Twice voted Australia’s most admired woman, Ita Buttorse AO,OBE is a media editor, journalist, business woman, the National Ambassador for Alzheimer’s Australia and so much more. TBS is thrilled that Ita could take time out of her busy schedule to share some valuable advice about working in the media.
Especially in radio, we need to know our audience. Working for various publications, TV and Radio, how did you go about learning about your audience?
Ratings and circulation figures reveal a great deal about your audience. It’s important to read the surveys on a regular basis and also to study the audience breakdowns i.e. age, socio-economic groups, grocery buyers etc. But it’s essential to get to know your audience too. One of the best ways to do this is through readers’ letters, emails, tweets, Facebook. You need to read them and think about the feedback these messages convey. You also need to get out and about and mix and talk with people, and above all listen – listening can tell you so much about who reads, watches or listens to you.
In your book ‘A Passionate Life’ you talk about the struggle you had starting your own magazine ‘ITA.’ What stopped you from throwing it all in during the initial stages?
I had a dream and I was prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve it. Timing is crucial when you’re starting a new project. When I created ITA Magazine I had no idea that its arrival would coincide with ‘the recession Australia had to have – ‘according to the then Prime Minister, Paul Keating. Many people have forgotten just how tough that recession was. For instance interest rates were at 17 and a half per cent. I’ve learned over the years that there’s no easy road to success; you have to be prepared to work hard, sometimes even 24/7 to achieve success. I’m very proud of the stories we ran in ITA Magazine particularly the one on the starving girl babies of China in which we revealed that girl babies were not being properly fed and were being allowed to die in Chinese orphanages. We also raised awareness of many issues facing older women in Australia.
You’ve worked with some pretty powerful and influential men in your career – what would be your best advice on how to foster a great relationship with male superiors?
Treat them as you would wish to be treated. Be honest in all your dealings with them and also with your work colleagues and your customers. Always do your best with whatever task is given to you.
What is your opinion of gender equality in the media? Does it exist and if so, how can we improve this perception?
My research shows that while more women than men work in the media they have significantly lower salaries than their male counterparts. Nothing will change until women say this is unacceptable. It will require strong female – and enlightened male – leadership, particularly from women who are in top executive roles.
Throughout your career, you’ve seemed to be juggling many things at the one time. How do you go about work/life balance and being able to do everything you need to do without burning out?
Even when my children were little I tried to put aside some time for me. Sometimes it was just half an hour when I went for a morning run before the children woke up. It’s vital to have some ‘me’ time when you can think your own thoughts without interruption. Women often say they don’t have time…they need to make time. Schedule ‘me’ time into your daily routine and see you take it. You might have to get up a tad earlier but it’s worth it. I am a firm believer in physical exercise to keep stress at bay. No woman should feel she has to be Superwoman or even a Supermum either. It doesn’t matter if the furniture needs dusting; just remember “a tidy house is a sign of a wasted mind”. No woman should ever think she has to be a perfect mother either – good enough will do.
What’s the one thing you’re most passionate about in your life right now?
In my role as National Ambassador for Alzheimer’s Australia to create dementia-friendly communities and organisations throughout Australia so that people with dementia can lead a quality life and feel valued and respected members of the communities in which they live.
**You can see Ita on ‘Studio 10’ weekdays 8:30am on Channel 10**