Mary is Director, Communications and Marketing at the British Business Bank. She was President of Women in PR for three years until January 2018, whose mission is to inspire women to reach their full potential. Integral to this mission is supporting gender balance in the boardroom, nurturing the next generation of women leaders in the PR industry, as well as advocating to close the gender pay gap. In 2017 Women PR were a runner up in the PR Week Awards Force for Good category and in 2016, Women in PR won a Silver in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business.
Mary has featured in the PR Week Powerbook 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015 as one of the most influential people in the UK PR industry, is a Member of the PRCA PR Council, a CIPR Accredited PR Practitioner, a Cannes Lions Glass Lion juror, a winner of the 2014 Power Part-Time awards, a past-mentor on the PR Week Mentoring programme and Women in Sales programme. Mary was shortlisted for a PR Week Award in 2013 and was runner-up in the PR Week Young Achiever award in 1996.
Mary is an accomplished, trusted, visionary and collaborative communications director with a 25-year track record advising FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies to reinforce strategy, support business objectives and build brand equity.
Describe your background in 5 words max
White, only-child, Home Counties
How did you get into PR and/communications?
Business Studies degree at Bournemouth University. Wrote 50 letters to the top 50-100 agencies in the PR Week league table. Got a one-year placement with B2B agency, David Crewe Associates (DCA). Returned to DCA after graduating and did the PR for a lot of stationery products before leaving to go and launch Orange. The rest is history.
What do you love about your job?
How many careers enable you to gate-crash the Virgin Radio studio to get the Butlins Redcoats on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show; take a global media tour to Space X at the Kennedy Space Center for the launch of your company’s satellite; work on a Euro 2012 crisis simulation exercise in Kiev with the British Embassy; hold the Millennial Star Diamond as De Beers and LVMH sign a global retail joint venture agreement; and launch a new company with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. That’s what I love about my job.
What are you most proud of?
Repositioning Butlins after it had lost £1 million of bookings after a damning Watchdog investigation and a series of Sunday red top, under-cover investigations. Over three years, working with their senior management team, we communicated the operational and customer experience changes they were making to the business. We completely resuscitated and repositioned the brand. It was also a lot of fun!
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
You don’t always need to tell people when you’re right
Who are your favourite people in PR/communications and why?
I ought to say Johnny Pitt, founder of Launch Group who (probably) gave my husband the final push (brandy) into proposing and I also nearly gave birth to my twins in his office!
Alison Clarke, fomerr CEO, Grayling UK & Ireland, because everybody needs an unofficial cheerleader
Claire Foster, Direct Line Group, because I love her energy and enthusiasm for everything. She’s unstoppable!
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Writing. Never lose the ability to write. If all you can do is walk into a room and ‘consult’, you’ve lost it.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Twitter. It’s informative. It’s funny. It’s entertaining. It’s frustrating. But above all, it’s engaging.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Emma Barnett. She supported Women in PR in the early days of my Presidency. She’s bright, brilliant, incisive, warm and can nail a Ted Talk.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Under-promise, over-deliver. It’s a winner every time.
What’s your ‘yay’ and ‘nay’ campaign of the year so far?
Yay: KFC Crisis Management. Because they did it with humour
Nay: Lush & Spy Cops. What was all that about?!
“PR agencies only talk about diversity to win big awards and look good. But it’s just tokenistic”. Discuss.
I think clients, or certainly this one, are intelligent enough to see though any tokenism and ‘gender-washing.’
What advice would you give a talented BME PR Pro starting to think this sector will never give them the opportunities they deserve and are close to jacking it in to retrain as a doctor (which would make their African parents very happy)?
Raise your profile and think about your personal brand. Write a blog and get active on social media. Network at free industry events as you probably don’t have one of your own. Contact senior people direct. You’d be surprised how few people contact senior people direct.
Finally, on a lighter note… Gutted to hear you can’t make the BME PR Pros Summer Party…. Out of curiosity, what tune would have had you hitting the dancefloor?
Daft Punk w/ Pharrell Williams, Get Lucky