From PR to print – Meet Rio Chard

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Rio Chard has implemented many transitions during her 10–year career in the print industry. She was also awarded the Media Super Young Executive of the Year Award at the 2018 National Print Awards. We talked to her about the challenges, the changes and being asked to be a female chairperson in a predominantly male industry.

Rio originally had no intention of working in the print or media worlds, we discovered, but for a twist of fate in Year 10 when she said she was fortunate to do work experience at a top marketing and PR agency. 'After that, my whole trajectory was based on getting hired there,' she says. 'I did a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in marketing, management and HR, and then landed my full–time role at that company.' The role was, as she puts it, half account and half production coordinator, which is where she gained her understanding of design and production.

'I had an amazing boss who I learned a lot from. It was a great foundation for my career. I learnt that everything can be done, you just have to work out how to do it. That feeling you get once you've achieved something you set out to do is amazing.'

From PR to print

After 18 months back at this PR firm, Rio switched to Scott Print, where she's worked for the past 10 years. But we wondered, why the change of industry? 'PR is extremely fast–paced and full on,' she tells us, 'and I'd achieved what I could there. Selling high end brands is amazing, but if I could sell print, a commodity most people find boring, I could sell ice to the Eskimos. I wanted to challenge myself.'

Her first role at Scott's was to generate leads; a role she quickly outgrew. More recently, she's been able to use the knowledge she gained at the PR firm to grow the design team. 'We've restructured our business, so we don't really compete with traditional printers anymore. It's more of a full service solution, and that's been a really big thing for me. Not only have I personally developed, but so has the business.'

Not all plain sailing

As you'd expect, there have been a few challenges along the way. She told us, 'Traditionally, print has been a mature, male–dominated workforce. The culture at Scott's is unlike any other, it's second to none and has helped me get into the print industry.' She adds, 'It's a fast changing industry and it's important to adapt, grow and believe in yourself and your business. Don't just do things because that's how you've always done it. Talk to everyone and listen to their suggestions, because listening helps you learn. Then you can all move towards a common goal together. As an industry, we need to grow, and not rest on our laurels.'

So, how are Scott Print adapting? 'Expectations are now different, so the technology has to be different,' she said. 'We've replaced all our offset equipment, purchased another digital business and we're undergoing massive technology changes in digital printing. We have fantastic in in–house designers doing amazing things, and we're leading the way environmentally too.'

Rio is genuinely excited about the future, and believes there'll always be a place for print and that it's just changing. She tells us, 'Digital printing is going to grow, as will cross–medium printing, like having a book that's printed, designed, and is an eBook, maybe with augmented reality and you can 3D print from it. There'll be a real move from print being a commodity–focused industry to being service focused, and the way we do business and the services we offer will change with it.'

Reaping the rewards

However, it isn't just Scott Print that recognise Rio's talent and contribution to the industry, as highlighted by her recently becoming the first female Chairperson at the WA Printing Industry Craftsmanship Awards. She told us what an honour it was to be asked. 'It really represented a lot,' she said. 'I remember looking around the room and, well, being a young blonde woman, I didn't really look like someone you'd expect to be the chairperson. It helped a lot that I was on the committee for a few years before that, and that I'd proved myself first. I'd like to think that if people see a young woman in a role like this, then we can hopefully attract more women into the industry.'

Rio is certainly committed to the creative industry as a whole. She's also involved with the Emergence Creative Festival, having been on the committee since it's inception. All of this is why Rio was awarded the Media Super Young Executive of the Year Award at the National Print Awards. She told us how much this meant to her. 'The belief Scotts had in me for nominating me, and the industry had for enabling a young woman to win such an award, gives me reassurance that what I'm doing is valued, and that it's being seen on a national level.'

Rio ends the conversation with this final piece of advice. 'It's really important, especially for women, to not get pushed down by people, and we all need to respect tradition and learn from our past while having a keen eye on future innovation. It's not all doom and gloom, like you read in the press. Print can be an exciting industry. It's what you make it.'

Whatever the future brings, we believe the print industry is in very good hands with people like Rio leading it into the next generation.