An agency leader takes to the Local Profiles today, and it’s another trailblazing female! A PR specialist with a decade of experience, Kirsty McQuoid established PR’s ME – a boutique PR agency based in Belfast, providing PR to high growth start-ups and SMEs.
I have met Kirsty and, given her experiences in America, London and across Ireland, she could be intimidating, but she isn’t. Instead, she’s one of the nicest people you’ll meet. She’s good fun, and a great person to meet up with for a debate about all things PR in Northern Ireland. But Kirsty’s also a busy woman, so for now, you’ll have to make do with getting to know her “virtually” via this handy blog post!
How did you get where you are today?
I see PR as an applied psychology and have always loved the concept of applying PR fundamentals to business and the impact it can have on business. Actually, PR’s ME was set up by accident, the result of one of those ‘sliding doors’ moments in life. I was offered a ‘too good to pass’ PR contract during a meeting with a business mentor discussing an e-commerce start-up I was working on within a partnership. Within one week of that meeting, PR’s ME was launched, the demand for start-ups and SMEs needing PR was very much there.
I made very informed decisions both academically and career wise in order to pursue a career in PR. Having studied business & marketing in a US university for one year (a scholarship I received whilst completing my undergrad degree in psychology at QUB) I then moved to London to study a post graduate degree in public relations before moving to Dublin after securing a graduate role as a financial PR exe with IBEC’s EOP Programme. After that, I moved back to London, worked as a corporate and financial PR mainly for retail and investment banks at Lansons Communications, before moving into healthcare PR, then deciding to move back to NI where I worked as director of PR for an Irish telecoms company prior to what I am doing today.
What three tips would you offer someone just starting out?
1. Speak up. Creativity is something you were born with, don’t be afraid to speak up and put your creative ideas out in the workplace. Who’s to say your ideas are less feasible than someone who has been in the industry a long time but ‘rattles off’ the same ‘boring’ but ‘tried & tested’ methods?
2. Start you career in a PR agency not in-house. In a PR agency you will work on anything from 5-10 clients, thus getting to grips with more businesses than if you worked in-house. Rule of thumb is agency first then move in-house (if you wish), this was good advice I was given by a PR recruiter starting out my career in London some years ago. Also, be choosy about the type of PR agency you start your career in. I worked in a bar for a number of months in London before I took up a role with one of the City’s most reputable PR and public affairs agency. There’s plenty of agencies out there that won’t effectively teach you the art of PR. Why waste your time?
3. PR yourself! Create your own identity in the industry early on to set yourself apart from the masses. SWOT analyse yourself. Network face-to-face, attend industry and business events and courses. Use social media to your advantage and it’s always useful to have someone in the industry you admire, emulate their work ethnic and attitude towards others.
What’s a typical week like in your role?
Some of the highlights from my past week include designing the front end of a website for a start-up and writing content copy for its website, social media and promotional materials. I’m looking forward to launching this creative start-up soon. Just last week we have signed off their PR campaign strategy. As a mentor with the Princes’ Trust NI, I spent some time working with one of its talented young artists, Madeleine Beattie, a porcelain crafter. I also had a meeting of minds with NI crisis PR ‘guru’ Nick Garbutt last week. Great to touch base, discuss industry ideas with him and look to the future of PR in NI with the idea of possible collaboration.
What has changed for the better and worse since you started in the industry
Good – Explosion of PR 2.0 in this ‘information age’. Mediocre businesses, products and services lifespan is now short because we are now able to get quickly to the answer we are looking for ‘what customers are saying’. What this means for the PR industry is that the industry as a whole has had to sharpen their tools and has weeded out those companies and PR agencies who use spin.
Bad – Rise of ‘celebrity’ culture. This in my view has led the general public and other industry types as well as, in my opinion, an unfortunate few in the PR industry, to believe PR is all about publicity, publicity stunts, celebrity endorsements and consumer PR. Whilst there is a place for this type of PR and it is a huge market sector, this type of consumer PR is only one type of public relations. Traditional print media in particular tabloids and certain types of consumer PR and its stunts present such a small fraction of this industry. Interesting to see how the reputation of the PR industry will change with the demise print media?!
If you were hiring for an entry-level position, what would make a candidate stand out?
A confident self-starter with a brain I admire and would like myself.
What is your proudest moment to date?
I am most proud of the choices I have made in my career and maintaining integrity throughout.
When you switch off (if you switch off!) what do you do with your own time?
Walking, running and cycling with a coastal view in sight is my ideal way to relax & switch off. Enjoying a glass of red or white wine is another.
Cheers, aCupOfLee, this has been a pleasure.
No, Kirsty, cheers to you! Follow Kirsty on Twitter for great article links on all things good and bad in the PR world @Promote_NI_SMEs