I first met you at my sisters hens weekend in Avoca and was fascinated by your story and determination. You moved from your home on the Gold Coast to the big smoke (Sydney) at 21, lived in a backpackers and worked for free to secure your future in publishing. You’ve since worked for NW Magazine, worked as a producer for channel 9’s Today Show, edited Cosmopolitan Magazine, married the love of your life, birthed an incredible little human and now you head-up Who magazine, Australia’s most trusted weekly. All by the age of 30. Wow woman, we salute you!
Q – Can you take us back to the beginning, I have heard that you knew you wanted to work in magazines from a very young age? Did you study journalism at University and how did you manage to secure that very first gig which helped kick-start your career?
KK - I did! I was in year six when I first told my parents that I wanted to work in the media. I loved the idea of chasing a story, sharing someone’s experience and of breaking national news. I felt like it combined interests in psychology, law and an intense need-to-do-everything-now attitude.
When I was in year eleven I started going through all of my favourite magazines to find a contact to email to ask for work experience. When they said they’d take me on for a week to work for free I was thrilled! I asked my mum if my plane ticket could be my birthday present as saved up working weekends for accommodation costs at a city backpacker hostel. I loved every single minute of the experience. I couldn’t believe I was so lucky. When I finished the first week as an intern, I asked if I could come back and they said yes - so I went home and I saved up and went back again.
I travelled to Sydney three or four times to work for free and started establishing relationships with the team at what was then Bauer Media. I did everything I could - no questions asked. If they wanted lunch, mail, coffees, transcribing - I’d get it and I’d get it with a smile. On my final week of work experience, I was in my second year of a Bachelor of Journalism degree and I pitched a story to the features editor. To my absolute shock, the editor at the time gave me the opportunity to write it. I poured my heart and soul into the story and they published it. Of course, it had been heavily edited but when I saw my name in print I was blown away. I felt like I’d made it! I asked if I were to move to Sydney if they’d be able to give me one day a week to work for free as an intern. When they said yes, I decided the opportunity was too good to miss. I deferred my degree and I packed my bags for Sydney - not knowing a soul there. I picked up casual work at a Speedo store to afford to eat and lived in a backpacker’s in Bondi. After three months in the city, I was offered an editorial coordinator position and the rest is history!
Publishing has changed so much since you launched your career, the focus is very much digital, how has this impacted on your career?
I am obsessed with the changing scape of media. It’s been a focus of mine to learn as much as possible across different platforms. I’ve worked in print, in television and in digital and when I think about my experience now, it really is in engaging audiences wherever they are. It’s not medium specific, it’s more audience specific. WHO has an incredibly large and engaged digital audience, we’re definitely not a print brand anymore.
What is one piece of advice you have been given, that has stuck with you during your career and personal life?
I was always taught to work hard, to be kind to people and to believe in myself. It sounds so cliché but ten years ago I was fetching coffee for the boss I’m working for now. People remember you, they remember your attitude, they remember the passion you have for your work and how you treat other people. No one is given anything for free - everything worth having takes work. I also think it’s really valuable to be only competitive with yourself. People can be so lost in what other people are doing. I genuinely only put pressure on myself if I feel like I can do better.
Have you ever had a mentor? If so, do you mind sharing who this was and how it has benefited you?
I have had SO MANY and I think it’s important to have different mentors who give you inspiration in different ways - after all, you shouldn’t be looking to be a carbon copy of someone else. In the early days I worked with your sister Amy Mills and she was a huge inspiration to me. She was (and is still!) so passionate about her work and that’s inspiring. Louisa Hatfield, who is the general manager of the entertainment portfolio at Pacific Magazines has also been a guiding force in my career. There have been heaps. I like mentors who don’t sugar coat advice.
If you could share five tips for folks who are fresh out of study and may be looking at a career in media, journalism or the digital realm, what would they be?
- No excuses, work hard. Or someone else who is willing to work for it will take your dream job
- Be nice! No one likes the girl who is willing to stamp all over others to get to the top
- Stand your ground (it’s cool to be nice and also have an opinion)
- Back yourself. If you know you’ve got what it takes, back yourself. And don’t be disheartened by a knock back. Everyone gets them!
- Smell the roses! I was talking to Elle Halliwell recently and we were both saying we never really took the time in our careers (thus far) to say ‘Fuck, I nailed that!’ and celebrate the wins. Make sure you do.
As an editor, do you have any tips for brands who may be doing their PR in-house in those early stages of business – how do they cut-through to get their brand in-front of the right people?
Oh my goodness - know who you’re pitching too. I just received a pitch for something that was SO not WHO. Completely off brand. And this same PR agent has done it a billion times. I totally understand that everyone has a job to do, but it really is frustrating being flooded with emails about content that really would never, ever work on your brand. And make it personal, use a name. A couple of clever PR’s have even referenced my little boy from Instagram.
Any big NO NO’s for small businesses when it comes to PR?
Don’t spend all your money on influencers. Numbers don’t always (and often don’t) result in a conversion.
A few quick ones:
Fave podcast - This changes allll the time, depending on my mood. But on my recently played list is Slow Burn (a political podcast) and I also love Here’s The Thing by Alec Baldwin. I used to enjoy the Girl Boss podcast too.
Fave book – So hard to pick a favourite! I love A Thousand Splendid Suns but also loved from the corner of the oval office.
Fave show – I don’t get to watch much TV with bub to be honest but I loved Ozark and The Fall.
Fave movie – I love The Holiday!!! And Pulp Fiction.
Just for fun:
Fave GC/Brisbane restaurant – Balboa Italian
Fave GC/Brisbane coffee haunt – BSKT
Fave TVM stall (if any): My girlfriend Lisa (@lisa danielle_) recently had a pre-loved stall there that I’m sure was AMAZING.
www.who.com.au Australia’s #1 site for the latest celebrity news and photos: @whomagazine
Keshnee Kemp: @keshnee
Thanks so much for your time Kesh!