DHR Communications Account Director Martina Quinn was interviewed about her social media credentials for the latest issue of Prosperity.ie‘s ‘Why I Love Mondays’ blog. You can read the blog here, or see below for Martina’s answers to all questions posed by Prosperity.ie…
DHR Communications is a full-service communications practice. The services we offer can be classified under three main headings: public relations; public affairs; and project management. For many of our clients, we provide an integrated service across all three areas. We also offer training in media skills, advocacy techniques, crisis communications and social media skills.
Since the company was established, the focus has been on working with organisations that want to bring about positive change in society. We try to make communications services more accessible and affordable to groups that, traditionally, wouldn’t have had a budget for PR.
Basically, my job is to raise the profile of the organisations with which we work. This can involve straightforward PR tasks like developing and implementing media relations campaigns; organising media events, such as photocalls and press conferences; writing press materials; and liaising with journalists. For clients with a public affairs focus, it can also involve arranging meetings with key politicians and policymakers; engaging with relevant stakeholder groups; and providing advice on how to strengthen relationships with target audiences.
We also deliver project management services for a number of clients. Projects I work on range from nationwide student competitions to public consultations; music gigs, festivals and other large public events; funding schemes; marketing campaigns; and social media projects. Because DHR Communications has a relatively small team, our work is very hands-on. If we are running an event, I could be found assembling equipment, sweeping floors and cleaning up afterwards, in addition to managing the promotion and organisation of the event.
Social media is an increasingly important part of my work. Many of our clients are charities or state-funded agencies, so their PR and marketing budgets are negligible. Social media outlets provide a great, cost-effective way to promote their work. I advise clients on establishing social media profiles – what sites will suit them best; how to build up a following; how to engage with followers. If required, DHR Communications will also manage social media sites on behalf of clients – updating and monitoring their Facebook page and Twitter profile, for example, on a day-to-day basis. We also manage websites on behalf of clients, or work with clients on the establishment of new sites – advising them on content and format, and engaging web developers on their behalf. In 2011, we worked with an international energy company to develop its first ever corporate blog and to build its capacity to use social media to reach its target audiences. Increasingly, we’ve been receiving requests from our existing client base and other organisations for training in social media skills.
Obviously, monitoring the media and the political environment is a hugely important part of my job. Quite often, my work-plan for a day will go completely awry due to a breaking news story. Clients can ring up at any time to ask us to draft a press release responding to breaking news. We’re also always available to clients to advise them on crisis communications. Again, social media plays a significant role in both of these scenarios. Emerging developments often come to our attention through social media sites. Or negative comments left on a client’s Facebook page or Twitter profile can lead to them calling us for some crisis communications advice.
What I like most about my job is working on projects that make a positive difference to Irish society. It gives me a great sense of job satisfaction to think I’m helping make a difference – even if it’s in a very small way. We work with organisations that tackle racism, homelessness, domestic violence, poverty, addiction, mental illness…
Another thing I really like is that no two days are the same. Some days, I’m ensconced in my office, writing press releases or a tender proposal for new business; other days, I’m managing a photocall in a busy public location – or meeting clients to plan forthcoming events. And the variety across our client-base is great so, in any given day, I could be working on topics as diverse as positive ageing, the digital economy, adult education, tourism, social innovation and international development. In that sort of environment, I never get bored.
I also really like the growing focus on social media and online news outlets, which has impacted significantly on the PR industry. The way people and organisations consume news; promote campaigns; and communicate with each other has changed – and will continue to change – hugely. This is an exciting time for anyone involved in communications and the media.
I worked in Fine Gael National Headquarters when I finished college. One of my duties there was to assist in overhauling the party’s website in advance of the 2004 local and European elections. That was my first taste of working online on a day-to-day basis, and I really liked it – it was the first time I learned about content management systems, and saw how easy it can be to update websites and generate content online. Since then, pretty much every job I’ve had has had a strong focus on using online tools.
I also worked as a journalist and editor with Public Affairs Ireland. My duties were to write and edit content for a bi-monthly public affairs journal, and to produce a weekly email bulletin. At the same time, I was doing freelance journalism work for a number of different sectoral publications, such as Council Review, Health & Safety Times and Emergency Services Ireland.
Before I joined DHR Communications, I was Communications Officer with AONTAS, the national adult learning charity. In addition to managing media relations, I was responsible for the organisation’s online presence.
I joined DHR Communications as an Account Manager in 2007. I was coming from a non-profit organisation, and a lot of DHR clients are not-for-profits, so it was a natural fit. I never really expected to end up working in PR, but the mix of advocacy and media work that DHR Communications offers really appeals to me, as does the client-base.
BA in Journalism from Dublin City University
Working in PR means you have to be available to your clients pretty much all of the time. My day starts at about 8.30am, when I check my emails on the way to work. I’m usually in the office by 9am, and could be there quite late at night, depending on what’s happening in any given week. We do some night-time events, and also a good bit of work at weekends. And I need to be available to take calls or respond to urgent emails – from clients or from the media – pretty much at any time.
My working day is busy, so I generally eat lunch at my desk and I’m not great for taking breaks throughout the day. I try to be organised enough to bring my lunch into the office from home. If that fails, I go to Manning’s on Thomas Street in Dublin 8, our local deli, for a take-away sandwich. Occasionally, I’ll meet a friend in town, or go out for lunch with colleagues or clients.
