Blacker, an experienced media and communications expert, launched the business back in 2016 working part-time from her loungeroom floor, with a coffee in hand, alongside her newborn baby.

Since then, the business has expanded rapidly to amass 30-plus clients, an office with four highly-skilled and high-performing staff and overall business growth of about 200% over three years. Commshake Media + Engagement has successfully secured its regional clients the attention of global media, helped them win awards and funding, raised their profile with audiences across Australia and moved many into the digital communications sphere.

“I launched Commshake because I knew there were a lot of great stories outside of Adelaide that simply weren’t being shared or acknowledged with the national audience, in the way they should,” Ms Blacker said.

“I grew up on a farm on Eyre Peninsula, moved to Adelaide to study for a few years, before answering the call to come back to the regions where I now live with my family – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“I regularly saw two fundamental issues at play in the regions – being that organisations and businesses either didn’t know HOW to share their great news, or in some cases, didn’t actually believe they were doing anything particularly unique or special. I knew otherwise.

“There so many incredible things happening out here in the Murraylands, and I wanted to put some of it on the State, National and global stage. Now we’re working in most regions of SA, doing the same thing.

“My aim was to not only help build opportunities for small businesses doing great things, but also to remind people in country SA that we live in one of the most incredible places on earth, and sharing our stories with the world was an important part of building our community’s confidence and resilience.”

In a business sense, Ms Blacker could also see a gap in the market for high-quality communications and public relations that was focused on showcasing the State’s regions. Within weeks of starting the business, she had secured three major clients, and even taken along her four-month-old to an executive meeting to ensure she could land the deal.

“It was a pretty crazy and sleepless time during that start-up phase. A scenario that many new mothers trying to start their own businesses can relate to,” Ms Blacker says.

“I remember walking into one meeting with my pram and bassinet and passing my little girl to another woman at the table so I could get on with business. It was a daunting, but also incredibly supportive culture that helped me survive in those early days.”

Commshake’s strategic focus is to grow the value of its people, its clients and the State’s regions, thereby driving demand and resources for sustainable growth in creative industries.

“Our regional focus is what sets us apart – our team members live in the region, we understand regional people and we’re committed to seeing our local economy thrive,” Ms Blacker says.

“We want professionals working in our field to know that it is possible to live and work outside of the metropolitan area and success in creative industries. We’re incredibly mobile in the way that we work now and can support our clients no matter where we (or they) are based.”

One of the agency’s recent successes was the 2019 major tourism campaign for the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong Tourism Alliance (MRLCTA), now on its way to reaching one million people worldwide, with the region’s increased profile helping to build a 40% increase in visitor expenditure and a 25% increase in visitor numbers.  That campaign has also just been named the 2019 South Australian Tourism Awards Destination Marketing category winner. Some other major PR campaigns delivered by Commshake include the Coonalpyn and Karoonda silo murals, Murray River high flows stories and Mid Murray Family Connections advocacy.

Commshake epitomises the modern workplace with flexible hours and locations for employees to allow them to balance their careers with raising young children or completing university study.

“I know it can be a significant struggle to maintain a balance between an inspiring career or study and being there to spend time with your children, so I’ve created a model that works for our passionate team of experts,” Ms Blacker says.

“None of us work a traditional five-day week in the office, but we still pride ourselves on having both the flexibility and professionalism to deliver significant, and award-winning projects. I invest in their lifestyle balance, so they will invest in my business, and it works.”

Commshake Media + Engagement will now represent SA at the national PRIA Golden Target Awards, to be announced at a gala industry event in Melbourne in November.