As part of our alumni series, the MCSA team sat down with ex Vice-President of MCSA (2018/2019) Ella Marelich! Ella graduated from the University of Waikato in 2019 and shortly afterwards began an internship with Foodstuffs New Zealand. Ella has just finished her internship and is a Corporate Affairs Coordinator for Foodstuffs!
So what does your life look like now? What are you up to?
Well I work from home even though Foodstuffs is an essential business! And I literally just respond to the media all day! I monitor the emails and we got about 20 to 30 media enquiries a day for about two weeks when COVID was at its peak. An email will pop up, and my job is to reply to the emails, pop it in a document, lead my team’s meeting at 1pm and then assign tasks to people. Some of the enquiries mean that senior executives of Foodstuffs need to talk to my team, but that’s another call, and then I get to deal with the easy ones!
What’s your official job role?
It’s going to be Corporate Affairs Coordinator for Foodstuffs New Zealand, for the external communications team. External communications is really cool! But don’t let anyone tell you that you get to choose whether you get to do crisis comms, because it just comes upon you. You don’t get to choose crisis comms, crisis comms chooses you.
What does your day look like?
Well, it’s different every day which is a real cliche answer! But, When I first started, I was writing a lot of Four Square articles because they’re really community based, so that’s a lot of what I did at the beginning. We interact with the media too such as Stuff. I also package products up for the media and call random people. The media will call and want something, and then you get approval from the people higher up, so yeah!
Are you enjoying PR in the real world?
Yeah! It’s so good, I think ours is quite unique as Foodstuffs is actually a co-op company between Foodstuffs South Island, Foodstuffs North Island and Foodstuffs New Zealand (that’s who I work for) and all stores are privately owned and operated. Store owners have the option of what they want to do and the freedom of that. One thing I do in my job is a lot of press releases. You have to write press releases within a couple hours, so if you think writing press releases for an assignment sucks, you’re going to hate your job!
So you’re doing a lot of crisis comms at the moment?
Yes and there’s only four of us in my team! There’s the head of corporate affairs, two managers and me. When I first started we were all just doing projects and writing cool stories about Four Square, New World or PAK’nSave; places that had cool stuff going on, and then pretty much overnight all four of us were doing crisis comms for coronavirus. I have no idea what I am going to do post coronavirus!
What does your COVID day look like?
I have an 8am Zoom call with my team; roll out of bed, make a coffee, jump back into bed and jump on Zoom! I’ll have breakfast and then it really depends. I’ll continue working on press releases from the day before, or I’ll start press releases in advance for our 1pm meeting. I’ll call some stores, this morning I called a New World in the Waikato and talked to some store owners! I normally have a couple other meetings, I will get prepared for my 1pm meeting and send out everything that needs to be sent to people. We’ll have the meeting and then I’ll spend the rest of the day working on press releases. Technically I’m meant to finish the day at 4:30 but will often finish at around 5 or 5:30pm. But they’re super aware of me working too late so they encourage me not to do that!
How do you keep tabs on all this?
A lot of learning on the job, a lot of video calling and meetings! But yeah, you just kind of learn and really pick up on people's names. We’re the second largest employer in New Zealand so there’s a lot of people!
What have the majority of the comments and complaints been and how do you tackle them?
So today I dealt with a customer of a New World somewhere in the South Island! I dealt with a lady complaining about the price of groceries amidst corona and had to write an appropriate response. When this happens I have to call the owner and discuss it with them and write the customer a response. We have so many documents filled with stuff we’ve previously said to the media, FAQ’s (frequently asked questions) that we’ve written every day and we’ve got the CEO messaging (because now we coordinate the CEO’s and all their media interaction). We’ve got scripts for stores, except they have to liaise with us first as we organise their media. So yeah there’s a lot of information that I deal with!
How did you get the internship in the first place?
It’s quite a weird story. I was in Auckland for an interview for a place in Wellington, and I met with one of my brothers friends who works in CSR at Foodstuffs to get some information on the assessment day that I had to do for this interview. But we ended up talking all about her job because CSR is super cool and it’s quite a new thing at Foodstuffs with only two people working on it fulltime now. So I talked to her for ages, I got the job in Wellington and turned it down not long after I was in Auckland, my brother's friend said that the Corporate Affairs Team were looking at getting an intern, and I said I was interested. So I went up to Auckland, met with my now manager and had a coffee and a chat. I went back to Hamilton, and then back up to Auckland for another interview and I got the job!
And you’re enjoying it?
Yeah it’s pretty good! My team’s quite senior which seems stressful but it’s really good. It’s really interesting working with the experienced people in my team.
How have you found the transition from Uni to real life? And moving cities?
I always knew that I was going to have to move for a job, but it hasn’t been bad! It’s been fine, real life is great! I’m enjoying my job, whilst earning money and learning all at the same time. But I do miss the long uni holidays!
Do you have any recommendations for people still studying to do while at uni?
Write regularly! Write all the time, the more you write the better you’ll be. My writing must have been atrocious, even when I started at Foodstuffs, but now I’ve gotten so much better. Write about anything; your dog, the grass, I don’t know! But the more you write, the better your writing will be and the easier your life will be in the future.
What’s the best part of your job?
Just talking to store owners and people who are really cool! And writing really positive responses and pieces. One of my projects was sending out hot cross buns to people! We send them to people we partner with and all the key media outlets.
What’s something you’re doing at the moment?
We are getting so many stories at the moment from all of our stores so it’s been great ringing up stores and writing amazing stories and then pitching it to the media like that. For example, we got a real cute story from a local Four Square in Te Aroha doing a great thing for the elderly. Stories like that are so common at the moment and get snapped up so quickly!
What will be the next step after this?
I don’t know, probably overseas post corona! I’ll probably work for a year or two, or three, and then will go overseas! But I love my role so I want to stay for a bit, they’re teaching me a lot!
Thanks for talking to us Ella! Check out our previous interview with another ex-MCSA board member, Tessa Preddy, at this link: http://www.mcsa.co.nz/news--events/life-after-uni-part-i-uow-alumni-tessa-preddy