Martha Kearns - My Life in PR, This Much I KnowMy 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 mentors who have left a lasting impact. This series covers more than just career advice and takes a look at the person behind the title. Martha Kearns is Co-Founder and Managing Director of StoryLab. Martha obtained a degree in Journalism from TU Dublin, (formerly DIT), and graduated in 1996 going straight into a placement role with Independent News & Media. After her placement, Martha stayed on at the media outlet for almost 12 years, working as Senior News Reporter and Assistant News Editor in her time there. From 2008 to 2014, Martha worked as News Editor at The Business Post and in 2014, pivoted her career to PR, co-founding the content, PR and social media company StoryLab with her husband Ciaran Byrne. Below, Martha dives into her career so far, the three biggest lessons that working in PR has taught her and the work tool that she couldn’t live without.
Name the one work tool that you couldn’t live without
MacBook Pro. It went from a sometimes-used laptop while travelling to the entire focus of my work life while working from home during Covid-19 restrictions.
What communications innovation do you wish you had come up with?
What is the best book you have read in the past year?
There are just so many! But if I had to pick one it would be Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell.
Why did you decide to follow a career in journalism?
From primary school, all I ever wanted to be was a journalist and writer, and I used to write mini 'books' at home as well as match reports from Sligo GAA and Shamrock Gaels (our local club) games. I was fascinated by the whole world and, as a career and a lifestyle, it didn't disappoint.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
I don't think I'd change a thing. Learning from mistakes is all part of the fun.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in PR?
Discover the story at the heart of what you are trying to communicate and tell it simply and clearly without any jargon.
What are the 3 biggest lessons that you have learned throughout your career?
- When you think your piece is finished, read it again - twice. Once for comprehension and once more for spelling, grammar and typos. (Learned from the great John Walsh when he was Education Editor at the Irish Independent and took me under his wing on the education beat.)
- Be kind. Going from a reporter to a manager and then to a company-owner, I have realised that being kind and decent to people is really the only skill you need in most positions. (As learned from the gentleman that was Dave Halloran who ran the Irish Independent newsroom with the perfect blend of professionalism and compassion.)
- There's no such thing as a stupid question!
Name three principles that you hold dear when it comes to your PR work.
- Find the story and the people at the heart of what you are trying to communicate.
- Have respect for everyone in the process - clients, teammates, contributors, journalists etc - we are all doing our best.
- Deliver what you said you were going to do, in the time you said you were going to do it for the price you said you were going to do it for.
If you could make one lasting change in the PR industry, what would it be?
Bin the jargon.
What are your top 3 media relations tips?
- Don't send the media irrelevant content - unless you want them to ignore everything else you send them in the future.
- Don't over pitch the same idea to multiple people and pretend you are just sending it as an exclusive. This used to drive me mad when I worked as a journalist.
- Journalists are humans too; I used to be one! So be nice - even if you are having a bad day.
What do you love most about working in PR?
I love the buzz of seeing a story I have pitched in the media. It's a similar buzz I used to get as a journalist seeing my by-line in the Sunday Business Post, Irish Independent or Evening Herald - it never gets stale.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
Orla Guerin. Fergal Keane. Huw Edwards. For delivering concise, clear news impartially but compassionately and always getting to the heart of the story.
Who was your first boss in a media related job and what did you learn from them?
My first boss was Brian McHugh, the editor of the Sligo Weekender, who took me on during the summer between my first and second years in my journalism college course. He gave me great responsibility and autonomy which led me to being proactive and self-starting in my work. At the Irish Independent and the Evening Herald, my bosses and colleagues who inspired me are too many to name individually but Evening Herald legend news editor Martin Brennan taught me how to write stories under serious pressure - sending them line by line to the printers as the presses were rolling - while he stood over my shoulder! At the Sunday Business Post, the trust my editor Cliff Taylor placed in me as News Editor to make autonomous decisions solidified my confidence in my leadership abilities.More about Martha KearnsTwitter:@marthakearnssLinkedIn:https://www.linkedin.com/in/martha-kearns-3688546b/
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