US-based marketing and comms marketplace Publicist has launched in Australia after experiencing strong traction in the US since its inception earlier this year.
Founder and CEO Lara Vandenberg told Mumbrella the launch comes at a crucial time for the industry in Australia as COVID-19 and the related closures push brands and agencies towards a freelance-based model.
“Budgets now are much more cyclical and the diversity of skills and services that exist, as opposed to when I started my career ten years ago, has just changed exponentially,” says Vandenberg.
A one size fits all retainer isn’t necessarily a model that world for all brands and agencies anymore, she says, so in 2018, faced with the issue herself of trying to hire talented and well-vetted freelancers, Vandenberg came up with the idea for Publicist.
“A lot of people were coming to me, just because I’ve got a pretty great network between the US, UK and Australia, and saying ‘we need 50 people for an event in January, can you introduce us to people’ and it was a real manual effort [to connect them]. The industry is built on word of mouth and there was no way to automate that.”
Publicist’s freelancers are put through a rigorous vetting process before they are allowed to join the platform and they are then able to pitch for individual projects put forward from brands or agencies. Every transaction is handled per project, the platform doesn’t work with retainers, and payment also goes through Publicist, which should end the freelance woes of late payments, missing invoices or lost bank details.
Vanderberg is currently based in New York, although a quick visit to Australia at the beginning of the pandemic has seen her delayed here for several months, and says the launch in the US at the beginning of 2020 was well received and has given her a lot of confidence for the launch in other markets.
Vandenberg, who got her start in the industry as a fashion assistant on Woman’s Day, has worked for Westfield and content intelligence startup Knotch. It was while she was working at Knotch that she built the beta for Publicist before leaving to focus on it full time.
On the platform, Publicist houses freelancers with over 300 skills and services, including content creation, PR and media relations, internal relations, crisis communications, go-to-market strategy and digital marketing. The entire project, pitch, payment and communication process happens on the platform, which is venture-backed and has plans to launch in the UK following Australia.
“There’s so much opportunity at this time, we’ll see digital publications come out of this, we might even see a resurgence after we’ve seen these closures. In the US at least, we’ve seen a lot of people take to freelancing really, really quickly. We can see the marketplace demand in Australia, we have a lot of Australian talent and brands signing up to the platform and that’s really exciting to see.”