Social media credentials:
First thing in the morning, I’ll check my emails on my iPhone & will glance at Facebook – and maybe Twitter. Once I get to the office, the first websites I open are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and I leave these sites open all day – I’ll keep an eye on them throughout the day to see if there’s any breaking news I should be aware of, or any other items of interest or of relevance to our clients. I also use TweetDeck, and have apps on my phone for all of the main social media sites. If I’m out of the office at a photocall or client event, I’ll live-tweet from the venue and upload photographs to the DHR Facebook page and Twitter account – and possibly to the client’s social media sites too.
I manage DHR Communications’ online presence, including the company’s website; Facebook page; Twitter account; and LinkedIn page. One of the things on my ‘to do’ list this month is an overhaul of the company’s website.
I’m also responsible for developing and delivering our social media training modules, which means I need to keep well informed about new developments and trends.
In addition to managing DHR Communications’ own online presence, I also manage our work on social media profiles for many of our clients. So, quite often at work, I’ll be flicking back and forth between a number of different Twitter profiles, Facebook pages, websites and blogs.
During the working day, I use Facebook and Twitter more to get a sense of what’s going on in the world than for ‘social’ purposes. Outside of working hours, I’m relatively active on Facebook in a more conventional way – keeping up with friends, etc. I’m not active in a personal capacity on Twitter (I tweet as @DHRComms), but I like to use Twitter outside of working hours to see what’s happening in the world – and also to follow commentary around certain events and activities. Increasingly, I’m keeping an eye on Twitter while watching something major on TV (political debates, current affairs shows, etc.). Seeing how people tweet about breaking news stories or current affairs developments helps to inform my work with clients.
I use LinkedIn for networking and also to find out sectoral news – I’m a member of lots of PR, communications and social media groups on LinkedIn. I’ve also recently started to use Google+, and plan to become more acquainted with that in the coming months.
I get a huge amount of my news through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I follow news sites like TheJournal.ie and Broadsheet.ie on Facebook, and frequently click through from my Facebook profile to their sites to find out more. I particularly like TheJournal.ie’s ‘9 at 9’ and ‘The 5 at 5’. I think the way that site has developed is symptomatic of the future of news – it’s a really good model of how media organisations can use social media to engage their audiences and deliver quality content.
I also follow lots of organisations of relevance to my work on Facebook (including clients), so I’ll come across news stories that way too and, obviously, Twitter is great for breaking news. Through LinkedIn, I get lots of sectoral news – from the PR, social media and communications groups of which I’m a member.
I get the email versions of The Irish Times and Metro Herald delivered to my inbox each morning, so I’ll have a glance at the headlines on those, and I regularly refer to RTE.ie, IrishTimes.com, Examiner.ie and various other Irish news sites over the course of the day. I also subscribe to a number of blogs that are of relevance to my work – and to the work of our clients. Silicon Republic is great for Irish tech news, as are Digital Times and TechCentral.ie. To keep up with international developments, I follow blogs like Spin Sucks, Social Media Examiner, PR News and PR at Sunrise. And I also subscribe to a number of different bulletins from BrandRepublic.com.
Obviously, working in PR, it’s really important to keep up with traditional media too – I listen to morning current affairs shows on my way to work each morning – usually on Newstalk or RTÉ Radio 1. The radio is always on in the background throughout the day and we have a selection of daily newspapers in the office, as well as magazines, specialist publications and local newspapers.
Onsite or offsite:
My job involves lots of meetings outside of the office, which I like. I usually have a couple of off-site meetings every day. There’s also a fair amount of travel involved in my role. Lots of our clients have a nationwide remit. So, even though their head office might be based in Dublin, they’ll have branches or members throughout the country, and will quite often ask us to travel for regional events or initiatives. And, of course, some of our clients are based outside of Dublin, so – obviously – we travel to where they’re located for planning meetings and / or to organise events. We also deliver training throughout the country, so I could be in Cork or Galway or Donegal for that.
Occasionally, this job involves overseas travel – I was in Brussels a couple of months back because one of our clients was presenting to a European Forum and meeting with MEPs to brief them on a particular initiative. Lots of our clients are involved in transnational projects, so keeping an eye on what’s happening at EU level is important to our work.
The PR and communications sectors will continue to become more and more influenced by digital media in the coming years. So my main priority is to keep abreast of emerging trends and figure out how best to use new social media and online tools to promote our clients’ work.
I would also like to see more of our clients proactively embracing social media. A surprising amount of organisations are still fearful about using Facebook or Twitter or other online tools. Or they feel that, given their limited resources, they simply don’t have the staff available to maintain an effective social media presence. Part of the training that DHR Communications offers is aimed at helping organisations overcome that fear – to understand the benefits of social media and plan how it can be incorporated into day-to-day work without any extra resources being required.
Apart from our clients, I also want to continue to enhance DHR Communications’ own online presence. We have found social media to be extremely beneficial in terms of getting feedback about our work and developing our business. But, with social media, you can’t afford to get complacent. I know there’s more that we could be doing and that things are changing and developing all the time, so I want to make sure we keep pace with that.
I love Mondays because:
I love Mondays because, generally, I try to get any outstanding work cleared on a Friday evening or (if it has to be done!) over the weekend. So, usually, come Monday morning, I feel I’m starting with a clean slate and a very manageable ‘to do’ list. Unfortunately, though, this quite often doesn’t go to plan!