5 questions on innovation: with Lisa Burling
An award-winning business woman and PR professional, Lisa Burling, launched her business, LBPR, after a string of devastating events left her a single mum to 2 young boys. In just 3 years, she built the business to a point where she’s attracted a global partnership and been recognised with awards for her innovation.
For Lisa and LBPR, partnerships and relationships is what PR really stands for. And she shares her story of success through innovation with She Business.
Passionate about giving back to her community, Lisa also set up Australia’s first student consultancy, Catalyst, with the University of Wollongong, to nurture future PR talent.
What does innovation mean to you?
Innovation often conjures up thoughts of technology and digital application. I also think of Apple founder Steve Jobs, a man renowned for being an ‘innovator’. For me, innovation in its purest form is much broader; it’s any activity or action that challenges the status quo and shows there is another way to achieve better outcomes.
How have you used innovation to build and grow your business?
LBPR is a traditional PR consultancy and I set it up at a time when I needed it to work – financially and for my own pride. I followed a well-trodden path on purpose and always knew innovation within its framework would be limited.
That said, LBPR’s student consultancy, Catalyst, is an example of innovation within this business model, so it can be done!
Originally, I attempted to take my ideas to challenge the status quo of a – in my view – plateauing PR industry and plug them into the LBPR model. But I quickly realised you can’t make an apple an orange.
So, I’m now in the throes of creating a completely new and complementary business stream which will innovate in a number of areas, including pricing models and the way we connect as human beings in the business world. It’s a little daunting as there’s no path to follow, but it’s equally exciting as it will allow me to use my skills and experience in a way that is going to be relevant for the future. I’m looking forward to shaking things up!
One innovative project LBPR initiated was Catalyst, to give PR students real-world experience. How did this partnership come about and WHY did you start it?
I regularly lecture at the University of Wollongong and often had final year PR students do work experience at LBPR. I observed a huge gap between classroom theory and industry requirements, and as I have a real passion for helping young talent prosper, I decided to bridge it by ensuring graduates leave tertiary education with a solid ‘real world’ understanding of the industry they are entering.
Catalyst is like an internship on steroids and an incubator for star talent. Our students partner exclusively with local charitable organisations, who don’t pay, so Catalyst also means I can give back by donating time. Students leave Catalyst with a portfolio of 1-2 PR campaign examples they have worked on, which reassures potential employers they are marketplace-ready.
Unbeknownst to me, Catalyst is an Australian and possibly world-first. I rallied the Public Relations Institute of Australia, who endorsed the model and now it has potential to extend nationally and globally.
What are some qualities a small business owner might need to become more innovative?
The characteristics of an innovative person for me – business owner or not – are the ability to think laterally and question the status quo, to feel the fear and do it anyway, be brave enough to imagine a future that doesn’t yet exist but will be infinitely better than today’s reality.
I find being ‘small’ is an awesome playground for innovation – the ability to flex, pivot and be nimble is the envy of bigger players who can’t move fast.
In 2016, one of your awards was Innovative Business Woman of the Year. What in particular is it about your innovative approach that this award recognises?
This award was a big deal for me as I have never really considered myself to be ‘innovative’. The judges recognised that I applied new thinking and took action to address a problem that creates better outcomes for the PR industry.
I loved the fact that LBPR’s Catalyst student consultancy had nothing to do with technology but it was the core reason I was recognised in this category as the winner.
You can learn more about Lisa’s inspiring story at our Innovation Event. We’d love to see you there!
Date: Thursday, October 19th
Time: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Venue: St George Barangaroo Level 27, Tower Two International Towers Sydney, 200 Barangaroo Avenue
Barangaroo NSW 2000
Have an awesome week!