My Life in PR
Min read

My life in PR, this much I know - Olivia Collins

My life in PR, this much I know - Olivia Collins
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.

Olivia Collins is Managing Director of Food PR, an Award-Winning Communications Agency servicing all of Ireland. In 2002, Olivia joined Proactive Design & Marketing as an Account Manager. In 2004, Olivia co-founded Those Two Girls PR & Marketing, where she worked until 2014. In 2013, Olivia founded Food PR, where she is now Managing Director.

Name the one work tool that you couldn’t live without.

Our project management software tool. It keeps everything on target and a lot of moving pieces captured in one place where the whole team can access.

What communications innovation do you wish you had come up with?

Whatsapp has had many benefits, in particular for Food Social, our social media agency, as clients can easily share as-they-happen images with the team. We can communicate with clients in-house team easily and quickly as per the nature of social media. However, it does come with the possibility of death by too many Whatsapp groups when you have young sporty children so keeping a separate business account for Whatsapp has helped me.

What is the best book you have read in the past year?

‘Atomic Habits’ is one I go back to pretty frequently and re-read this year. I am also a big fan of audio books. I am currently listening to ‘Four Thousand Weeks’ by Oliver Burkeman which I am really enjoying and helps put perspective on a busy life. Professionally, ‘Managing a Professional Communications Agency’ by Neil Beckwith is a book every agency owner and PR manager should have on their books shelf.

Why did you decide to follow a career in PR?

I have always found how we communicate intriguing. The language we use, how good communication can diffuse a difficult situation and how bad communication can lead to exasperate someone. Good communicators become leaders, they build a following, they win wars, have happier relationships, make friends and influence people. When brands and businesses communicate effectively they can have the same effect. I find this irresistible and so I love helping good brands who are doing good things uncover this too.

What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

The lessons that I have learnt over a 16 year life span of running an agency have given me a deeper understanding of business and myself. Some of those lessons were learnt the hard way. Women can feel the sharp pain of imposter syndrome when starting something they may not have done before and I see this often in the women I mentor. Men don't seem to suffer as much from that. I would tell myself that while imposter syndrome can have a humbling effect on the approach to work, it is completely normal and not necessarily the truth. Everyone is simply doing their best and as long as you do that, you'll be ok.

Tell us about a campaign or piece of work that you’ve worked on that you are proud of.

I am genuinely proud of all the campaigns we work on. Whilst they are all in the food sector, each and every one is different as each client is unique. We could be launching a book with big personalities by Gaz Smith or JP McMahon, or getting exposure for a beautiful boutique hotel in Dun Laoghaire or a colourful cafe in Westport. The one-on-one mentoring work I do is very rewarding also. With all clients, we tend to get a deep understanding of their business, and often the brainstorming and strategising and behind-the-scenes work is as valuable if not more so than the media coverage that results.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in PR?

Understand that column inches are not a measure of success. Building a strong, trusted client relationship is key. That takes time, a lot of work, a deep understanding of their ultimate objectives with the business and going the extra mile. Stay out of hype and don't get caught up - PR is a profession not a personality type. It will be rewarding and in time, trust is quicker to build as you build your own reputation by being a professional.

Name three principles that you hold dear when it comes to your PR work.

  1. Integrity - know what you value and reflect that in your work and your approach.
  2. Honesty with kindness as opposed to brutal honesty - there is a difference.
  3. Fairness.

If you can employ these principles with clients, your team and most of all with yourself, then you can know you are doing the right thing and making better decisions.

If you could make one lasting change in the PR industry, what would it be?

A better sense of collaboration. Agencies tend to work in silos. There are the bigger agencies, the medium and smaller ones and then the independent consultants. Regardless of which pot your business falls into, I would love to see more agencies work together to either share knowledge or collaborate on client work. PR agency work and managing an agency can be difficult, stressful and burn-out is very common. If more agency owners and directors communicated frankly, it would make the space a less hostile world. There is life outside Dublin and Covid has taught us, particularly owners with family, that striking the elusive work/life balance is crucial to performing creatively.

What are your top three media relations tips?

A little like building good client relationships, knowing your media and what they write about, what their style is.  Be respectful and hone your writing skills. Know what makes news stories.

What do you love most about working in PR?

While it might have taken months of prep work and a clear strategy, I really love how a good PR campaign can change a business or brand overnight. There are few professions that can have such a dramatic impact.

More about Olivia

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