PR Profile | Meg Rayner, Head of Corporate Communications at GMHBA
In this PR Profile interview, we dive into the life and career of Meg Rayner, Head of Corporate Communications at GMHBA.
Could you tell me about yourself and your role?
I’m the Head of Corporate Communications at GMHBA, Australia’s leading regional private health insurer. I lead a small but dynamic team responsible for external media and PR, internal communications and community partnerships. Our goal at the moment is to raise the profile of GMHBA outside Geelong and develop a new community partnerships strategy to make sure we are making a meaningful difference in the communities we operate.
What is your career background, and how did you get started?
I started my media career as a cadet reporter at the Ballarat Courier. I loved writing for a daily paper and was lucky enough to cover the entertainment round, interviewing lots of touring bands and going to festivals before moving on to the courts and police round. I moved back to Melbourne and worked at Channel 7 as an associate producer, then made the leap into corporate communications with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. I loved the pace of crisis comms, and when I took a role as Media Manager at Coles Group I had the opportunity to lead our national response to the needles in strawberry crisis, countless floods, fires and natural disasters, and of course Covid.
What are some of the highlights of your career so far?
Working in the team that kept 2,400 supermarkets, liquor retailers and service stations safely trading during a national pandemic was highly stressful but supremely rewarding. We had to be super agile and work quickly to respond to a fast-moving crisis (remember the daily press conferences, snap lockdowns, panic buying and constantly changing the rules?!) but we had a phenomenal team and despite the late nights, weekends and (literally) thousands of media enquiries we managed to survive!
What advice would you give someone trying to develop their career in PR/Communications?
The most important thing in the media industry is nurturing and maintaining relationships and treating everyone with respect. Having worked on both sides of the fence, everyone has a job to do and whether you’re the one asking for information, or sharing it, you will be remembered for how you engage with people and the impression you leave.
What are you most proud of in the work that you do?
Working in corporate comms, I’m most proud of the role we get to play in promoting and protecting our brands essentially through the power of influence and relationships. We generally have very little budget and landing coverage comes down to your ability to pitch and persuade a journalist to report on the narrative you create. Similarly, successfully keeping your brand out of negative stories comes down to trust and nuance. The near-misses come with heart-thumping adrenaline, but most people never know what goes into these conversations, and that’s the art of crisis comms!
What's the most valuable lesson/advice you've learned about work in the PR/Communications industry?
You can send as many press releases as you want and pitch stories all day long, but if you don’t offer a packaged story ready to report it just won’t get picked up anymore. A compelling angle, an engaging spokesperson who can speak confidently, and good imagery or video are absolutely necessary to land coverage.
Could you tell me a bit about a recent campaign or project you have worked on that has been particularly interesting/successful?
GMHBA has a subsidiary brand called Frank Health Insurance, which is a value-offering private health insurance offered to a younger demographic. We’ve recently launched our first app and our team was tasked with celebrating the achievement and bringing this to life internally. We held a three-day Frank-a-thon which included a competition, health services branch involvement, an “ask the developer” webinar and a stand-up comedian lunch for staff at head office. Having only ever worked on the external media side of things before, getting creative and finding ways to engage staff in announcements through internal communications has been a new challenge and really enjoyable.
What is something about your work or yourself that you think people would be surprised to learn?
People would be surprised to learn that after spending most of my career working 24/7 in Melbourne, I’ve recently moved onto a small acreage outside Geelong to start a family, enjoy a slower life and take a break from the hectic pressure and pace of a massive workplace like Coles! I’m absolutely loving my new role at GMHBA and working in a new industry. I will likely return to a high-profile role again in the future, but I’m finding this season of life incredibly fulfilling.