Australian bushfires: How the industry is helping those impacted

Paige Murphy
By Paige Murphy | 28 January 2020

Australian advertising, marketing, media and public relations (PR) professionals have continued to show their support for those impacted by the nation's bushfire crisis through a number of initiatives.

Industry leaders are rallying for everyone to get behind a campaign to give back to volunteer fire fighters in New South Wales and Victoria by donating one day’s pay to its Wage For A Wage appeal.

The fundraising campaign encourages the industry to donate one day’s wage to volunteers who have given up their own pay to fight fires during the ongoing bushfire crisis.

Industry leaders already on board and encouraging others to support Wage For A Wage are: Samsung Australia chief marketing officer Josh Grace, Carat CEO Sue Squillace, Clemenger BBDO Sydney CEO Pete Bosilkovski, Twitter Australia managing director Suzy Nicoletti, CHE Proximity CEO Chris Howatson and ING Australia head of marketing Danielle Hamilton.

A calculator on the campaign website works out the value of one day’s pay when you enter an annual salary, and allows you to donate it to the Rural Fire Services Association (RFSA) and the Volunteer Fire Brigades of Victoria (VFBV).

A live tally will show progress towards the fundraising target of $1 million and all funds raised will be distributed to the RFSA and VFBV’s volunteer fire fighters welfare funds.

Bosilkovski, who is among the first to support the initiative, says he wants to show support for the amazing ongoing work done by the volunteer firefighters.

"Our volunteer firefighters have given up so much for others during this crisis, and many people are feeling helpless and not knowing how to support these amazing people," Bosilkovski says.

"The bushfires have been devastating and continue their destruction, this is a way for the industry to donate a day’s work for good – to show our support, say thank you and help repay these brave men and women in some small way."

Nicoletti, who is married to a firefighter, says the initiative couldn't be closer to her heart.

"On the platform we've seen the Twitter community, both in Australia and far beyond, rally together like never before," Nicoletti says.

"From an elderly woman being rescued from her roof when stranded thanks to a single Tweet using #NSWFires, to inspiring generosity springing up through movements such as #AuthorsForFireys — it has been humbling to see the power of social to unite people in times of need.

"Just imagine seeing a loved one head out into the bush for weeks at a time to risk their lives. What these volunteers are doing, often with little to no pay, is nothing short of heroic. Over the past month I've received calls from people across the world asking how they can help. The #WageForAWage campaign is a fantastic way for us to honour their courage and dedication.”

Jane Metlikovec, founder and manging director of marketing agency Upstride, has also launched an initiative called Creatives for Bushfires.

The initiative allows creative professionals to use their skill sets to assist businesses with getting back on their feet.

Metlikovec grew up in Gippsland which was hit by the Black Saturday fires in 2009 and understands the long-term impacts the crisis can have on the community.

"Help isn't just needed now, but for quite a while yet, and while fundriasing is vital, providing different kinds of skills to support people is important, too," she told AdNews.

A number of creative professionals have joined the initiative, offering up their services to businesses who have been impacted by the ongoing crisis.

Metlikovec says these range from advertising producers to writers, video directors, artists, social media gurus, photographers, and everything in between.

"Everyone from huge Australian creative agencies who have clients like Qantas and UberEats to solo writers in Northern Ireland [have gotten involved]," she says.

"The response has been truly fantastic from the creative community. There's a luxury accomodation provider who we are now providing PR support to via a Sydney-based agency who is donating their time and skills.

"We've arranged branding support for a group near Eden who are decking out shipping containers with living amenities for those who have lost homes. We have people now working on a big event concept. There's lots going on from what people are reporting back to us."

The Australian PR industry has united to offer support to businesses and communities impacted by bushfires across the country, announcing the formation of the Bushfire PR Alliance (BPRA).

Twenty-one global and independent local agencies have signed up to BPRA so far, with other PR agencies across the country urged to join.

Founding members of the BPRA include Thrive, Mango, WE Communications, Haystac, Red Havas, One Green Bean, Eleven and Hotwire.

Each agency - defining their own scope and available time - will be paired by the NSW Business Chamber, Visit Victoria and other tourism bodies with a local area, town or region that needs communications support.

Over the course of 2020, the agencies will work with their ‘adopted’ community on a project or ongoing basis to provide PR and communications support to educate and inspire visitation by domestic and international audiences.

In addition, major media organisations including News Corp Australia and Bauer Media, have agreed to collaborate with the Alliance to storytell and provide valuable exposure to communities.

Thrive founder and managing director Leilani Abels says the BPRA hopes to make a bigger impact as a collective.

"The role of public relations in changing perceptions, positioning, educating, building brands and promoting local towns is critical," Abels says.

"Storytelling is what we do best as practitioners and it can have a huge impact on the rebuilding and recovery of locations. We invite all agencies and more media companies to be a part of our Alliance to help us make a difference.

"Given that many of these PR agencies have already donated to the bushfires and have other pro bono work, their commitment is extraordinary.”

PR agencies and media organisations can register their interest in giving their time via the Bushfire PR Alliance by emailing bushfirepralliance@thrivepr.com.au.

Four young professionals from Wavemaker and Ogilvy have shown their support for the bushfires with the creation of bushfire smoke face masks called Smoggys.

The masks sell at $20 each following a successful $10,000 GoFundMe campaign which was created to produce the masks.

Proceeds from Smoggys, created by Bec Drummond and Marco Del Castillo from Wavemaker and Jack Burton and Lucas Fowler from Ogilvy, go to the Rural Fire Service.

“Smoggys’ aim is to protect our nation from the smoke and act as a public symbol that Aussies have come together to help and support our firies," Del Castillo says.

Across the industry, agencies and other organisations have also raised money for firefighters and charities assisting those in need.

CX Lavender raised $20,000 through an auction organised by its executive creative director Ryan Stubna.

The auction took place at the agency on January 16 with 40 items donated and auctioned off, including extra annual leave days, two-night Airbnb Treehouse stay, a Hunter Valley tour for six people and a one-month Elixir Gold membership.

Want to get involved in one of the initiatives?

  • WageForAWage: donate your wage here.
  • Offer your services here with Creatives for Bushfires.
  • PR agencies and media organisations can register their interest to give time by emailing bushfirepralliance@thrivepr.com.au.
  • Purchase a Smoggys mask here.

Got another initiative planned? Email adnews@yaffa.com.au with details.

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