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 their favourite books, mentors who have left a lasting impact and the innovation that they wish they had invented, this series covers more than just career advice and takes a look at the person behind the title. Paul O’Kane is the Director of Murray Group, a strategic communications partner of Irish businesses and organisations. Formerly holding the position of Chief Communications Officer at Dublin Airport Authority, Paul began his career in the realm of journalism. Paul has a Masters in Journalism from DCU and worked as a freelance journalist, Business Reporter for the Irish Times and Business Editor of the Sunday Tribune in his early career. He then decided to make the move to the world of PR and communications in 2013. Paul talks below about the one thing he couldn’t live without, why he decided to follow a career in journalism and the piece of advice that he would give to anyone starting their career in communications.
Name the one work tool that you couldn’t live without
What communications innovation do you wish you had come up with?
What is the best book you have read in the past year?
One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time by Craig Brown
Why did you decide to follow a career in journalism?
I decided I wanted to be a reporter when I was about 7. Oddly, I can't remember exactly why, but I was never really interested in doing anything else.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
Every day is a school day - you never stop learning.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in PR?
There's a story at the heart of it - what's that story and what's the best way to tell it.
What are the 3 biggest lessons that you have learned throughout your career?
Whether it be journalism or PR, people are at the heart of what we do, and you have to make a proper connection. That's one of things that has been so difficult over the past two years. Zoom and Teams are brilliant, but would you choose to try and build a proper working relationship with someone in the same city or just an hour or two away on a video call?
Asking what seems like the most basic schoolboy question can often get you to the heart of an issue pretty quickly.
Retain a sense of humour at all times.
Name three principles that you hold dear when it comes to your PR work?
Keep written communications simple: who ever got fired for using small words? (Although admittedly, saying no constantly isn't a great strategy for business, or for life for that matter.)
Try to treat everyone as you'd like to be treated yourself.
Used properly, social media is your friend.
If you could make one lasting change in the PR industry, what would it be?
I think that we should collectively pivot linguistically and make a real effort going forward to consign buzzwords and unnecessary jargon to the dustbin of history. That's the type of disruptive innovation that I could really get behind - 110%.
What do you love most about working in PR?
I like being able to help the people I work with to tell their stories in a simple, engaging, and compelling way.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
I think Tony Connelly does a really excellent job as RTÉ's Europe Correspondent and has been a brilliant news reporter there for many years. He has been a rock of common sense reporting the many Brexit-related machinations of the past few years and cuts through a lot of the bluff and bluster to get to the heart of the story.
Who was your first boss in a media-related job and what did you learn from them?
When I joined The Gown, which is the student newspaper at Queen's in Belfast, in 1987, its then editor Ronan Henry showed me how to write a news intro in my first week. I was utterly clueless and it was an essential grounding for a skill I subsequently honed and have used for the past 30 years. I still think a good intro is a thing of beauty.More about Paul O'KaneLinkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/paulokaneTwitter: @ pmokane
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