#MakeAFuss: 'If you don’t have a personality, I don’t think you should bother with PR'
What do you think of when you think of public relations?
Though many of us aren't acutely aware of it, PR plays a role in the media we consume every day - who we watch and read about, what they're saying and why.
Working in the industry is always a popular choice for new graduates - but what would help someone starting their career in PR stand out from the rest?
"Drive, ambition and personality," says Anne-Marie Curran, managing director of Drury Porter Novelli.
"If you want to work in public relations and don’t have a personality, I don’t think you should bother!
"I do feel PR is about selling concepts, influence, persuading. You have to care, you have to have empathy, you have to have charisma and have good intrapersonal skills so I think personality is very important.
"You don’t need to be a comedian but you do need a sense of humour, as well as a capacity to be a counsellor and an advisor... a strong emotional intelligence (is important) for a potential employee."
"I see honesty as a muscle."
As someone who landed her role at just 32, Anne-Marie is well placed to share advice.
At university she studied languages before deciding that a job in communications was for her.
She claims that she was "lucky" to have been considered for roles in leadership from early in her career.
"I do think if you look around, I see more evidence of ageism in corporate Ireland than I can in other countries but it wasn’t a feature in Drury."
When pressed, she admits that there are a number of traits that helped her to get ahead.
"You have to be challenging, a partner, enthusiastic and know your client’s business really well," she says.
"In our industry, if you have strong acumen and strong skills in client service it’s not hard to be picked."
The job requires a certain degree of people-pleasing, she adds, but honesty is also crucial.
"Anyone who knows me would know that I’m a straight talker.
"I see honesty as a muscle and if you don’t exercise it often you can lose the basis of trust in relationships so I would be very straight.
Eighteen years on from when Anne-Marie started out, the Irish communications industry looks a little different now to how it did then.
The Celtic Tiger and the recession plus the new ways we all consume media have meant big changes - but at the heart of it, much of the job is the same as it was almost to decades ago.
"In communications, it’s all about the message.
"As professionals, we look at our craft as 'Well, what message do you want to use?' and we work through that.
"The nub of the public relations industry hasn’t really changed, it’s just the channels that carry the message have."
The economic collapse did put a dent in the industry, Anne-Marie admits, as some multinational client opted make decisions from abroad and to pull back on their spend in Ireland, but the recovery of the past few years has seen a reverse in this trend.
It's also fostered the birth of some exciting native Irish companies, she says, who are now valuable clients to the industry.
Another silver lining of the hard times, Anne-Marie believes, is that the country's business leaders.
"The turbulence we’ve had in the past ten years has been an amazing classroom," she says.
"It has allowed us to build powers of resilience which are necessary for the future."
"The last ten years, the stakes have been a lot higher."
Leadership is a theme that she comes back to often, telling me that leading and mentoring her team is her favourite part of her job.
"I feel that this is one of the most exciting times imaginable to be a leader because the world is ripe for changing and you need to keep investing in the future.
"It’s one thing to be a leader in calm waters but it’s another thing to be a leader when the waters are very choppy.
"The last ten years, the stakes have been a lot higher and therefore we should have a cohort of leaders who are equipped for this destructive market that we’re facing."
As for what makes a good leader?
Anne-Marie reckons that trusting your team and empowering them to work under their own steam is the key.
She also has no time for ego and says that minimising hierarchy in a company will help staff to flourish.
Perhaps most interestingly, she says she's the type of boss who wants her staff to feel able to answer back and question things.
"Leaders should be making sure that people feel empowered to challenge - to challenge upwards, challenge sideways, challenge downwards.
"The more positively challenging of each other we are, the better."
As someone at the top of her game, you might think that Anne-Marie would be sitting back and slowing down - but that's not the case.
Continuing to learn and develop her skills is something she'll always do, she tells us.
From courses in executive business coaching and digital marketing to a law diploma at the King’s Inns, she's keen to not only diversify her CV but keep improving herself.
Her latest extracurricular is a creative writing class.
"I started just last night!," she says.
"That’s a hobby thing but there’s no doubt that it would help me in my role as well.
"I fundamentally believe that everybody should be in the classroom every two to three years.
"It doesn’t have to be necessarily related to your job but as a professional if you lose that appetite to be in the classroom and to improve your skills, I think that you’re really doing yourself a disservice."
We know that Irish businesswomen are a force to be reckoned with so here at Her.ie, we're making a fuss of the ladies who’ve made a fuss on their journey to success.
We want to celebrate the grafters and the risk-takers, those who’ve followed a passion or spotted a niche, those still forging their own path and those who are at the top of their game.
In our series Make A Fuss, we’re talking to inspiring Irish women in business about their careers, what they’ve learned along the way and where they’re going next.
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