It’s that time of the week again: #GirlBossMonday!
What a historical weekend it has been. On Friday we watched as Donald Trump was inaugurated into the White House as the new President of the United States and on Saturday we watched as millions of women united and took to the streets of Washington and other cities to march for our rights. #WomensMarch
The future is well and truly female and I can’t wait to be a part of it (and write about it for this week’s blog post!).
For this week’s Girl Boss, I have chosen to head back home to my favourite city in the world, Dublin. Martina Quinn, founder of Alice PR & Events tells us all about her rise to success, the rewards and challenges of being your own boss and what makes an ideal PR candidate.
The reason for these interviews are to inspire you, my readers, and fellow PR students to be successful in your careers and business leaders of the future. I have asked the important questions to gain an insight of how these #GirlBosses made it to where they are today, and how we can emulate their successes.
I hope you take inspiration from this post and the others like them, and of course take inspiration from the women who marched for us today and every other day.
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
OC: Hi Martina! An easy question to start us off (I hope) – What is your full job title?
MQ: Founder and Managing Director of Alice PR & Events, based in Dublin City centre.
I established the company in June 2015. Since then, we’ve grown to a staff of seven and won contracts with over 40 different companies and organisations. We connect clients with target audiences through media relations, online communications and creative events. We’re passionate about digital. We work on projects that excite us and issues we care about.
Can you give me a background of your career and education? How did this lead you to be in your PR position today?
I did a degree in Journalism at DCU (Dublin City University). After that, I worked as a journalist and editor for a couple of years – mostly for sectorial magazines, with a focus on politics and public affairs. I then worked in communications and fundraising roles at Fine Gael National Headquarters (the largest political party in Ireland), before moving to work as Communications Manager with a national charity.
From there, I got into agency PR – I left the charity to join a relatively new and small PR company, based in Dublin. I stayed with that company for eight years, rising from Account Manager to Executive Director. And then I left in June 2015 to strike out on my own.
Why and how did you start your business? Any pitfalls or successes to date?
Before I became my own boss, by and large, I always really liked the different jobs I had. But I decided to go out on my own because I felt I had gone as far as I could as an employee. I wanted to take full control of the type of work I did and the type of clients I worked with.
In the end, I left the agency I was working with somewhat impulsively. I didn’t have any big plan to set up my own company at that stage. I basically decided I’d do consultancy and freelance work for a while and see where it took me.
18 months down the line, and Alice PR & Events is in full swing! I’ve learned a lot in setting up the company. In fact, I’ve previously written a blog post on my top seven lessons from the whole experience, which you can read here: http://alicepr.com/featured/business-startup-lessons/
In terms of successes, growing the team quickly – and finding team-members who I really trust and enjoy working with – has been brilliant. I brought my first staff-member on board in Autumn 2015, and since then, we’ve built up an excellent team. We all like working with each other, and like the work that we do which is really important to me.
Some of the contracts we’ve won have also been really exciting. We have great clients, and we’ve gotten to work on some really exciting campaigns and events, such as the Irish Research Council’s #LoveIrishResearch campaign; the twice-yearly Career Zoo events, WellFest, Ireland’s only health, fitness and wellness festival; TEDxShannonEd, a TEDx event that looked at different paths to success; some really important work with the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the LGBT Helpline; and lots, lots more.
A big milestone for us has been moving into a very nice new office at the start of 2017. We have an associate arrangement in place with Language, a creative agency, and we now share a building with them, which allows us to more easily collaborate on projects and proposals. The building happens to be very nicely kitted out and right in the heart of Dublin, so we’ve settled very happily into our new home.
We also have an associate arrangement with The Honey Partnership, a London-based PR agency that works with brands across Europe and Asia, and we’ve worked on some really interesting projects with them.
In terms of pitfalls, thankfully, there haven’t been too many. One thing I can’t stress enough is that it’s important to devote time and attention to getting your company’s finances in order from the start: find an accountant that you trust and like working with and who suits your style of working – do that early on or you’ll end up costing yourself a lot of time and money.
The other big piece of advice I have is to be flexible. Some of our team-members work from home the whole time and/or work part-time hours. I was happy to offer them that flexibility because I really wanted them to work for Alice. As a company, we’ve also been flexible in the type of projects we take on and the type of work we do. We deliberately haven’t pigeon-holed ourselves, which has allowed us to work on some really exciting online and marketing campaigns, as well as doing more traditional media relations work.
Overall, I feel incredibly lucky because, so far, things with the company have gone great and I’ve really enjoyed the whole experience of establishing it and building it up.
What do you find most rewarding and most challenging about your role in PR?
I find working for myself really rewarding. I like being able to choose what type of work we take on as a company, and what types of organisations and individuals we work with. It has also been really rewarding to grow the team and create jobs.
In terms of challenges, there is some crossover with the most rewarding areas! Having grown the team, I find it can be very daunting knowing that you’re responsible for paying seven salaries every month. PR can be very project-based, so you don’t necessarily know what your income will be from month to month – big projects can crop up at a moment’s notice and then things can go very quiet for a period of time. So financial projections – and making sure there will be enough there to pay everyone in any given month – can be challenging.
If you were to hire someone for a PR role, what skills and qualities would your ideal candidate have?
- Excellent writing skills, including the ability to write in lots of different styles.
- Strong attention to detail. I like people who really take pride in their work, and do everything they can to ensure that what they’re doing is as good as it can possibly be.
- A genuine interest in current affairs and what’s happening in the world around them. This includes an understanding of media of relevance to our clients: what journalists and bloggers cover issues of relevance to our clients? Are there different magazines or TV shows or online outlets we should be targeting? Etc.
- Online communication skills: awareness of different social media tools and if possible, experience of managing websites or creating content for websites. Good photography and videography skills are an added bonus.
- Business development skills: we have to write business proposals and public-sector tenders quite a bit, as well as go out and pitch for new business, so this is really key: knowing how to ‘sell’ the business and convince people we’re worth hiring!
- The ability to work off their own initiative.
- A tendency to remain calm in high-pressure scenarios.
What advice would you give to a student like myself that wants to emulate your success and make it in the PR industry?
I would say write as much as possible (so it’s great you have your own blog!). If you can show prospective employers in the future a portfolio of ‘real’ work that you’ve done, that will be really impressive. You could build up your portfolio through summer work with a PR company, internships or volunteering to help with PR for local festivals or events.
Demonstrate that you’re able to write online posts, press releases and more formal proposals/letters/briefing papers. Try to gain real experience of photo-calls and media launches and if possible, start building your links with journalists and bloggers now – they will be hugely valuable to you as your career progresses.
Show enthusiasm and initiative. If you’re interested in working with a specific company, do lots of research about their work and their clients before you approach them and then approach them in a tailored way – tell them why you’re impressed by them and why you’d like to work for them. Don’t send out generic job applications and cover letters to lots of different companies; always aim for a tailored approach.
Finally, watch, listen to and read the news (and more features-focused media). Consume the media that you will be pitching to as a PR professional.
Thank you Martina ♥
You can visit Martina’s PR Agency website at www.alicepr.com
Follow Alice PR & Events on Twitter : @helloalicepr
Follow Martina on Twitter : @MartinaPQuinn
Follow Alice PR on Instagram : @helloalicepr
LinkedIn : Alice PR & Events