Exclusive – A Conversation with Liz Mckenzie

Liz Mckenzie, the head of PR and Communications at Canva, Sydney is an expert storyteller with a knack for turning out boring jargons and speeches associated with the corporate world into something interesting and exciting. That’s why her speeches always have an eager and enthusiastic audience. Liz is forever looking at ways to make her clients stand apart with her innovative approach to PR and communications.

The strategic consultant’s stint with Red Agency resulted in a rich harvest of awards at many national and international award events. Liz has an enviable client list which includes Microsoft, Google, Capgemini, Equinix, HTC, Concur, Okta, AT&T, Fairfax Digital, Indiegogo, Kingston, Mitel, and SuccessFactors. She has also done PR activities for many non-tech clients.

Liz Mckenzie has also worked with many NFPs including the most popular ones such as The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, Oscar’s Law, WWF, The Sony Foundation, The UN Foundation, Vital Voices, and The Prince’s Rainforest Project.

Liz has won many prominent awards for her creative efforts in the PR and Communication niche including the Cannes Lion Bronze in PR, LIA 2011 Best Integrated Campaign and awards from reputed platforms such as Spikes Asia.

Liz is the founder of Picnic Markets, a Sydney-based flea market focused on encouraging creativity and a sustainable lifestyle among the locals.


1) What inspired you to pursue communications and PR as a career?

I’ve always been interested in the intersection between storytelling and influencing human behaviour – there’s a fine art in conveying a message to elicit the action or reaction you want from others.

2) Can you tell us a little more about what you do at Canva?

I look after our global PR communication efforts at Canva – particularly media relations, sponsorships, partnerships and community engagement.

3) What is your favorite quote?

“Wherever you are is exactly where you’re supposed to be – no matter how things may seem to appear.” I love this because it gives me comfort when things don’t go exactly to plan, which can happen quite often in my industry! I like knowing that there may actually be a silver lining amidst the chaos 🙂

4) Who are some of your favorite storytellers?

I’m going to go super old school and say Charles Dickens. His ability to tease out the humanity in a story and keep people engaged. That, and his stories are still relevant and much loved today!

5) What are your favorite social media platforms to engage with audiences on?

Facebook is my go-to – it has everything from short/long-form video, chat, events, groups …

Marketing Trends

6) I’ve noticed a lot of marketers making a significant shift from written content to video and powerpoint style content. Do you think the video trend will continue or do you think it will die out and be replaced by something else?

I think there’s a time and place for choosing to engage via written content or visual. They are all fantastic platforms for conveying your message. But it’s important to remember that it’s not just the content that makes something stick – it’s the discussions that are created from them. So the real question here is how do we effectively utilise these channels to make our content more interactive? At Canva for example we’re redesigning presentations to allow for audience participation via real-time feedback, so that we can encourage more diverse thinking and meaningful conversations. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

7) What overused marketing term do you wish everyone would stop using?

Audience demographics – your target audience shouldn’t be categorised based on age or gender. I prefer understanding personas based on interests instead, which is by far a better representation.

8) What social media platforms do you think have disrupted content marketing this year?

Instagram – they’ve upped their game with IGTV.

Marketing/PR Tips and Tricks

9) Storytelling and content marketing should go hand in hand but I’ve noticed a lot of brands are hyper focused on churning out tons of content instead of focusing on fewer, more substantial campaigns. How do you think we can grow not just as marketers but as storytellers?

We need to continually challenge conventional thinking. How are we communicating with our audience in a way that would ignite their imagination and spark meaningful conversations?

10) How do you think marketers can integrate PR techniques into their content strategies?

Relationships are at the core of PR. Forget about myopic one-off campaigns and think long-term to build a relationship with your audience that lasts.

11) Canva is great in that anyone, regardless of skill level, can use it to create visually sharp marketing campaigns, banners, infographics, etc. What would you say is your best visual marketing tip or trick?

This isn’t rocket science, but the best visuals grab attention within the first 3 seconds – that’s what makes them pay attention and want to explore your content further.

12) What advice would you give to someone looking to get into marketing or communications?

Be comfortable with just-in-time learning. We’re in an age of disruption where many of us are doing things for the first time, or exploring a new communication platform for the first time – it’s important to acknowledge this and be prepared to explore outside your comfort zone. It’s great to read up on marketing theories but no textbook is going to teach you how best to communicate in today’s ever changing environment.

13) Last but not least, do you have any current projects you’re working on and/or business ventures you’d like to plug?

We’ve just celebrated our 5th birthday at Canva with a release of our new editing tool. Canva 2.0 is more responsive, more intelligent and more reliable, and also features hundreds of new design and publishing options including presentations, animations and websites, and coming soon, a social media scheduler – a dream come true for communications and marketing professionals everywhere.

My partner and I also have a side hustle called TimeChi. It’s a focus and productivity tool based on the time-boxing system, designed to help people be more effective at work. Check it out on www.timechi.com.

You can follow Liz Mckenzie on LinkedIn.