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.
Mari O’Leary is Managing Director of O’Leary PR & Marketing, a boutique PR consultancy with extensive experience in the consumer lifestyle sectors. Mari founded O’Leary in 1994. In 2013, Mari graduated from the Irish Management Institute with a Masters in Business and Management.
Name the one work tool that you couldn’t live without.
My iMac – I’ve been using Apple Mac’s since I started in PR and it contains everything. It’s like my second brain.
What communications innovation do you wish you had come up with?
It has to be email. It is so fast and efficient for communications for both content and imagery.
What is the best book you have read in the past year?
Lonely Planet Istanbul Travel Guide. After a couple of years of restrictions, I finally got to go to Istanbul earlier this year and the guide was brilliant.
Why did you decide to follow a career in PR?
While I was modelling I always enjoyed the behind the scenes production side of things on photoshoots and fashion shows. I had worked with a number of PR consultants during my career and thought that media relations was a good fit so I decided to enrol to do a PRII Diploma.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
How to type properly.
What are the three biggest PR challenges that you face?
- Digital Marketing and Social Media have been and continue to take priority over PR for some brands and businesses, often delivering the ROI.
- AI presents another threat to the PR Industry, however I think it will be impossible to replace us humans and our skills.
- The media landscape is continuously changing and this is having both positive and negative impacts on PR as an industry.
Tell us about a campaign or piece of work that you’ve worked on that you are proud of.
In all honesty I find it hard to pick only one that I’m proud of. However, one of my favourites is The Irish Fashion Collective, a series of annual shows featuring top Irish and international designers including Philip Treacy, Paul Costelloe and Don O’Neill. These were and hopefully will be again, key fundraising events for St. Joseph’s Shankill to support its work with those suffering with dementia and their families.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in PR?
Do your research and understand exactly what PR involves. Ideally do an internship in a company.
What are the three biggest lessons that you have learned throughout your career?
- Nurture and value the relationships you build with the media, your team and your suppliers – it’s a very small industry.
- Communication is constantly evolving so stay open to change and keep updating your skills.
- Keep it simple to avoid complicating things.
Name three principles that you hold dear when it comes to your PR work.
- No project or client is the same so always take a fresh approach and invest the time to do your research.
- Keep communications factual and avoid the fluff.
- Gratitude. Always say thank you to your team and the media for their support.
If you could make one lasting change in the PR industry, what would it be?
I don’t believe PR has been given the recognition it deserves in the marketing mix. I would ensure that PR played a bigger role in the boardroom and that a higher percentage of marketing budgets should be allotted to it for all types of companies and businesses.
What are your top three media relations tips?
- Build a good rapport with the media in the sectors that you are working in.
- Take a targeted approach versus general emails when you can and ensure the content is relevant to that journalist.
- Always respond efficiently to a media request. They may be working to a deadline.
What do you love most about working in PR?
The variety – no day is the same, no client is the same. Working in a boutique agency is very hands-on so a day could involve coordinating anything from media relations, launches, sponsorships, TV appearances and interviews.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
Miriam O’Callaghan. She is such an experienced interviewer who never seems phased by anyone or any situation.
Who was your first boss in a media related job and what did you learn from them?
Shortly after I started in PR, I worked with Donald Helme at The Helme Partnership advertising agency. I was setting up a PR division and during my time there I got a great insight into the world of advertising and the synergy between it and PR.
More about Mari
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