Global Ethical Awakening: How consumers have become more aware, and how brands are responding

We chat through the impact media, and changemakers can have on making our world a better place, with Anna Saunders from Primer Magazine

Welcome to Compass Studio’s twelfth instalment of our 'Explore More' series, where we dig into to the stories and inspirations of those people that are conquering uncharted grounds right now – whether physical, environmental or social, in the hope of spreading the good further.

Coming from some of Australia’s biggest publishing houses, Anna Saunders has set out to help change the media landscape, with her new publication Primer. We sat down to chat more about things like the ‘global ethical awakening’, and how consumers are creating more impact than ever before. Anna gives us insight into how the consumption of media is changing, and how consumers are caring more and more about the brands they interact with – making a positive impact for all.

Interview with Anna Saunders, Co-Founder of Primer

  • So, tell us more about Primer. What is it, and what does it stand for?

Primer is a digital destination for Australian women. We publish smart feature stories, as well as fashion and beauty. We're also a social enterprise, and we deliver 50% of profits to women in need.

  • How did Primer come to be? What’s your story?

Felicity and I have both worked in magazines and newspapers for a long time (too long to count!) We met while working at Marie Claire. But more recently we felt there was a huge opportunity in the digital space – for smart, entertaining (non-celebrity-gossip-focused) editorial. We also really wanted to make a positive contribution. There are a lot of women's brands talking about empowerment at the moment, but we wanted to make a tangible difference (and connect like minded brands with women who share their values).

  • Where do you get your everyday inspiration from?

Fliss and I both read as many newspapers, and websites as possible for story ideas (and just because we love it!) But the best inspiration usually comes from getting out and about and meeting new people.

Right now, people seem to be thinking about their impact more than ever. And, more than that, they're taking action

  • Can you talk about the ‘global ethical awakening’ and what this means?

Right now, people seem to be thinking about their impact more than ever. And, more than that, they're taking action – whether they're bringing a reusable cup to a cafe or ditching plastic straws. Diversity and inclusivity have also become real drivers (rather than token after-thoughts), and the #metoo movement has prompted us to re-evaluate the way we behave and think. It just feels like a collective reevaluation.

  • Along with a lack of quality, the amount of content online can be overwhelming. How can we get around this?

Sometimes the internet seems designed to feed our most reptilian impulses (clickbait! celebrity feuds!). But... it's about finding stories that are entertaining and enriching... which we hope Primer will be.

  • What is your definition of a ‘changemaker’, and how these people contribute to the fabric of our society?

To us, a changemaker is someone who wants to make change or who is precipitating change. The reality is, though, that we can't all set fire to our lives and dedicate ourselves to volunteering overseas. One solution is to make small everyday changes that help shape the world you want to live in. To us, that means remembering your reusable cup or buying a hand soap, where the profits go to helping communities who need it.

...brands need to look at integrated editorial that conveys their message in a genuine and native way. It's about getting creative rather than being tokenistic.

  • What kind of things do you believe brands need to better amplify their commitment to positive social impact?

I think it can be tricky to broadcast the good work that you do as a brand. It can seem insincere when you promote your own work, or it can be hard to get cut through. Often, as a journalist, I would be sent press releases about charitable products and it was difficult to know how to cover them in a monthly magazine, where space was limited. My personal opinion is that brands need to look at integrated editorial that conveys their message in a genuine and native way. It's about getting creative rather than being tokenistic.

One thing is certain though – consumers increasingly care that the brands they interact are making a positive impact. This may be because we are becoming better educated or more socially aware, or because our political leaders seem hesitant to push through progressive social policies - whether that's marriage equality or the environment. As a result, there is an opportunity for brands to step into the void and be thought leaders - when this works (take for example Nike's recent Serena Williams ad) it is really effective and inspiring.

  • Tell us more about your audience, and the importance of how you engage with them.

Our audience is female, and most likely in her 20s and 30s. We are engaging with them where they are – which is social media, and also their inbox. We want to create a true community, with engaged readers, not addicted "users" who bounce in and out of Facebook, so we're committed to avoiding clickbait and celebrity gossip. We also have a fun execution coming up, where we're sending the first 5000 subscribers to our (free) email a postcard in the mail, with a handwritten note from Fliss and I welcoming them to Primer. The idea being that these days our post boxes are less cluttered than our electronic inboxes – and the personal touch is what makes a difference. My hand feels sore just thinking about it.

  • How do you feel the consumption of media has changed recently. What would you like to see the media industry do more of?

Media has changed dramatically since I was a junior newspaper reporter, fresh out of university. (When I think back to my first year as a journalist, when we had to go down to the basement which was full of boxes of newspaper clippings, to research a story – instead of just googling – I feel very old.) Digital has obviously been a game changer, as has social media.

I would like to see the media take better care of young journalists – too many graduates are coming out of university and immediately working as digital producers, churning out rehashed news and celebrity news. It's not a great training ground. I worry that talent is being squandered.

  • What is empowerment to you? How would you define it.

Hmm. Another good question. (They started off so easy!) To me, it's having the freedom to do what you want – but also the ability to fulfil your potential.

Want to learn more about Primer, and join the movement? Check out or follow on Instagram.