May 1, 2020
People & Places

“After so much loss, I seize the day and embrace it like there’s no tomorrow”

Paul Kitching, 54, is one of Adelaide's most skilled and prolific business networkers - if you don't know him, you've seen him. PK, as he's widely known, talks to us about his prolific career in Adelaide's media, sales and marketing industries - and the personal losses that drive him.

Paul Kitching in the gardens of Urrbrae House – one of his favourite spots. Photo: Tony Lewis/Solstice Media

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Sydney and I have fond memories of spending the late ’60s with my sister Jane in the suburban bliss of North Ryde, then riding my dragster through most of the ’70s in Turramurra. Suddenly, in 1978, Dad (Peter, the original PK) told us he had a new job in some place called Adelaide. Mum, the ever-positive Yvonne, was up for the challenge so we headed west for South Australia. It soon became home.

What kind of a child were you?

I was not an outgoing kid at all. I kept to myself, coveting silkworms, collecting posters and stickers, singing in the local choir, a good boy scout.

What were your teenage years like?

As a teen, the early ’80s were a music revelation. I was still the music and drama nerd at senior school – playing the lead in Oliver, doing all the musicals, not much of a sporty kid. Highlights were probably reading a lot of books, spending days at the local library and collecting the latest vinyl, as well as 5AD music charts that I still have.

I went through various stages of music infatuation including ABBA, KISS, Elton John, Dire Straits and INXS, but then I started listening to lots of alternative music and soon was obsessed with Prince, Human League, Howard Jones, Simple Minds, Spandau Ballet, The Cure, Madness and more. I still have a lot of the vinyl I bought back then. I was listening to SAFM and 5AD at first and then the local alternative station MMM, and watching ABC’s Countdown on Sunday nights before Dad’s steak and chips!

Paul with mother Yvonne, father Peter and sister Jane.

What did you want to be when you grew up ?

I had no particular career path in mind but looking back it appears a sales/business development role was what I was working towards in all that I did. Every step has lead to that. On December 5, 1983, I walked straight from school into 1 King William Street to join the AMP Society as an insurance sales cadet.

What has been your career path?

After working for AMP for eight years and realising the insurance world was not for me, I expanded my part-time role as a retail sales rep to a full-time one – receiving the best sales training ever (still to this day) at Country Road. Meanwhile, I completed my TAFE Public Relations certificate that landed me a great media monitoring role, then worked for six months as a publicist. But it wasn’t until my mid thirties that my real career started when I joined the free street press magazine Rip It Up in the late ’90s as a sales rep. I had been writing the weekly “All Funked Up” column for Rip It Up as a freelance writer for most of the ’90s, so I knew the product very well. It was an absolute joy to work for such an important media product and I relished the role, working there for 12 years, ending up as advertising sales manager. In 2011, I was approached to join the Australian Traffic Network as a national sales rep, another great job, this time working from home as my daughters grew up. So I got to experience working from home, literally, for four long years. It was a great job but I missed the energy of working with a team. In 2015, I joined Fuller Brand Communication and once again found my dream job. I am Fuller’s business development manager.

With Margie Budich in his Rip It Up days.

What is your job description at Fuller? 

At Fuller Brand Communication we create meaningful and captivating brand communication that brings clients success and fulfils the Fuller team. My role is to proactively represent the Fuller brand, to increase its profile and to introduce prospective clients to Fuller’s strategy-first business model. Basically it’s a sales role, but from a relationship perspective and I absolutely love it. Fuller is my second family and it is an honour to be a member of that family.

What have been career highlights? 

My career highlights have been my many mentors including Kevin Richards at AMP, Olga Melta at Country Road, Diana Carroll at Warburtons, Margie Budich at Rip It Up, Chris Thornton at ATN and Peter Fuller at Fuller.

Tell us about your family.

This year my wife Kelly and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary along with Ava (16) and Esme (14). Plus Pepper the dog and Rocket the rabbit.

Kelly and I met when we both worked for a post-production company, where I was the publicist. After taking some time off when the girls were young, she is now working in education and is also studying part-time. We are a good partnership that works because we complement each other’s strengths. She keeps my feet firmly on the ground.

Paul in costume as an extra in the Kevin Costner movie ‘Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves’

You are a great networker – what is the key to being a good networker and why is it important in your work?

