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.Sharon Bannerton is the Founder and Owner of Bannerton PR, a Dublin based full-service PR agency which manages cost-effective consumer, luxury, financial, public relations, and corporate campaigns. Sharon began her career in sales and marketing before beginning Bannerton in 2010.
Name the one work tool that you couldn’t live without
The mindfulness app that I listen to on my lunchtime walk. It clears my head to focus better on the rest of the day’s work. That and the MediaHQ press release service, of course.
What communications innovation do you wish you had come up with?
How did we live without digital communications? I love it all. I did school work experience in a big Dublin PR firm and spent the fortnight stuffing photo prints and photocopied press releases into large brown envelopes for a courier to drop around the city to the various media outlets. Don’t get me started on proofing conference slide decks, where the slides were bits of 35mm film set into little glass-fronted plastic sleeves. Anyone under the age of 40 in PR hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about.
What is the best book you have read in the past year?
‘Klara and the Sun’ by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s not as gripping as some of his earlier books, like ‘Never Let Me Go’, but still thought-provoking.
Why did you decide to follow a career in PR?
I got into PR following a pretty eclectic career in sales and marketing for international tech and telecoms firms. I set-up and sold my own successful web business at one stage. I was in events marketing too for a while. I eventually decided I had a skill for PR and connecting what the client wanted to say and what the media needed to hear. There is often a disconnect in these two, so identifying the unique angle or the exceptional facts and figures and packaging them for the different editors or producers is something I enjoy.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
That digital communications tools would revolutionise how we carry out PR and leave more time to focus on the essential elements. These are counselling clients, developing their brand or business communication with them and getting to know individual media and what they are looking for in a news or feature piece. I would not have expected I would come to love this job the way I do now.
What are the three biggest PR challenges that you face?
Getting enough time in the day to manage all of the clients who come to Bannerton. I genuinely love our work, where we can make a real difference to business and brand communication and see commercial results. I have a great team behind me, but I still like to stay active in all of the clients’ business to some degree.The perennial issue of business owners who don’t understand that PR is not advertising and that we’re looking for newsworthy content or engaging features or opinion, rather than just a USP or sales pitch.Recruitment is always challenging. We’re all looking for those elusive people who are in-touch with social media and younger market trends and who have the experience and professionalism to deal with senior managers in client companies, while also being creative original thinkers with a great eye for a media hook and the ability to write it up.
Tell us about a campaign or piece of work that you’ve worked on that you are proud of.
Without sounding smug, I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a client where I wasn’t pleased with what we managed to achieve for them. The highlights would be getting newer market entrants or start-ups established via PR, such as the work we have done with BNP Paribas Real Estate, the HaloCare digital home-care start-up in Carlow, Xtremepush and their amazing multi-channel data marketing and similarly, the VidMob offering in digital marketing analytics. We’re also very proud to have helped devise and launch and support the growth of Champion Green, the ‘support local’ campaign conceived by Marian O’Gorman and the Kilkenny Group at the start of Covid. It has now developed into a purposeful marketing and business development support for local businesses.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in their career in PR?
Always contribute thoughts and ideas when it comes to PR planning. Fresh thinking is welcome and the smallest original grain of an idea can grow.
What are the three biggest lessons that you have learned throughout your career?
You can only advise and stick to your professional knowledge of the PR and communications role. If a client chooses differently once you have advised to the best of your understanding, you either support their decision or, if you think it is ill-advised, walk away. It is a tricky decision and I have on occasion had to respectfully resign a few clients.Ask questions, never assume. You can’t be expected to know every client’s business intrinsically - just the PR role - so the only way to learn is to question continually and challenge. Playing devil’s advocate on client issues can be necessary.Stay positive. There is usually a solution or a compromise. Try to manage a client’s unrealistic expectation if necessary and tell them instead what can be delivered for their business.
Name three principles that you hold dear when it comes to your PR work.
Always be truthful with clients, media and colleagues. Otherwise, even a white lie tends to come back around and bite you.Do not promise or agree to a media strategy that you know in your heart cannot be delivered for whatever reason; be it budget, media value or agency capacity. We have loyal clients who have left bigger agencies that over-promised and under-delivered.Understand that we all have off-days; clients, media and colleagues. It’s a challenging business, so the ability to ignore, bite your tongue and smile at the occasional jibe is useful.
If you could make one lasting change in the PR industry, what would it be?
The PR industry looks pretty good from where I’m standing. It would however be preferable if ad agencies did not tag PR counsel onto their creative or media buying services. Especially when they don’t actually have anyone to deliver proper PR planning and implementation.
What are your top three media relations tips?
People in media are humans like us. Treat them with respect, deliver what you say you will and you will get along fine.Strong corporate issues, public affairs or crisis management media approaches tend to work better on an exclusive basis. Work with a single media outlet or individual you feel will most effectively reach the target audience.Talk to editors or researchers. You will discover the slow news times, under-staffed times and the ‘don’t even talk to me’ times. This helps decision-making around when to offer exclusives or ready copy, or when to issue a lighter media release.
What do you love most about working in PR?
Seeing a planned campaign come to fruition and a happy client.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
Now how can I single out one media contact when I absolutely love them all. Let’s say RTE’s weatherman, the ever-smiling Gerry Murphy. He is some PR man with all that skill in cheerfully delivering what is largely, let’s face it, bad news.
Did you have a mentor? Who were they? And what was the most important thing they taught you?
I am largely self-taught in PR and marketing. Although, even before setting up on my own, I had many PR stalwarts in my circle of friends and I frequently engaged with PR agencies and providers as a client. In terms of business or career lessons, my lovely dad always said to treat people as you would want to be treated – simple, but it works.More about SharonLinkedIn:https://www.linkedin.com/in/bannerton/Twitter:@SharonBannerton
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