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A Q&A with Network of Public Sector Communicators Head, Lisé Hutcheon

Rebeca Berney Featured

​Here at Beyond Recruitment, we know that Communications is an ever-expanding industry – and an exciting one that offers great benefits, plenty of flexibility and opportunities to experience a range of projects and teams.

We sat down with Lisé Hutcheon to dig deeper into the role of a Communicator and learn more about the Network of Public Sector Communicators.

Why Did You Become a Communications Professional?

It was a natural segue from being a journalist. We weren't communications professionals but Public Relations people.

Moving from the structure of being a journalist with rounds was very different to working for one organisation. That wasn't my cup of tea, so I moved to a consultancy. Like almost every Kiwi, I headed overseas for my OE, stayed in London for 25 years and set up a marketing communications consultancy catering to innovative global high-tech and telecommunications companies.

When I headed home with two kids in tow, I didn't know anyone in Wellington and it meant I had to work in government if I wanted a job. A new experience. So, to find my feet, I chose to start contracting.

What Advice Would You Give to a New Graduate about Becoming a Communicator?

  1. Join the Network and the committee. There are centuries of experience there just waiting for you to learn. You get the chance to talk to professionals doing all sorts of jobs under the banner of communications and engagement.

  2. Find yourself a good recruiter (or two), one that wants to create a long-term relationship with you. They should be genuinely interested in you and what you want to do. If they're good, stick with them long-term, even if they move organisations.

  3. Get a full-time job within an organisation so you can learn the ropes. Then, start contracting so you can experience different ways of working and tap into your team's combined knowledge.

  4. Don't be scared to try new things and move often to find out what it is you want to do.

Which Contract has been the Highlight of Your Career?

Hands down, it’s leading the communications and stakeholder team for KiwiSaver.

Being part of that massive programme delivering a possible better future for every Kiwi was inspiring. Everyone was on the same waka, paddling in the same direction. We worked hard, solved complex problems every day and delivered on time. Our research said we would only sign up around 30K people in a year, well, we signed 600,000 in six months. Today over 3m people are saving for retirement, buying their first home, or both!

It's 15 years old now and this June, 150 ex-KiwiSaver peeps met to celebrate this milestone and to honour our fantastic Programme Director, Cathy Magiannis, who died recently.

Tell Me a Bit About the Network of Public Sector Communicators

The Network, as it's lovingly called, has been around since the 80s. A group of forward-looking communicators working in government saw the need to provide a way for communication professionals to get together. So, collaborating before collaborating became a thing!

Its mana has risen and waned over the years, but it has always been markedly different from PRINZ, IABC and other networks in Wellington. At its height, it used to run many up-skilling events and an annual 2-day conference. One of the best was when it bought out the Head of Communications for the UK Government. Everyone learned a lot from that conference.

More recently, however, the current committee decided that in a pandemic fuelled world, where communicators were vital, these communicators just needed to get together, learn from each other and meet new people in a relaxed environment.

The Network has been hugely helpful in establishing myself in Wellington. I have made lifelong friends, reconnected with a mate on the same journalism course as me and been able to get the inside skinny on various roles and workplaces before venturing into them. Plus, the experience you get in one room at any one time is huge: it's a couple of centuries' worth!

How Long Have You Been Been Contracting?

Pretty much since 2004, but I did have a stint in-house for seven years. I'm a serial Consultant/Contractor.

What Sort of Events Do You Hold and How Regularly?

We used to run up-skilling events and an annual 2-day conference. We now organise speaker events on topics of interest or panels to help people build skills and knowledge. Of course, networking events usually focus on us getting together and sharing what's happening in Wellington's communications space.

What is the Benefit to Belonging for Someone Starting Their Career?

First, you get to meet all sorts of people who have done it before and are willing to share their knowledge. You might even get an offer to come to talk with them about a possible job. Being seen by senior people at these events can help you get a foot in the door.

What is the Benefit to Belonging for Someone More Established in their Career?

Getting the inside 'Goss' about what’s happening in Wellington! Communicators seem glued to an ever-revolving door: always looking for new opportunities to test their skills, be valued by their manager and make a difference to the lives of Kiwis.

I have often called someone from the Network when doing my recruiting due diligence or considering a job opportunity. They will be honest about the working environment you might step into.


If you’d like to learn more about opportunities for contractors in Communications, Technology and Digital, get in touch with the Beyond Recruitment team today. Our specialist team of contractor recruiters can talk you through the roles currently available and help you plan out your next move.

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