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.
Niamh Waters is Head of PR at VROOM Digital, a digital marketing agency based in Dublin. With a love for English, Niamh opted to study journalism upon leaving school. Niamh completed the PRII Diploma in Public Relations and while studying, she interned in the Communications Department of Tallaght Hospital in Dublin before joining the team full-time as a Communications Assistant.
Niamh moved on to work in marketing for Cleary’s department store before spending a decade as a Senior Account Manager for TravelMedia.ie. In 2021, Niamh joined VROOM Digital as their Head of PR.
Why did you decide to follow a career in PR?
My love of English in school was definitely a big influence on my career path decision – that and my love of being highly organised in both my working and personal life (something which comes in handy in PR).
The world of media, brands and advertising was something which fascinated me growing up, so I think I was always going to end up doing something in that realm. All of this led me to studying journalism initially after leaving school, and then a few years later, public relations.
Specifically, tell us about your route into working in the PR industry?
After studying journalism, I wasn’t quite ready to leave college, so I decided to stay on for another year and complete the PRII Diploma in Public Relations. While studying PR, I interned in the Communications Department of Tallaght Hospital in Dublin. I was over the moon when they offered me a full-time position as Communications Assistant. It was an amazing first job in PR as I got so much hands-on experience in media relations, crisis communications and internal communications.
From there, I went on to work in the Marketing Department at Clerys Department Store, an Irish institution. This was another role that I garnered significant experience from, in particular learning how to juggle working with so many international brands and external contractors. Working in a fast-paced environment like that definitely teaches you how to remain stress-free and calm in high pressure situations.
After Clerys, I spent 10 years working in travel PR. So, last year it was time for a change and that’s what led me to my current role as Head of PR in VROOM Digital. As the name would suggest, there is a huge focus on all things online and digital in my current role, so I am really enjoying being able to apply both my traditional and digital PR skills to client campaigns.
What is your favourite thing about working in PR?
I love the versatile nature of PR. At VROOM Digital, we work with such a great mix of clients, across such a multitude of different industries (non-profit, healthcare, beauty, finance, travel), which means that no two days are ever the same. The fast pace of work required to deliver campaigns and land coverage adds an element of excitement to the job. Events are also a part of the job that I never grow tired of – whether that’s a small photocall or a large launch party.
Working in an award-winning digital marketing agency such as VROOM Digital also gives me the opportunity to collaborate with other departments, such as SEO, Paid Search and Paid Social, which means that, as well as being a highly collaborative environment, I am always learning from my colleagues.
If you could make a lasting change in the PR industry, what would it be?
I'd like to see a bigger focus on promoting the industry and explaining what different PR roles entail, as I think this is something that could definitely increase the appetite for school-leavers choosing PR as a future career. At the moment I think there are out of date perceptions of PR. I believe that there is an opportunity to shine more of a light on digital PR and the amazing career path that it can take people on – especially those that have a love for combining traditional PR methods with data-driven campaigns.
I’d also like to see the world of influencer marketing become less exclusive. I think it’s so important to work with people who have all types of followers and engagement numbers. Not just those who have an extremely large online presence.
Some of the best campaigns we have worked on in VROOM Digital have been done by collaborating with micro-influencers.
Name one person who has influenced your career and tell us why.
Laoise O' Murchu, who gave me my first job in PR in Tallaght Hospital. I learned so much from her in the short time I was there and was very lucky to be able to work alongside her.
Name one communications tool you couldn't live without.
Twitter. I think it’s such an important tool for PR professionals. I use Twitter every day for a number of different tasks, such as finding and responding to journalist requests, conducting outreach, making connections and keeping on top of news.
Tell us about a campaign or piece of work that you’ve worked on that you are proud of.
This past International Women’s Day we worked with our client askpaul.ie on producing several pieces of content relating to women’s finances and the gender pension gap. We landed some strong pieces of coverage, both online (such as on RTE.ie) and in print (such as the Sunday World).
In addition, we also assisted them in organising an in-person event – a panel discussion touching on the challenges women face in business and the workplace, and exploring the key areas for financial focus.
Finish this sentence. “The best way to connect your story to your audience is by…”
What is your favourite hobby?
I’m big into the gym and train a few mornings a week. PR can be quite a hectic and full-on job, so having an outlet such as the gym, where you can switch off and focus on something else, is so important for your headspace.
What is the best book that you have read in the last year?
“Good Vibes, Good Life” by Vex King.
What is your binge watch recommendation?
At the moment I’m hooked on 'Succession'.
Name three trends that you think will be important in the PR industry in the next five years.
Creativity in press releases – e.g. using videos or infographics to communicate your message to journalists. As we know, journalists are bombarded with emails from PR’s every day, so getting creative and standing out from the crowd is important.
In-person events – Over the past two years the world of live events was stopped in its tracks, so I think brands will be putting a heavy focus on them for the next few years as a way of reconnecting with journalists, bloggers and influencers.
Digital and Online – While traditional PR is and always will be important, for a story to have a large reach, it needs to be seen online. At VROOM Digital we are lucky to have a talented SEO team who the PR department works closely with. This ensures that we are landing coverage and links that will have impact and get real results for our clients.
Which social media site is the most important to you and why?
Instagram is extremely important for my work with bloggers and influencers. Conducting outreach and managing collaborations on behalf of clients means I need to be following and engaging with a host of influencers and bloggers, across a myriad of industries.
Name one staple of the PR industry that you think will die out in the next five years.
The way in which we communicate with journalists has and will continue to change. Nowadays, it’s not unusual to communicate with journalists over social media, or even WhatsApp. With comms technology continuing to evolve, the manner in which we conduct outreach and pitch stories will continue to change over the next few years.
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