PR Profile: Master Builders Australia National Director of Media & Public Affairs Dee Zegarac
Tell me a little bit about your new job at Master Builders Australia, and what you're most looking forward to about it.
I recently started at Master Builders Australia in a senior leadership role as National Director, Media & Public Affairs, overseeing all external communications relating to the advocacy of public policy issues being pursued by the organisation. This includes day-to-day media, campaigns and digital communications as well as political strategy when liaising with government. The role of Master Builders Australia is to promote and advance the development of the Australian building and construction industry. I’m looking forward to working closely with the sector to bring a unified voice to seek better outcomes for the industry and minimise the adverse impact of the economic consequences of the pandemic.
Previously you worked at the Pharmacy Guild of Australia — do you have a highlight you could share from that time?
I previously worked at the Pharmacy Guild of Australia as their Senior Advisor, Government Relations, Campaigns and Media leading their external campaigns, government relations and digital communications. A highlight would be managing the Guild’s federal election campaign which advocated for a reduction in the maximum Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) co-payment for general patients. The campaign highlighted the rising cost of living pressures many patients and their families were facing and the difficult decision many of them were making to skip or delay medication in order to pay their bills. The national campaign saw a mix of traditional media, TV, radio, outdoor and digital advertising as well as petitions, letters to MPs and patient case studies. Prior to election day, both major parties made a commitment to reduce the cost of the co-payment from $42.50 per script to $32.50 - $30. The legislation was subsequently introduced and is now before the Senate which will hopefully pass in the coming weeks and see the maximum cost patients pay per PBS medicine slashed to $30 from 1 January 2023. This is the first time the price of medicines patients pay has been cut in the PBS’ 70-year history and I am grateful to have played a role along with the team at the Guild in achieving that outcome.
I know that you specialise in grassroots advocacy, and was wondering if you could share a few insights about this kind of work? What does it involve that might be different from more traditional media/comms?
During my time at the Business Council of Australia I quickly learned that in order to achieve sensible reform, you need communities outside of the ‘political bubble’ to back it in. You can see how a good idea can quickly unravel because there’s a vacuum of information or detail around how this benefits everyday Australians in the short or long term. With many relying heavily on social media and digital communications as their source of information and news, I look at prioritising that the policy changes we are advocating for reaches the members we represent and the communities they operate in as much, and quickly, as possible. At the end of the day, it’s the people who are on the ground in the industry who have the real-world experience and ultimately become the best advocates so it’s knowing how and when to engage them. A good example of this is the PBS co-payment campaign which utilised community pharmacists and their patients around the country to be the voices for the campaign. Similarly, at the Business Council, we established the Strong Australia Network to hear from businesses, big and small, who operate in regional communities to hear and broadcast their frustrations and concerns with respect to policy decisions which could sometimes go unheard because of louder voices in the inner cities.
What's the most valuable lesson/advice you've learnt about work in this industry?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned working in public affairs is to bring as many people along with you as possible and the best advocates are the voices of people working in the industry you represent. The second would be to never ‘set and forget’ with a campaign or public relations initiative, it’s important to be agile and leverage opportunities of external events around you. During the election campaign, the core team met every morning and afternoon to identify what was happening in the media and the movements of government and how our campaign messaging could be inserted into it.