Hello Paul. Can you start by telling us a little about your career to date?
I’ve spent over 20 years working in media across the UK and Australia. My first decade in the UK included working at Virgin.net, a dot-com startup, with the likes of Sir Richard Branson, moving then to Channel Four to grow its digital ad sales business. I was headhunted by Fairfax in 2009, which is how I came to Australia.
After scaling Fairfax’s digital business I moved to the newly created Metro Division, transforming and integrating its digital, print and magazine businesses. In 2014 I joined Yahoo7, which has taken me on an exciting journey to the present day. I’ve been Managing Director at Verizon Media for ANZ since 2018 and recently my remit has been expanded to also include India and South East Asia.
I understand you’re also a board member for our industry’s social purpose organisation, UnLtd, and that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a big passion of yours. Could you tell us a bit about your personal philosophy around CSR?
A lot of businesses’ corporate social responsibility strategies start out being a function of their HR strategy. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, however, I wanted to ensure that the initiatives we identified were integrated into the fabric of our business. Internally we call this ‘the weave’.
At Verizon Media CSR sits across every facet of our business, so through our editorial teams, we shine the light on marginalised communities to give them a voice.
Yahoo Lifestyle, for example, has launched a new ‘D&M’ editorial series that promotes stories across verticals including race and diversity, disability, women’s health, sustainability, sex and gender, and mental health.
From a commercial perspective, we talk to our partners about the concept of Advertising for Good. This relates to how our actions as a media company and industry can have a positive impact, not only on our people but also on the world and society, helping to improve lives.
People are the lifeblood of our business and it’s via their enormous contribution that we work to help solve problems for some of the causes that are important to our business. We have a program called Citizen Verizon, which sees 17 passionate volunteers supercharge our philanthropic drive. They’re moving the needle with our charity partners, but also creating meaningful opportunities for our people to get involved with the community.
One great example of this is The Great Build, where the entire company dedicates a whole day to volunteering opportunities that fall within our three core CSR pillars. Can you shed a bit more light on the background of these initiatives and tell us how you bring them to life?
There are three main pillars of our CSR program that we focus on at Verizon Media and they all revolve around our most important asset: people.
The first is digital inclusion. There are still many people in Australia who don’t have access to the internet. We need to ensure everyone has online access so people can develop the soft skills they need to join the workforce. We do a lot of volunteering with companies like Inco Australia to help achieve this goal.
The second pillar is around climate protection. Essentially our challenge is, how do we leave Planet Earth in better shape than we found it?
An example of how we solve for this challenge is to work with Take 3 From The Sea to combat the harmful effect plastics have on the planet. This isn’t just about cleaning up beaches. It’s also about education and how we as a society can think differently about the concept of recycling.
And then last, but by no means least, is the focus on human prosperity. Around this pillar, we’ve been on a fantastic journey with UnLtd and its charity partners. In particular, we work in close partnership with Musicians Making a Difference (MMAD). They’ve truly become embedded within our organisation.
Through our work with MMAD, we’ve seen that there are many amazing kids that are falling through the cracks of society. And we wanted to enable them to create a path to rehabilitation. MMAD does this through Music, Mentorship and its amazing 3-5-1 camps.
I remember participating in one of these camps with about 25 people where we focused on spoken word in one session and then we wrote a song/rap. These are amazing, powerful experiences, where you’re really connecting with your inner self. And suddenly all of these words, stories and feelings come out on the page. It’s a really cathartic experience.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get results?
The biggest challenge that everybody faces is a lack of time. We’ve all got busy jobs and full lives, so we need to find a way to carve out the time to do these important things.
I’m pleased to say that one of the great things about Verizon Media is that people are empowered to intertwine their work and passion projects. When you can do things that you’re super passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work – it’s just spending time on something you love.
It’s also important to understand where you get your energy from. Sometimes it’s from sleep, sometimes it’s from exercise, and hopefully, you get it from your job and the people you work with. It’s so important to understand what makes you happy at the end of each day and week.
If you can identify what those things are, and then incorporate them into your life, it’s the difference between finishing the week happy or not. For me, CSR is one of those things that really energises and inspires me.
What has been the reaction from the industry so far to Verizon Media’s CSR initiatives
The proof is in the pudding. When we look at our internal engagement scores, as verified by the Gallup 12 and Media I survey results, the average industry happiness score for media owners and publishers was 70 and Verizon Media’s scores came in at 92.
It’s wonderful that people here are energised, engaged and passionate. From my peers, and certainly our partners, there’s been a lot of interest in what we are doing. In every touchpoint that we have – with our consumers and our advertising customers – they are liking what they see.
We’re continuing to look at how we help and partner with other companies where we are philosophically aligned. We’ll be working with Omnicom Group this year, collaborating for NAIDOC Week to bring together a panel across our businesses to address this year’s theme – ‘Heal Country’. It’s really exciting that we are developing these multifaceted relationships and programs.
And finally, with Advertising Week APAC only a few months away, what are you most looking forward to about the event?
In a world where we haven’t had the opportunity to spend much time face to face, I’m most excited by the thought of being with my industry peers again.
Advertising Week is all about galvanising ideas. These events are a great way to not only physically catch up, but also to work together to tackle some of our industry’s most pressing issues.
I’m looking forward to the opportunity to listen, learn and be part of the conversation.