PR Pro Perspectives is an ongoing interview series where we talk to the many talented Public Relations Professionals working across the Irish landscape.
In our latest instalment, we speak to Aoife O’Driscoll, Head of Marketing and Communications at Powerscourt Estate, Co.Wicklow.
What is your current job role and what does it involve?
I am the Head of Marketing & Communications at Powerscourt Estate including its House, Gardens, Golf Club, Waterfall, Garden Pavilion and Tourist, Wedding, and Corporate functions. We welcome over 1,000,000 visitors a year. I am tasked with maximizing our public profile, visitor numbers and revenue through our marketing and digital strategy. The role involves both internal and external communications. There are over 350 people alone working at Powerscourt Estate across its businesses and various traders! Working together with our marketing and sales team my role involves the usual marketing activities from business development and advertising through to online marketing, developing collateral and public relations.
Aoife O’Driscoll, Head of Marketing and Communications
How did you come to work in marketing and communications?
Marketing appealed to me as it’s a creative career and I enjoy writing and am a very visual person. The variety and opportunity to work in different industries was also of appeal. After completing a Masters in Marketing, I spent a year working in PR for Tourism Ireland in Canada as part of Ibec’s Global graduate programme. It places graduates attracted by an international career on paid work placements around the world with leading companies over 12-24 months. I would highly recommend the programme for graduates as an exciting start to their career. I then moved to Tourism Ireland’s strategy and insights team for 3 years in Dublin and from there to Powerscourt Estate where I have managed the marketing function for 8 years now.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
One of the reasons I enjoy my job so much is the variety each day brings. I could be welcoming a journalist or TV crew to Powerscourt, meeting a familiarization group of tour operators or attending a sales event. Generating publicity is important so we are active bloggers and on social media and issue regular press releases. I work with suppliers such as our web developers and graphic designers on our communications on a daily basis. Meeting suppliers for event management and planning logistics takes place regularly. Each month and year brings new projects; we recently completed new audio guides in 5 languages. We will shortly be beginning work on 3 new websites for the estate and I am looking forward to that challenge. I meet regularly with other team members from across the estate such as the Golf Manager or Head Gardener. It’s important here to have your wellies handy as you could be going from meeting mode to filming somewhere muddy within minutes!
As the Powerscourt Estate incorporates a huge range of services/facilities such as the House, Gardens, Golf club, Waterfall and garden pavilion to name a few, is it challenging trying to juggle the communications functions for everything?
It certainly is! We have a great team at Powerscourt and that makes the job much easier. Tourism is a seasonal business so we can prepare our plans for each quarter and season well in advance. We get many last minute opportunities such as TV interviews or promotional campaigns when we have to drop everything to partake in them. It can be a challenge to juggle existing plans and unexpected activities but if it’s a good opportunity you have to jump at it! I do my best work in the mornings so I leave chunks of time for creativity then and plan meetings for the afternoons. I aim to check email only a few times a day so it’s not driving my workday.
President Higgins and his wife Sabina visiting the Powerscourt Gardens
What’s your favourite thing about working at Powerscourt Estate?
The people. I have made good friends here throughout the years. There are amazing personalities here; some have worked here for 50 years and counting! I like interacting with the team; we all have such different roles, from gardeners to greenkeepers to front of house staff. It’s also a beautiful working environment; when I step outside my office I am in nature. I enjoy watching the seasons change; taking photos of the first daffodils for social media, visiting the Walled Garden in June when there are hundreds of roses in bloom, waiting for the colours on the avenue to change in autumn and being early in on a winter’s morning and catching a sunrise and pink skies over the Sugarloaf Mountain. It’s a special place.
Tulip festival at Powerscourt Gardens
Any exciting plans for 2019?
The Powerscourt Distillery Visitor Centre will open in the coming weeks with a variety of tours, whiskey tastings and events throughout the year. It will include six individual tasting rooms accommodating small private groups, retail and café facilities. I am looking forward to working with the team there and think it’s a superb addition to our corporate offering.
The Chinese market is booming for us. We have grown our Chinese visitor numbers to over 35,000 Chinese visitors last year and we will be attending a sales mission across 4 cities meeting hundreds of tour operators this summer. It’s now our third biggest market.
Aoife promoting Powerscourt Estate to the Chinese market
We have some really exciting new events taking place at Powerscourt Gardens, Waterfall and Garden Pavilion this year which our visitors can enjoy. We typically run between 50 and 80 events a year from theatre evenings to gardening workshops. We have some big surprises coming up this year so watch this space!
Garden facilities at Powerscourt
Lastly, Powerscourt is a popular venue for filming and last year both Vikings and Into the Badlands shot here. We have some interesting movie and TV filming taking place here again this year.
Last but not least, what do you think is the most important asset someone in the Communications industry should have?
Passion for what you do and pride in your brand. If you love what you do it will shine through how you promote your brand or product. And kindness! No matter what industry you work in, being kind doesn’t cost anything and helps build lasting relationships. Lastly, build up a strong network of great suppliers; they will make your communications and business a success.