Speech delivered by long-standing VIVA! consultant, Ruby Archis at VIVA!’s 10 year anniversary celebration

Once upon a Monday, 15 years ago, I walked into my very first job in Public Relations.

“There are two new recruits starting today,” said a tall, lanky fellow wearing a blue shirt. A pasty-faced girl with long brown hair next to him looked over the rim of her glasses. She eyed me briefly and then shifted her attention to someone at the other end of the boardroom table.

There she was, bright blue eyes, glowing golden hair, perfect white teeth framed by a crimson-red lipstick against a smile that seemed to last forever. “She looks quite sweet and innocent,” I thought quietly to myself. Oh, but how mistaken, how fooled I was, for though I didn’t know it then, I had just laid eyes on the one, the only, the smiling PR assassin!

There would be no journalist she couldn’t charm; no doctor she couldn’t mesmerise. There would be no client who wouldn’t stand by her; no story she couldn’t catapult to the front pages of a broadsheet or the first 10 minutes of national evening news.

Ruby and KirstenShe was, she is, Kirsten Bruce. A 21st Century, female, PR Zorro! “VIVA! Public Relations,” she cries as she rides through the fortress of media. “VIVA! Health Care Communications,” she exclaims, as she yields her press release-encrusted sword. She slashes the word “embargo” across the wall and, before she disappears into the sunset, with red-gloved hands, she strokes a radio mike and croons, “For further information or to arrange an interview, call me.”

I am so proud to be standing here tonight, celebrating the achievements of my best, my dearest friend, Kirsten Bruce and the 10-year milestone of the VIVA! PR Brand. When Paul secretly organised this evening’s festivities over a month ago, VIVA! already had a long list of awards – PRIA and PRIME winner, runner-up, highly commended, finalist, almost every year for more than five years; and Australia’s only healthcare PR agency invited to join GLOBALHealthPR – the largest organisation of independent PR agencies dedicated exclusively to healthcare communications world-wide. And as Paul has already mentioned just a couple of weeks ago, as testament to VIVA!’s longstanding reputation and a further accolade and just in time for the 10 year celebration, the independent PR Report released its ranking of Australian Public Relations agencies. Not only was VIVA! in the top 25 fastest growing PR agencies in Australia and in fact, the 11th fastest growing PR agency nation-wide but, ladies and gentlemen, VIVA! Communications is now the highest ranking PR agency specialising in health communication in the country!

For those of you who have worked with Kirsten over the last 15 years both during her time at PPR, Edelman, Carl Boyer & Associates and as Principal of VIVA! Communications, I’m sure that all of Kirsten’s achievements come as no surprise. And while many of you know the juxtaposition of the bubbly, friendly, smiling social persona and the determined, resolute and unwavering perseverance of professional Kirsten, I thought I might give you a little insight into the ‘behind the scenes’ KB as I like to call her.

For those of you who ever experienced any tardiness in the VIVA! team’s arrival at your offices, forget the formal excuses you were ever given. The real reason is Kirsten’s incredible magnetism to overseas student taxi drivers. It’s not that the taxi drivers were still trying to learn how to get around Sydney that caused the tardiness, it was their inability to hold the steering wheel with ever trembling hands as Kirsten leaned into them from the back seat, saying in her sweetest voice, “You really have absolutely no idea where you are going do you? Do you know your way around Sydney at all? I mean seriously you’re having to look up your sat-nav to take me to Waterloo Road, North Ryde. Nearly every pharmaceutical company in Sydney is on that road. Have you not seen them? You know, the big buildings, all one after the other, really big writing out the front?”

The real reason to Kirsten’s underlying passion with healthcare and why she takes medical conditions so seriously. Kirsten is the world’s most atopic person. She is allergic to everything – mango, macadamia nuts, fish, you name it, but more importantly, Kirsten is allergic to red wine. Now I insist this is a food allergy and not a food intolerance, because apparently the histamines which cause wine intolerance are also found in chocolate, and I can assure you, Kirsten has no intolerance to chocolate. Quite the opposite in fact, Kirsten once had to undergo hypnotic therapy in order to stop her constant chocolate cravings!

But getting back to her wine allergy, Kirsten treats this allergy very seriously and adheres quite strictly to medical protocol: ‘desensitise, reduce allergic response through increased allergen exposure’. So when she can, Kirsten exposes herself to red wine (never before client meetings, you’ll be pleased to know, although there have been some occasions post-client meetings that have led her straight to the Pinot Noir. I won’t mention any names – Barry, Gina, Melita… Gavin). Now shortly after exposure, usually just three sips, Kirsten’s symptoms appear quite rapidly. First her neck and face change to a red that rivals her signature lipstick, then the cerebellum and its associated coordination face a slight challenge prior to denial setting in; “No, I’m fine, there’s nothing wrong with me, I’m ok, is my face red? It’s not red, is it? If it’s not red, I’m ok. Besides, I feel fine. Look, I can touch my nose,” she says as she proceeds to poke out her eye!

Well, one thing Kirsten certainly isn’t allergic to is the constant, daily challenge that comes with heading up a Public Relations organisation. For at least 15 years, and more if you include Kirsten’s time at the Pharmacy Guild, Kirsten has consistently surpassed all expectations of a PR professional, and I can say quite confidently, there is no one in the PR world that does it better than KB. Whether it’s journalists ringing pharmaceutical companies to thank them for giving interviews despite having turned the Lane Cove river green, or getting blanket news coverage irrespective of the strength of the story – ground-breaking research; a revolutionary new medical device; or a little known company that simply has something to say and needs help in getting their message out there – or whether it’s getting the Government to change its mind and offer life-saving treatments excluded from subsidy schemes because there’s just a handful of patients, KB will achieve, she will get results, she will save the day.

I’ve often said to her, “KB you never give up, you do too much, you insist on not only being the horse, but you’re the cart, the driver, the whip,” and no matter what stage of her career, a new PR recruit, a seasoned PR Director, a Principal of a 10 year old PR company, Kirsten works on every aspect of a PR campaign, tirelessly, insistently and of course she does so, day in, day out, with a smile on her face. So let’s raise our glasses to the heroine of the pharmaceutical company; the saviour of the patient organisation; the champion of the medical cause; the red-gloved PR Zorro!