Talitha Cummins is a well known Australian Television and Radio Journalist, MC, Speaker and since 2015 has moved into Media Training and video production. She provides specialist media training to CEOs, organisations and industry teams across corporates and non-profit organisations. Also an established and popular keynote speaker and MC, Talitha is confident and comfortable in front of any audience. She spent 14 years as a journalist and newsreader with the Seven Network, with her last role being on the Weekend Sunrise breakfast program. Courageously, she legally challenged their decision to sack her whilst on maternity leave, and she prevailed.
As someone who has travelled the globe reporting on international events, and dealt with a host of career and life challenges, we wanted to hear how this entrepreneur, athlete, volunteer and charity ambassador has honed her resilience. Talitha‘s journey through the obstacle course of life has been a very public one due to her profile, and she speaks openly about her own path to finding your strength and taking back control. She’s someone with a relentless zest for life, and a passionate advocate for women’s rights and health and wellbeing.
You combine a portfolio career of Freelance Journalism, Speaking, Media Training and TV Production. How have you approached the career transition from salaried employee to building your own business
Anyone who works in the freelance industry describes the workload as ‘feast or famine’, and I hadn’t experienced the latter until September this year (cue crickets!). The work had been rolling along nicely since Christmas. At times I had more than I could cope with, but managed to get it done. I had this overwhelming worry that the work would just stop one day. That fear was realised in September when it did! For a whole month I had one job and thought that was the end. Thankfully, it turned around pretty quickly.
But freelance work is not for the faint hearted. You have to be savvy with money, be prepared to hustle and be self-motivated. That being said, I wouldn’t change it for anything. You have flexibility, a variety of experiences and I love meeting all types of people.
What’s your best piece of advice for organisations facing a media crisis?
The worst response an organisation can have in a crisis is silence. Silence implies guilt and makes it look like the company has something to hide. You need to consider all scenarios and develop a plan to navigate the situation to avoid negative press and consequences. Every step must be calculated. I always recommend honesty. A crisis doesn’t have to be bad. Handled well, it can provide opportunities for companies to take a particular stance or reveal the strength of their leadership.
You are an Ambassador for Hello Sunday Morning, and very openly shared your story of overcoming alcohol dependence on Australian Story. Why did you choose to share your story publicly and what have you learned through doing so?
My story was first revealed when I wrote a blog about reaching three months of sobriety. It posted to my Facebook page, the papers picked it up and on it went. I have no regrets. It touched a nerve with people and the biggest eye opener was hearing about the extent of the problem in Australia.
Alcoholism doesn’t define me. I want to show people who are suffering there’s a better life out there. But it’s broader than alcoholism. I’m a strong believer we can’t move forward and find happiness without addressing our issues. Confronting them, sitting with them in that horrid, uncomfortable space and finding strategies to move forward. At the end of that is a rainbow of freedom. And happiness.
You are passionate about women’s rights. What in your view must change to advance gender equality more rapidly?
There’s a real feeling of change in the air. Lets hope it’s permanent. The Harvey Weinstein case has provided an example to the world of what happens when women have the courage to speak out. Bless them. Calling out bad behaviour is the way forward, in the workplace and beyond. It sends a strong message to the perpetrator and others about what’s acceptable.
What has been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge was beginning my career as a shy and introverted young girl, in an industry which required you to be the opposite! The first story going to air, first live cross and many subsequent live TV appearances were nothing short of terrifying! I spent a lot of time feeling fearful and anxious, but I knew the way forward was to keep pushing through. I’m a different person now and grateful I kept going. There’s hope for all the shy people out there. You can train yourself!
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of who I am as a person and the actions I’ve taken to arrive at this point. There’s nothing more liberating than speaking with honesty and defending yourself, where necessary.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
I think the most important advice for future female leaders is to back yourself – and don’t stray from what you believe – even if others believe differently. Make sure what you’re doing is aligned with your values and beliefs and even if others don’t agree, stay true to yourself. Acting with integrity is everything.