PR Rising Star is an interview series from MediaHQ that talks to up-and-coming PR professionals. It looks into why they decided to follow a career in PR, their predictions for the future of the industry and their favourite book of the last year.
Fiona Hyland is a PR Executive at Littlewoods, Ireland's largest online department store for fashion, electronics and furniture. Fiona graduated from TU Dublin in 2016, after studying for a degree in Journalism and joined Confetti Magazine as an Editorial Assistant.
In 2017, Fiona joined House and Home Magazine as an Editorial Assistant, before moving to The Very Group where she began as a Content Specialist for Littlewoods Ireland.
In 2020, Fiona was appointed as a PR Executive for Littlewoods. In 2020, Fiona obtained a Professional Diploma in PR and Marketing Communications from UCD.
Why did you decide to follow a career in PR?
In truth, I had no idea what PR was until I started working in Littlewoods Ireland. While working in Content Marketing, my Marketing Manager at the time identified that PR was a role where I was far more suited. She felt my interpersonal skills and creativity were the perfect fit for PR and suggested I pivot into the PR team for six months to see how I felt about it. Two years later, I haven't looked back and only wish I knew about the world of PR sooner.
Specifically, tell us about your route into working in the PR industry?
When I finished school in 2013, I moved from Tipperary to Dublin to study Journalism in DIT (now TU Dublin). After I graduated, I took on a number of internships which rewarded me with a full time Editorial Assistant position in one of the country's leading interiors' titles. Unfortunately due to the landscape in Irish media, I was made redundant in 2018, and knew I needed a career change.
I began working as a Content Editor for Littlewoods Ireland's in-house marketing team, however after just two years, my Marketing Manager Catherine O’Toole felt my skillset was far more suited to PR. Last year, I graduated from UCD with a distinction diploma in PR and Marketing Communications which has helped me to gain more responsibility in my current role.
What is your favourite thing about working in PR?
My favourite thing about working in PR is definitely the people. I always say that PR is the career path for those people in school who always got moved for talking to the person next to them! I love meeting new people, working with creatives and building relationships with journalists and influencers. A close second is creating beautiful experiences. Whether it's a bespoke gift drop, or hosting a stunning event, I love to see people having a great time - as stressful as it may be at the time, it all works out in the end!
If you could make a lasting change in the PR industry, what would it be?
I would love to see more visibility for PR as a career from a younger age. Had I known what PR was when I was filling out my CAO form in secondary school, I'd have strongly considered studying marketing in college. However, I also feel that marketing courses could highlight the PR function more. I've managed a handful of interns who study marketing and most of them know nothing about PR before they start, but when they leave they're strongly considering a career in PR.
Name one person who has influenced your career and tell us why.
Karen Fitzpatrick, PR and Sponsorship Manager at Littlewoods Ireland, has massively influenced my career. Not only has she taught me so much about the profession, but she truly champions my work and puts me forward for opportunities I never thought I'd get.
Name one communications tool you couldn't live without.
MediaHQ has massively transformed how we showcase our press releases. I issue a weekly look of the week, and the functionality to be able to split our media lists has been life changing! As an online retailer with a huge range of products from fashion to tech and everything in between, MediaHQ has made it so much easier to target the press with comms that are relevant to them.
Tell us about a campaign or piece of work that you’ve worked on that you are proud of.
Last year I led my first CSR campaign, with the Irish Charity 'Cyber Safe'. This was the first full PR campaign I managed from start to finish which included a press release, a full social media plan, Influencer content, media interviews and internal PR to engage my colleagues. The campaign, which focused on a 24 hour digital detox was a huge success and really gave me an insight into working on a tight budget to really amplify a campaign. I used true PR tactics and relied heavily on using existing relationships to get the most coverage for the initiative.
Finish this sentence. “The best way to connect your story to your audience is by…”
bringing your audience on the journey. Create a beginning, a middle and an end that tells a well-crafted, interesting and engaging story.
What is your favourite hobby?
Trying new restaurants and brunch spots.
What is the best book that you have read in the last year?
‘Snowflake’ by Louise Nealon.
What is your binge watch recommendation?
Name three trends that you think will be important in the PR industry in the next five years.
I don't think Influencer marketing is going anywhere, in fact I think it'll go from strength to strength. However I think it'll become more authentic, with brands working with Influencers on a longer-term, brand ambassador capacity.
I think (and hope) that diversity and inclusion will become more important and become a pillar of marketing strategies.
Lastly, I think podcasts will become important to PR professionals as a means for telling more brand stories.
Which social media site is the most important to you and why?
Twitter is the most important social media platform to me. When a news story is going to break, it's going to break on Twitter. But I also think it's a "look at this" platform, rather than a "look at me" platform, where conversations on topics you might not usually have within your own circles are had; viewpoints and perceptions are challenged and it opens you up to people who have had different life experiences to you. It's also hilarious, and amazing for pop culture moments such as Love Island or high-profile celebrity drama.
Name one staple of the PR industry that you think will die out in the next five years.
I think larger email blasts will begin to die out, in favour of more targeted releases and exclusive opportunities. Through social media, journalists and PRs are more connected than ever, so building relationships where you might be able to call in a favour, or land an exclusive has never been easier.
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