My Life in PR – This Much I Know, is an interview series that talks to PR professionals about their career journey and what they’ve learned along the way. From the innovation that they wish they had invented, to their favourite books and the biggest challenges that they face on the job. This series covers more than just career advice and takes a look at the person behind the title.
Fiona Donnellan is the Founder of Sustainable PR, a company that was set up in 2019 with the aim to provide simple PR strategies to eco-conscious brands. Fiona studied Sports Science in DCU from which she graduated in 2007 before continuing her education in Griffith College, where she acquired a Higher Diploma in Journalism and Media Communications in 2009. In 2013, Fiona joined Hunter Communications where she began as an Account Manager and in 2016, she was appointed as Senior Account Manager. Fiona has also worked as a Freelance Journalist and Editor for publications across New Zealand.
Name the one work tool that you couldn’t live without.
Canva. It’s so good for creating designs, ads, artwork and graphics.
What communications innovation do you wish you had come up with?
Podcasts are such an incredible communications tool. They’re so authentic, conversational and come in such a broad spectrum of topics.
What is the best book you have read in the past year?
I loved ‘Climate Justice: A Man-Made Problem With a Feminist Solution’ by Mary Robinson.
Why did you decide to follow a career in PR?
I have always loved writing and creating so working in Comms seemed like a natural choice for me. I studied journalism and communications in college and worked in journalism before moving into PR, so I have a good understanding of the industry from both sides.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
I’ve learnt the art of relaxing and chilling out. I work so hard but I also know when to take a break and recharge. It makes for better results.
What are the three biggest PR challenges that you face?
- The changing landscape. People are consuming media differently so we have to keep up.
- Social media is forever changing and so I have to keep up with all the trends.
- Standing out from the crowd can be difficult sometimes, so it’s good to work with clients whose story you truly believe in and want to shout about.
Tell us about a campaign or piece of work that you’ve worked on that you are proud of.
Each year I work pro bono for one or two clients – be it a charity or climate action group, some issue I believe in. This year I’m working with Alan Henry who hopes to raise awareness about climate change with a 2,750km in 17 days solo cycle around Ireland. I secured national and regional press for Alan to help his cause, including online, print and radio appearances.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in PR?
I would approach PR agencies about vacancies or work experience opportunities. Putting yourself out there and using your initiative can sometimes get you noticed. I’ve hired contractors based on them impressing me when they cold called or got in contact via LinkedIn. It really made me think, this person is smart and a go-getter.
What are the three biggest lessons that you have learned throughout your career?
- Being kind gets you far in this world.
- Support other PR consultants and lift each other up (they may even send work your way).
- Face things head on.
Name three principles that you hold dear when it comes to your PR work.
- Belief. I want to believe in the stories, brands and the people I’m pitching in my PR work. I work with eco-conscious and sustainable brands so it’s something I believe in, it makes telling their stories easy.
- Respect. I respect all my clients, I love working with them so it makes the working relationship great.
- Consistency. This is high on my list, I always want to do the best for my clients so I’m constantly striving to do my best work.
If you could make one lasting change in the PR industry, what would it be?
Less greenwashing. A form of marketing spin used to persuade the public that a brand, its products or its aims are environmentally friendly.
What are your top three media relations tips?
- Be sound.
- Streamline communications.
- Be helpful.
What do you love most about working in PR?
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
Claire Byrne, I think she’s a great interviewer.
Who was your first boss in a media related job and what did you learn from them?
I did an internship at the Herald Newspaper and at the time my boss said it would be a baptism of fire and she wasn’t lying. It was hard work but I learned so much about deadlines and communicating with people.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I am a proud member of 1% for the Planet – donating 1% of Sustainable PR’s annual revenue to environmental causes. It’s an incredible initiative that more companies should look into.
More about Fiona
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