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Helping not-for-profits shape the conversation and win campaigns


23 February 2024 at 9:00 am
Ed Krutsch
David Latham is the Founder and Principal media, lobbying, and campaign consultant at First Tier Media (FTM). FTM is a boutique PR and stakeholder communications agency specialising in supporting and building the capacity of the NFP and for-purpose sector.


Ed Krutsch | 23 February 2024 at 9:00 am


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Helping not-for-profits shape the conversation and win campaigns
23 February 2024 at 9:00 am

 

Founder and Principal at First Tier Media, David Latham is an experienced PR Director and journalist who has represented some of Australia’s leading NFPs and peak bodies – getting thousands of stories up across flagship media and helping clients to set the industry and policy agenda in their sectors.

As a media trainer David has prepared hundreds of clients for interviews, Royal Commissions, helped hone key messages and pivot and bridge into the stories they want to tell about their organisations and sectors. David is this weeks Pro Bono Australia change maker, read on for our recent interview with David!

Describe your career trajectory and how you got to your current position.

I started First Tier Media (FTM) three years ago as a media and campaigning consultancy after cutting my teeth as a journalist, editor, producer, lobbyist, and PR Director.

I started my PR career editing a trade magazine, writing articles, and pitching media, while continuing to moonlight as a journalist.

From there I became a lobbyist for the pathology sector, setting up site tours with federal politicians, organising events at Australian Parliament House, and getting motions passed on the floor of parliament in support of the sector. In 2019, Bill Shorten committed an additional $200mn in pathology spending.

Next stop was PR Director at an agency that grew from 3 to 15 in a couple of years, learning more about media training.

FTM came about because I wanted to integrate what I had learned along the way in terms of lobbying and media, and to develop a really effective and affordable way for NFPs to have a legislative and funding impact on political life.

What does this role mean to you?

 It’s about helping arm NFPs, campaigns, and projects with all the types of Machiavellian, and non-Machiavellian, skills available to them, and how they can campaign effectively on modest budgets.

As Clive Palmer has discovered, there is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to campaign spend. Obviously, you can’t fight effectively with nothing, but if you can establish a fairly modest war-chest, you certainly can. Whereas Clive might dump a truckload of money into ads that are expensive to place but that don’t connect, a traditional media campaign by an NFP can. Traditional media has wide dissemination, is trusted, and is highly cost effective. Add to that some stakeholder outreach and political outreach, and you have yourself a campaign.

It means a lot personally and professionally to see the work we do come to fruition. From the anticipated introduction of Australian content quotas on streaming services before July, to creating a 24% swing in the safest seat in South Australia as a result of a single seat campaign against a desal plant in an aquaculture zone, to helping African Australian community groups attract funding from major candidates in the Vic state election and from a major Australian philanthropic foundation.

Take us through a typical day of work for you with First Tier Media.

For me it’s alarm off, Radio National on. I listen as I get dressed for the lay of the land and for reactive or proactive media opportunities for clients and campaigns. It stimulates ideas and you have to know what’s happening in regard to budget deficits, tax receipts, fast-tracking of this, counter arguments against a proposal on that. You can’t be an effective media and lobbyist without knowing what’s going on around you and in related fields: from the budget to infrastructure spending, to employment. You name it it’s all important.

Coffee. On the bike to work.

Fifteen-minute pop-up meeting with staff so I know how we’re going with media, campaigns, grant applications etc. I will hop into client meetings as required with colleagues, edit releases, write some, working through angles on stories and best media fits, strategic role out of media, and work on strategic plans and campaign collateral. We try and upskill our staff and turn them into unicorns.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your career, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I think you can have as a campaigner is to see something is not working from the outside, to proffer support and advice, and then sometimes receive enormous flack from those inside a sector. Gatekeepers.

I get that. I’ve been in this sector for ten years and in comes some blown in trying to tell me how to suck eggs. But if you’re not getting the funding, legislative, or policy influence you’re after, maybe how you’ve been sucking eggs is not working. Allow me to help.

How I’ve overcome that issue has been to try and assure people, particularly if they’re from the NFP world, that:

a/. they don’t have to stick their hand in their pocket (or not very deep) to fund it,

b/. they develop the policy asks we just frame them in a winning campaign context, &

c/. we are the conduit for you to access media and political players.

Not everyone can be won over but you work with those that want to try another way.

If you could go back in time, what piece of advice would you give yourself as you first embarked on your career? 

I spoke to Peter Lewis from Essential Media after starting up First Tier Media in 2021. Essential had wrested National Disability Services back from the agency I was PR Director of and so we were going to chat about that and if Essential needed any traditional media help to supplement any of its campaigns.

The chat became more general and Peter told me the only regret he had about setting up his agency was that he didn’t do it sooner. I’m going to stick with that, although spending a lot of time in the trenches – learning about how to be an effective media operative, ground campaigner, how to lobby, and how to refine an offering by learning from other people and their approaches – is absolutely critical.

How do you stay motivated to work in this field?

There is intrinsic value in what we do. It makes a difference to people and I have always been someone that gets outraged at injustice and can’t shut my mouth. Now it’s my profession to channel that sentiment in effective ways that I know are going to work.

We’ve provided pro-bono work around refugees, we work in disability, mental health, the environment, international aid, social justice, youth homelessness, trade unions, the arts, and the screen sector. At the moment we’re looking at providing support to a First Nations organisation, and those considerations are front and centre in informing a lot of our work and approaches.

How do you unwind after work?

I am something of a courier for our kids: basketball, friends, various shopping centres. I love football, enjoying the garden with friends, a bit of reading, and some high-end ‘golden-age of television’ repeats. I run a bit which helps with the wellbeing.

What was the last thing you: Watched, Read, & Listened to?

I was reading Martin Amis’ The Information on the holidays. I’m watching Mad Men again and will be watching the new series of Love on the Spectrum after that. I’ve been forced to listen to a lot of sweary rap by teenager, but recently gave Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain a first listen.


Ed Krutsch  |  @ProBonoNews

Ed Krutsch works part-time for Pro Bono Australia and is also an experienced youth organiser and advocate, he is currently the national director of the youth democracy organisation, Run For It.


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