Anthem brings Arianna Huffington to New Zealand

Anthem brings Arianna Huffington to New Zealand

Jane Sweeney reflects on a launch that was a year in the making

“Who says you can’t?” That’s the opening line of my very unorthodox stream of consciousness, which is my business plan. 

I went on to describe the agency that we are in the process of building, one that is always reinventing itself; full of “go to” people who are constantly questioning and finding new and inventive ways of achieving outcomes for clients. And I wanted to create “job heaven”, a place where our hallmarks are creativity, smarts, influence, currency, humanity, and generosity. 

And I thought as I wrote it late last year, who would I love to have to mark the launch of our agency and to celebrate this with friends and family?

Rather naively I said to myself “Arianna Huffington”. It was one of those moments I call "putting on my big girl pants" - think Superman undies but for chicks, except not on the outside. And I started to think about how I could make that happen. I had no staff, no office, and very few clients … but her story resonated with me. Like me she moved countries when she was 16. She went on to become the first foreign, and third female President of the University of Cambridge’s Union. 

 She’s written 14 books including biographies of Maria Callas and Pablo Picasso. She’s a devoted mum and very integral to her family. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks – like when she attacked the Women's Liberation movement in her book The Female Woman. All this aside from being the founder of the Huffington Post which I had long admired. I liked her take on reinventing media. I still marvel that the Huffington Post has sections called “Weird Media”, and "Divorce", and "Sleep", and a section for the over 50s, and a whole vertical called “Voices” where just about everyone you can imagine is represented.

So I set about contacting her, and amazingly found it wasn’t that hard. What was clearly going to be challenging was to get her to fit NZ into her busy schedule, but low and behold it all happened back in July when she confirmed she’d come.

Since then I’ve devoured articles about her, even watched her on Family Guy giving Brian a run for his money, and I’ve immersed myself in a couple of her books. Thrive was completely counterintuitive. Redefining success to focus on well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving simply doesn’t fit with our mainstream definitions of what success looks like. I was amazed to see the queen of digital advocating digital detoxes and railing against the hyperactivity of social media. I love her humour too – I watched her on a late night chat show revealing the shocking fact that one in five people check their cellphone whilst having sex! And as I got into the book I was touched by her vulnerability – she shares her daughter Christina’s drug addiction, her divorce, her mother’s death in such a way that you feel like you’re chatting with a mate about how to cope in the tricky times. I had just read the chapter on coincidences in our lives, when I moved to the next chapter on preparing for death. This in itself was a coincidence as my step dad died three days later and I was able to apply some of her thinking to conversations with my mum before he passed, and in the days following his death.

In January this year I had shared with Anna Curzon at ASB and Simon Tong at Fairfax that I was daring to dream I could get Arianna here, and they were really encouraging and then their businesses have been a big part of making it happen. None of this would have been possible without our good friends at the ASB, stuff.co.nz, AUT University and the Briefing who were awesome partners. And we were so appreciative of Villa Maria sponsoring the wines for the dinner event. We couldn’t have done it without our very special Anthem friend, the extraordinary Sharon van Gulik, who pulled Arianna’s visit together for us. She’s a legend.

I am so grateful for the brilliant client list we have already when Anthem is only six months old. 

Anthem is well and truly up and running – fast! We are circuit breakers and relationship builders and devise bespoke communications solutions to help solve business problems. Our purpose is to help our clients find their most powerful voice to forge meaningful connections and shared purpose with their communities of interest. 

It was great to celebrate with clients, friends and family at the pre-dinner events and the gala dinner itself. Take a look at our celebrations for yourself. It was such a great way to put a young brand on the map.

POSTSCRIPT:

You can watch the whole of Arianna's speech here, and the Arianna interview on TVNZ's Sunday programme is now live. NBR also wrote a lovely piece on the evening, and Idealog has posted its video interview with Arianna, which you can watch here.