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Career Lessons: Caroline Kennedy, MD Of Kennedy PR

caroline kennedy

Last year New York Magazine published an article by Ann Friedman about PR and its reputation as a pink ‘ghetto’. Friedman was referring to the industry’s tendency to employ and attract more female talent than male, and being dismissed as ‘fluff’ as a result. The fact that women dominate PR can be pretty much confirmed by going through any lifestyle writer’s overcrowded inbox. It’s a tough job, promoting stuff and trying to get names and ideas out there, and the people, mostly women, behind the machine tend to get very little congratulations. As Friedman observed, “We only notice PR work when it goes horribly awry.”

The piece is well worth reading in its entirety. As someone working in media, I’ve been guilty of treating PRs as a nuisance. And then I won’t leave them alone when I need assets and information for a story.

Caroline Kennedy is one of Irish PR’s go-to names, the veritable queen of this island’s public relations world. In person she exudes a calming and capable presence, everyone at the table defers to and trusts her. What I’m trying to say is, you don’t ignore an email from Caroline.

In most Google searches, she’s heavily associated with her acclaimed designer sister, with whom she works closely. However, outside of establishing Louise Kennedy one of the leading names in Irish fashion, at home and abroad, Caroline has spent the last two decades building up her own business, Kennedy PR + Brand. She currently counts luxury brands such as Brown Thomas, Ashford Castle, Dylan Bradshaw and IMAGE Publications among her coveted clients. She’s very good.

Caroline took some time to talk to us about her career to-date, the moment of the day she looks forward to most, and how she was originally primed for a career in radio.

Other entries in our Career Lessons series include chef Domini Kemp, entrepreneur Marissa Carter and Senator Averil Power.

My first job…

Was working for a small publishing company that was contracted to produce a new music title,  MTUSA – The Magazine. It was to sell on the back of the RTE music television show and was a start-up operation. Just four of us working in a beautiful attic space overlooking Dawson Street and St Stephen’s Green. The magazine never got off the ground, but thankfully my friendship flourished with the show’s producer, Bill Hughes. The late Vinny Hanley, the most famous DJ and VJ in Ireland, was also involved – what a gent. Bill and Vinny were always so courteous to me; this lowly intern was definitely more than a little star-struck!

The moment I grew up…

My dream job was working as a producer for the first independent national radio station in Ireland, Century Radio. It went on the air in 1989 and everything was just so exciting. The new station, new voices, new faces, fantastic colleagues, brilliant events to go to every evening and super press gifts. Work? I’d have paid to go in every day I loved it that much. But when after a year and listening figures weren’t on target, you could see the commercial implications roll through the station like a tidal wave. I grew up very quickly when I saw careers and personal lives affected so badly – the station eventually closed two years later, my first and hopefully last experience of unemployment.

These simple things that we take for granted now were actually a big deal to secure back then. God knows how long you had to wait for a telephone line and the cost of a fax machine was exorbitant.

Everything changed…

When my ‘big sister’ Louise (the designer) commanded me to stop looking for work and to come into her office and start a fledgling PR consultancy. It was hard to say no, and she gave me her business – my first client. Importantly, she allowed me use her city centre office, her phone and fax. These simple things that we take for granted now were actually a big deal to secure back then. God knows how long you had to wait for a telephone line and the cost of a fax machine was exorbitant.

The scariest moment…

The scariest moment was when I realized I needed to hire another consultant to help with the workload. This was the start of a ‘business’ and with it came responsibilities to others. Thankfully, I didn’t dwell on the decision for too long.

The most influential person in my life and career…

Without doubt, my sister Louise. She is a brilliant businesswoman. I will always ask her for a second opinion or advice on almost everything. She is tuned into my business 24/7 and always encourages me to see bigger pictures. She and I are exceptionally close, and there is nothing we like better than discussing work over dinner.

My sister Louise is tuned into my business 24/7 and always encourages me to see bigger pictures.

My favourite part of the day…

Currently, my favourite part of the day is the hour before I go to sleep. I have started going to bed earlier so I can have a proper check on the day’s news and front pages of the next day’s papers. This seems to be the only time I get to read longreads in magazines or online – I can really concentrate. I fall asleep listening to Radio 4, so I guess this is the only time I get to consume this much news without interruption. I tell my husband I am no different to the Victorians reading their novels by candlelight when he objects!

I have started going to bed earlier so I can have a proper check on the day’s news and front pages of the next day’s papers. This seems to be the only time I get to read longreads in magazines or online

I love my job when…

PR is not an exact science, so every plan is subject to change and sometimes disappointments. But I love my job when everything goes to plan. In our industry, we don’t have a crystal ball to predict results but I truly love my job when everything falls into place. There will always be an element of guesswork. Will this newspaper or that radio show be interested in my client’s story or business? Or is this the best strategy? These are the types of questions we ask daily and when the answer is yes, that’s usually when I air-punch!

My best failure was not being able to get a job after Century Radio closed down. I must have applied for 50 jobs in the first couple of months, and no one wanted to hire me.

My best failure…

My best failure was not being able to get a job after Century Radio closed down. I must have applied for 50 jobs in the first couple of months, and no one wanted to hire me. I even remember one elder of the industry advising me to go back to university to study Public Relation, although I had a very good degree in Communications from DCU.

What makes me excited…

I get excited every time I realize that I truly love my job. I feel very lucky. I don’t believe I have it in me to find the interest or energy to work in an environment or role I wasn’t interested in.

How I want to be remembered…

As honest, direct, open and fair with a strong sense of perspective and humour. And I am very calm in a crisis!

Image: Fiachra McCarthy

BWOTY

 

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