User Stories

User Story: Neil O’Sullivan Modernizes a 66-Year-Old Company Using Piktochart [video]


“Thanks to Piktochart we have been able to tackle the stigma of an old company, give a new approach to content marketing and be more relevant to our members”

The business environment is constantly changing. New technologies popup everyday, modifying the landscape of business, marketing and communication. But keeping your organization up to speed is an uphill challenge. At it’s peak, Blockbuster had 60,000 employees, 9,000 stores and was valued at $5 billion. Netflix, who they had a chance to buy for pocket change, now rules on-demand video and it’s worth north of $20 billion. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

There is a lesson to learn from Blockbuster’s failure to adapt, and that’s exactly what Neil O’Sullivan is doing. An irish, who relocated to Australia, and loves playing football three times a week, Neil is the guy behind the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA from now on) recent resurgence.

PRIA is the industry body for public relations and communication in Australia. They describe themselves as the ‘industry umbrella’ as they cover it all for their 4,000 members – expertise and service webinars, education, training, and even an yearly award system for the best PR campaigns. “We unlock a pathway to communication in Australia, we are a shoulder for communicators to rely on”, says Neil.

The problem is that after 66 years and no focus on innovation, the organization has lost members and needed to stay ahead in the industry that in itself, was changing rapidly..

Neil knew that had to change.

The importance of doing more with less

I’m a daily juggler”, says Neil. His role as National Marketing & Communication Manager involves marketing, events, clients campaigns, internal campaigns, media relationships, brand awareness, member engagement and customer service.

There is a lot to do, but PRIA only has five full-time employees. His team only has three people: himself, and two interns.


Content, social and digital marketing is huge in PR. My job is to tell the story of the PRIA”, retells Neil. The organization, which is in their 66th year, has a rich history, but Neil is focused on bringing it to modern times and moderns brands: “It’s totally different than 65 years ago”.

Before, all you had to do was focus on media relationships and getting you press release out the door to the right people. Now, that won’t cut it. “It’s more diversified, we need to cover a broader spectrum. You can’t get away with that. All campaigns need to cover every single channel”.

An issue for PRIA is their limited resources, so they’ve become experts at prioritization. “Time is money” is something that Neil keeps repeating during the interview. He illustrates this with an example: “Do we need Instagram? On the long-term, probably yes. But right now? Not really”. Instagram’s main demographic – people below 25 years old – has the lowest retention rate for PRIA memberships, and retaining that demographic is a major task for the organization.

PRIA is a non-profit organization and budgets are always tight. It all comes down to what their team can generate. They only get a budget for big events or national conferences – 75% of the work they do for their members has no money invested. However, they still need to get the job done, and provide exceptional membership services.

Using Piktochart to refresh PRIA

One year ago, when Neil came in, there was “white noise everywhere”, so they started prioritizing. They looked for high-impact opportunities, and found one in their newsletter. Their open rates were below 20%, and the campaigns were being sent only to members. They had a huge database with thousands of interested, non-members, sitting in their computers, so Neil and his team got to work.

We re-designed it from a busy, full-of-content edition that catered to every single state in Australia to a more simple and visually compelling piece. We changed the whole layer, gave it a fresh look, and created the ‘PR Hero section’. Essentially, we tried to replicate a ‘Cosmopolitan’ magazine cover approach to the PRIA”.

To do that job we needed a great, free tool, so we tried Piktochart. Neil has no graphic design background, and no official training: “We try to deliver the exact same product, but with no resources”.

Did it work? The results and their transition to Piktochart

When I came in, it was difficult. We didn’t have a huge amount of analytics at our fingertips, and we weren’t measuring enough”, informs Neil. Now, their newsletter is hitting around 22,000 individuals and organizations and has a 32% open rate – that’s a 60% improvement in less than 12 months. This, combined with other efforts, helps PRIA attract 35 members every single month.

After the newsletter success, it was a natural transition to Piktochart. “We use it on a daily basis. We haven’t had Photoshop due to the cost, so we use Piktochart to create in-house content we wouldn’t be able to create elsewhere”. Some examples are:

  • infographics for member campaigns
  • buttons (register now, download, etc) for their newsletter or website
  • social media tiles and images for Facebook
  • quotes, to give them a fresh look and make them more engaging
  • invitations to events they print out or send in their newsletter
  • banner ads they later print and use for conferences
    According to Neil, Piktochart helps PRIA save time, money, resources and become more effective. It’s a replacement for other design tools. Besides, he doesn’t have to spend time briefing graphic designers. Neil knows what PRIA is about, so he has the best vision of what he wants.“We serve members on tight deadlines. We don’t have a quiet period. It’s frantic. Piktochart helps me surf all the noise and create all the content I need. Things gotta happen, and Piktochart helps me get them done in 30 minutes, 1 hour.  We don’t have the luxury to wait for a couple days.captura-de-pantalla-2015-05-08-a-las-15-32-54-1024x555-1752763Every year, PRIA organizes over 40 events. The logo and branding for the major conferences is done by a designer, but for everything else, they use Piktochart: the program, banners, invitations, and even the website. “In an ideal world, we would spend money on this, but we have to think on our feet. 250 people attended the Brisbane event, and the majority was done with Piktochart. We’d really be lost without tools like these.

    Some advice for beginners and business people

    First, Neil has no skills in graphic design, so he advises Piktochart is perfect for beginners: “You can get the grasp of it very early on. Piktochart keeps improving every day and the tools are getting better and better. If you don’t have the resources, the budget, or the skillset, it’s the perfect tool.

    However, there is something more important Neil is warning us about: “In the future, everyone needs to keep up to date with the changing media landscapes. If we don’t, we will be left behind. We are doing everything we can to get maintain PRIA’s status as the industry leader.

    Here at Piktochart, we agree with Neil. What are your thoughts? Do you think constant innovation is necessary in a business environment?


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