The key to good networking is to remember people’s names when you meet them – especially if they don’t have a name tag on – and to follow it up with an email or LinkedIn note. Also, to have a good “elevator pitch” about what you do, but get them to talk more than you do. And just be yourself: no-one wants to be “sold to” at a function. It should come naturally.

Do you think networking is an important skill generally? 

Absolutely, it is what I love to do. It’s an honour to be invited to so many events and meet lots of different people. But it’s not just meeting them, it’s continuing that relationship and keeping in touch. And then when you see them again at another function it’s remembering them. We all love to be recognised.

What are a few of the best events/parties you have attended?  

So many parties, but how many do I remember? Although there was that night at one of Charlie Hill-Smith’s infamous Glen Osmond house parties where I stumbled into Kylie Minogue. Or the many parties and festivals that I attended when at Rip It Up where it was normal to chat with Sia Furler, then the lead singer of Crisp, or share a drink with Matt, Dan and Barry from the Hilltop Hoods.

During his radio stint at Triple J

What is the key to a great event?

Name tags. We all want people to know who we are and what we do. It makes that part of the event so much easier and is a good ice-breaker for many who may not feel comfortable in social situations. And my biggest tip is to wear the name tag on your right-hand side – always.

Biggest loss in life?

I have had many including my sister Jane who died in 2005 aged just 38, my Mum, Yvonne, who died in 2014, and my father in law Bruce, in 2009.

Both Jane and Mum died from cancer, which was no fun at all, as many will know. We coped in many ways but mainly we keep their spirits alive by talking about them with the girls and close friends regularly. We also planted a tree that we often visit to say hello to them both.

My dad Peter is now 93, living independently and we see him regularly. He has home support for company and a bit of assistance, whilst we provide in-home care on the other days and to keep in touch. He’s doing well and keeping chipper.

What are you passionate about away from work?  

After not being that sporty for years – well apart from dancing every week at Le Rox, Cargo, Q, Metro and more – in the last four years I have become obsessed with running and in particular the simply brilliant parkrun. I volunteer as run director for the Mount Barker parkrun and we are all missing it terribly. I am also a roving reporter for the ‘parkrun adventurers’ podcast. I love my Double Blues and, as a passionate Sturt member, am missing that a lot also. Meanwhile, I chair the Salvation Army Media and Marketing Committee, am a devoted ‘cabvocate’ for the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival. I’m a mentor for the UniSA Business Careers Mentor Program and also chair the Mercedes College Friends Of The Arts Committee.

With wife Kelly and daughters Esme and Ava

How are you coping with COVID? Tell us about your “Coffee with PK” online catch-ups.

I’m coping pretty well to be honest. Clearly, my role at Fuller relies on meeting people, going to events all the time and always being out and about. I realised early this was going to be a big change in my normal working life so I immediately created my own networking event where I host a virtual coffee catch-up at 10.30am weekdays with anyone who wants to join. Called “Coffee With PK”, it’s simply a chance to catch up with others, talk about what we are doing at the moment, make some new connections, maybe create some work and enjoy some social interaction. And in the end, it’s about helping us all cope as we get closer to the “other side”. I’ve also seized the opportunity to create my own chat-fest, with a Facebook Live event that I host every Tuesday night at 8pm. Called “Chalking It Up”, I talk about things I’ve chalked up to experience, get others to share their experiences, as well as featuring a special guest who does the same. Also “Chalking It Up” is an anagram of “Paul Kitching”.

Do you have a life philosophy?

It’s a cliche I know but carpe diem! After so much loss, I seize the day and embrace it like there’s no tomorrow.

Paul is the enthusiastic director of the Mt Barker parkrun

One thing we don’t know about you?

Can I share a few? I’ve hosted two radio shows: “Let Me Clear My Throat” in the late ’80s on the-then MMMFM (now 3D); and then “Club Escape” on Triple J in the early ’90s. And I was an extra in the Kevin Costner movie Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves where actor Christian Slater showed me how to shoot a flaming arrow into a thatched hut.

And in 1981, I performed in the State Youth Opera’s production of All The King’s Men at Her Majesty’s Theatre – alongside Solstice Media’s very own David Washington.

Do you ever slow down? 

Yes, I need to! I love doing yoga, going for walks in the foothills and staring at my bird feeder. And my favourite go-to place is the beautiful Waite Arboretum in Urrbrae. It’s peaceful and helps me re-energise.

My South Australian Life is a first-person series, published each Sunday. Read our previous profiles here.
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