PR Profile | Karen Eck, Founder and Director of eckfactor
Communications Strategist. Talent Manager. Publicity Director.
Could you tell me about yourself and your role at eckfactor?
I founded the agency about 25 years ago specialising in publicity and PR management for the entertainment industry. I came out of the starting gates with some of the biggest brands in the world on our roster including Sony Pictures Television, Discovery Networks International and Mark Burnett’s Eco-Challenge (creator of Survivor). Clients who joined us included CNN, MTV, Cartoon Network and locally based DMG Radio (now Nova Entertainment).
Our team always made me proud in delivering exceptional results. In the early days, staff would joke about everything having to be ‘eckfactor perfect’. I was always one to roll up my sleeves, working on at least one publicity project at all times. It’s important, even being the boss, to remain up-to-date and in touch with client expectations. The agency continues to evolve.
I no longer have a bricks and mortar office, preferring the flexibility of working remotely. I hire the resources we need, when we need it, to get the job done.
Today, my clients are across business, technology, lifestyle and exploration. I’ve added two hats to my wardrobe: co-founder of a professional networking event called Collabor8Women; and the presenter of a masterclass program called The Power of Visibility to help experts and business leaders lift their profile.
Busy? Aren’t we all!
What is your career background, and how did you get started?
My first full-time job was at the ABC as a television publicist. It was a sliding doors moment that led to a wonderful career.
As a uni graduate living in Canberra, I was offered an internship at ABC TV Sydney in Program Sales with just three days’ notice. A woman I did not know stopped me in the hallway and asked me some rapid-fire questions. Who was I? What did I study? Why on earth was I put in Program Sales?
She said: ‘You’re in the wrong department. Come with me’. She took me by the hand, walked me down the hallway to another office and said: ‘This is Karen. She needs to do her internship in publicity. I’ll leave you with it’. The boss just turned his chair and said: ‘Hi, welcome!’
I stayed at the ABC for five years. Sometimes you just get very lucky.
What are some of the highlights of your career so far?
In 2011, eckfactor won the business to run media and stakeholder relations for Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure. It was the biggest and most high profile entertainment gig at the time and created lots of great memories.
At one point, Oprah was holding my hand and I remember thinking: ‘Do I let go of Oprah or does Oprah let go of me?’. She’s incredibly charismatic.
Over the years, every red carpet I’ve managed has been a highlight; it works with my level of energy. I genuinely love creating a spotlight for people to showcase their expertise and talents.
What advice would you give someone trying to develop their career in PR/Comms?
First, do more than is expected. If you have a chance to do an internship, do two. You could be their next best hire. If you’re looking to move into PR, know that persistence and dogged determination goes far.
Second, anticipate what is needed. I’d ask myself: ‘What’s missing and who needs to know?’
Third, escape from the desk. In this post-covid hybrid working world, networking is more important than ever. Put your hand up to attend conferences and events that help you connect with professionals both inside and outside your industry.
What's the most valuable lesson/advice you've learnt about work in the PR/Comms industry?
Take the necessary steps to ensure your interview talent is match fit. This includes checking their mental health as doing media can be stressful. I always ensure there is a strategy in place for them to sharpen their skills to step forward with confidence.
This is particularly important for women, who are severely under-represented in news stories. The 2023 Women in Media Gender Scorecard revealed that barely a third of expert sources quoted are female.
In direct response to this pressing need to close the media gender talent gap, I've launched Quotable Women in collaboration with media trainer Theresa Miller. It brings together The Power of Visibility, which identifies and gives talent the strategy and mindset to step up, with TM Media, which teaches practical tools to confidently handle interviews and shine in the spotlight.
Could you tell me a bit about a recent campaign or project you have worked on that has been particularly interesting/successful?
On April 22 this year, just days before Anzac Day, I managed the international news announcement of the discovery of the wreck of the Montevideo Maru, one of the worst international maritime disasters in history. It was located at a depth of more than 4,000 metres off the coast of the Philippines – 81 years after it was sunk by an American submarine during World War II. The timing meant every news outlet jumped on the story, supported by exceptional images and footage from the underwater discovery. With 14 countries impacted by the tragedy, it made international headlines. The publicity generated 5,600 mentions across 124 countries, with an estimated reach of 15 billion and an advertising value of AUD $140 million.
What is something about your work or yourself that you think people would be surprised to learn?
When I was 15 I told my family I wanted to walk around the world. My brother Gary suggested I catch the bus. I still love walking and it’s what I turn to when I need to come up with ideas or a solution to a work challenge. I thank my lucky stars that a stranger took me by the hand and walked me down the corridor into a life-long career.