Founder & CEO
Run by a Swan Hill born and raised CEO who has worked in digital innovation and marketing across the world, Mallee Rising is an agile social enterprise.
Paul Dillon cares about the Mallee Region and is passionate about ensuring it has a vibrant future. Paul worked in digital innovation and marketing for companies across the world from 1999 to 2014. He knows the difference digital skills can make in regional communities, particularly for youth, business, economic and social development.
From experience, Paul understands what it's like to start a small business – running two of his own businesses since returning in 2014, and he recognises the difference digital skills can make in regional communities.
A different kind of journey which started in Swan Hill
Growing up in Swan Hill, Paul diverted his energies, as a 17 year old, into writing hockey and volleyball news reports for the Swan Hill Guardian newspaper, a pastime that perhaps unknowingly set him on his career path. He was also heavily invested in the Swan Hill volleyball association at the time and conceived and launched a 6-team summer hockey league in Swan Hill back in the late 80s, further examples of the lengths he would go to to avoid his studies.
Surprising all, Paul made it to university and completed a Bachelor of Arts in Management Communication at Deakin University in Warrnambool, South West Victoria, in 1994, majoring in journalism and public relations. Outside of study, and he did study this time, he founded and presided over the Deakin University ‘Phantoms’ hockey club. He went on to launch The Red Card, a weekly hockey newsletter for the Warrnambool league using the desktop publishing software he learned as part of his studies. He discovered, almost by accident, the joys of community radio, and hosted an early morning music programme on Saturdays with a university friend on 3WAY-FM, the local community radio station. While at university, he undertook an internship at the National Hockey League headquarters in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, around 1992/3 and unpaid voluntary work at the Victorian Hockey Association following the completion of his university studies in 1994.
1994 - A first taste of public relations
His professional career began as a 'communications officer' in the Media & Communications Department of Australia Post’s Vic/Tas headquarters at 90 Collins Street, Melbourne, in 1994. During his 5 years there Paul developed skills in a role that was primarily focused on delivering communication from management to its 11,000 employees in the states of Victoria and Tasmania. Paul was also editor for several years of the fortnightly publication that went to post office shop staff, wrote press releases and traveled around the countryside event managing the official opening nights of new post offices around Victoria as part of Australia Post’s retail PostShop modernisation during the 90s.
In his spare time, Paul continued his passion for hockey at Toorak East Malvern (TEM) and, wouldn't you know it, launched its weekly newsletter using a template that looked remarkably like the post office's fortnightly publication.
1999 - Heathrow calling
Five years later Paul’s interest in overseas travel was sparked, as a 25 year old, by a two month backpacking trip to India and Nepal with his mother and brother. Inspired by new horizons, Paul took the plunge in 1999 and moved to London, UK. But unemployed and dispirited after two months on a friend’s sofa in an apartment on the 'Isle of Dogs' next to Greenwich and the Millennium Dome, he almost packed up and returned to Australia.
But fortunes quickly changed when he picked up his first contract as Internal Communications Manager at worldwide express and logistics company DHL next door to Heathrow airport. During this 9 month maternity-leave cover assignment Paul edited several monthly employee magazines and newsletters including an audio magazine for managers to listen to in their car.
2000 - In mobile times
Not enamored with the 3 hour round-trip daily commute, Paul politely declined a contract extension at DHL and found a marketing communications role on The Strand in central London, wedged between Trafalgar Square, the Thames river, Covent Garden and Fleet Street. The employer was mobile tech company MSI, which provided design software and consultants to mobile phone carriers around the world to design their 3G mobile networks. The year was 2000 and the role saw Paul launch the company’s first client magazine as well as manage the company’s website and PR agencies in the UK and US. Postscript: MSI was bought out by telecom pioneer Marconi during the dotcom boom and the 100-year-old Marconi subsequently went bust several years later during hard times and was gobbled up by Ericsson.
The next opportunity arose in 2001 when mobile phone carrier Hutchison 3G came knocking with a role to lead its newly created internal communications team in the UK. Part of the Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa empire, the company had purchased a 3G license and spectrum in the UK government’s lucrative auction during the tech boom and Paul spent around a year with them before the company's commercial launch when it was renamed to what people know today as Three in the UK and Australia. During his time there Paul led the redesign and relaunch of the company’s employee intranet but unfortunately his time there was cut short when the entire team was made redundant one year later.
Paul’s next role in 2002 introduced him to the worlds of banking and insurance via the world's largest insurer by market capitalisation, Allianz, who he remained with for the next 12 years. This experience began in 2002 when he was appointed Vice President, Internal Communications, at UK investment bank (and Allianz subsidiary) Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in the bustling financial district of London situated next to the Thames River. His role saw him redevelop the news channel on the employee intranet across several continents as well as work on important company announcements and the CEO’s monthly presentation communicating the company's performance to employees.
2005 - The very long French kiss
After 6 happy and memorable years in London, Paul and his wife Karine decided the next phase of their life should take them back to her country of France, and in 2005 he seized upon an external communications position at another Allianz subsidiary, this time the global headquarters of travel insurance and medical assistance company Mondial Assistance in Paris. While digital had been a big part of his professional life since his Hutchison 3G days, it was in this Paris role that he was truly immersed in all things digital. Paul was initially responsible for centrally managing the group’s portfolio of more than 35 websites in 30 countries with his IT colleagues and communication contacts in each country, Google advertising and managing the group’s domain names strategy which began with 60 domains in 2005 and climbed to 2,100 domain names in more than 50 countries a decade later.
Not content with a web-only focus, Paul identified early the opportunities and online reputation risks that an emerging social media presented to the group, and one of his first achievements in this discipline was to implement social media monitoring in 2009 long before many companies at the time. He became Head of Digital Communication, reflecting that digital communication was not restricted to websites, and soon after launched the group’s first Twitter profile to promote group news as well as respond to customer feedback in different countries. This was followed by the launch of brand pages on Facebook, Youtube and LinkedIn and Paul became the group’s chief evangelist for social media and online reputation and regularly presented best practices to colleagues via webinars and face-to-face seminars around the world.
Mondial Assistance became Allianz Global Assistance in 2011 and Paul oversaw the rejuvenation and rebranding of the group's websites (including a responsive web design version for mobile devices) and social media presence in more than 30 countries over a 2 year period of rebranding. At the same time he forged relationships with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in Europe to provide the group with direct access to account managers at the social networks as well as global enterprise contracts with leading social media management providers Hootsuite and SocialBakers. He also oversaw in 2014 the creation of a 24/7 social media monitoring centre in the offices of Allianz Global Assistance in Thailand to monitor online customer comments and transfer them to relevant teams around the world within the Hootsuite Enterprise platform.
2014 - Homesickness (finally) kicks in
Fifteen years after departing Australian shores, and now with a wife and three young children, the attraction to return home proved too strong and Paul finally ended his European sojourn.
Rather than trade in one mega city for life in another, the Dillons turned left instead of right upon arriving at Melbourne airport and made a lifestyle decision by setting themselves up in the regional town of Swan Hill (population 10,000 people or thereabouts), around 3 hours North West of Melbourne and a long way from many places.
The home-based Digital54 consultancy was born and provided digital guidance and services to businesses of all sizes from 2014-2018 until it was slowly phased out as Mallee Rising’s operations grew.