MRM gets the lowdown from new colleague Fiona McAra, senior consultant, on everything from her time working agency-side in a range of sectors, the satisfaction of seeing a client progress, and what she’d do as Prime Minister for the day
- Tell us about yourself
I’m a bit of a jack-of-all trades when it comes to PR, having worked agency-side my entire career. This has seen me cut my teeth on sectors such as energy, healthcare, professional services, technology and eCommerce.
This generalist approach really helped to broaden my horizons as pulling in insights and learnings from different clients and sectors drives more diverse thinking. My experience in energy and retail communications specifically I’ve found are useful for a whole host of clients, so it’s rewarding to be able to pass that on.
Sustainability, for example, is a key issue for a host of financial services firms currently, so it’s good to have a background in this and understand the change programmes they might be going through to improve their efficacy.
On the eCommerce side, knowing about the issues encountered by online retailers and their physical peers provides a more cohesive understanding of financial performance, and how relatively small issues like user experience, downtime or fulfilment can erode profit margins.
- Where did your interest in FS come from?
I think I’ve always been interested. Money makes the world go round, and it’s so divisive – whether it’s where to invest or how best to spend it, it’s fascinating how many people have such different ideas about it. Plus, it never stays still.
From challenger banks disrupting traditional ways of working to crypto providing new investment avenues, I like the fact that the industry is constantly evolving at a fast pace.
- Why did you join MRM?
The client set and ambition really drew me in. I want to be constantly challenged and be a better version of myself and I think MRM shares this value, as staying the same isn’t good enough.
- You’ve always worked at agencies in your career, so what aspect of agency PR life/work do you enjoy most?
What I love about PR is that you’re doing something different every day. This is amplified agency-side. You get to learn so much about so many things and for a curious mind like mine, I find it kind of addictive.
I like learning and finding out new things. To have the chance to do that each day as part of your job and then apply it is fantastic.
- What area of PR gives you the most satisfaction? Is it fast-paced sell ins, or a killer stat press release write-up?
Looking back, the greatest satisfaction I get from PR is mainly down to progress. When you see where a client came from, and where they are now – from tone of voice to industry standing – it can often lead you to swell with pride.
There’s also the people side. I love seeing more junior team members develop, as it’s so rewarding.
- If you could give one piece of financial advice to a teenage version of yourself, what would it be?
Don’t be apathetic and procrastinate when it comes to getting returns. I was very good in that my dad taught me the importance of saving from a very early age – so I did.
The problem was I then failed to capitalise when ISAs matured, or I was getting no reward for using my credit card. Okay, these would have been relatively small incremental gains, but if you want to make money you have to move it around, so that’s what I wish I’d done.
- What would you do if you were Prime Minister for a day?
Tricky. I’d consider outlawing walking slowly but would probably be distracted by slightly more pressing topics.
It’s hard to think outside the COVID-19 bubble currently, but issues that affect inequality would likely be top of the list – especially in the workplace, as it’s ludicrous that in today’s society we still have issues like pay gaps.
Grassroots sport is another area. As a nation we need to get more active, so finding more ways to encourage that would be progress.
- What is your biggest pet peeve, or makes you angry?
Many, many things! I’m not an angry person but I do tend to grumble…admittedly, this could be down to Chelsea losing or technology not working, but my real pet peeves are rudeness or petulance, lateness and bad driving. Mainly they’re just unnecessary and that’s what irritates me the most.
- Now, tell us a little about your life outside of work, do you have any hobbies?
When I’m not at work one of my favourite things to do is play a round of golf. I’d like to say it’s relaxing (it’s often not as it’s so frustrating) but it does allow me to switch off and let go.
I’m very lucky in that my mum and brother are also keen golfers, so I can play with them when I make the trip home to Northamptonshire. The thing I like about it is that it’s you versus the course, and despite no matter how many times you’ve played a certain hole or shot, it’s amazing how capable you are (or I am, certainly) of messing it up!
- What is the one column or website that you read every day?
BBC Sport. I love sport and follow teams across football, rugby and cricket, so I like to stay up-to-date on what’s happening – especially during the transfer window! However, it’s not that useful for the day-to-day, so I also skim the FT, Telegraph and Guardian on a daily basis just to give myself an overview of what’s happening in the world.
- What would you do if you received a windfall of £10,000?
Currently I’d tuck it away in readiness for a house deposit, but when things start opening up again in a few months, there would be a real temptation to go on a nice long break to see some sun! I’m a big fan of Central America, so Costa Rica is high on my list, and I’d like to go back to Guatemala too. I also quite fancy a new set of golf clubs but that can certainly wait!