Welcome to my blog series "10 Questions With". It consists of weekly interviews with practitioners from the PR, Marketing and Advertising industry. My goal is to talk to experts, who have interesting opinions and can give valuable advice to young people, who are pursuing careers in those sectors.
This week's interview is with Mary Whenman, Director, Communications at British Business Bank, and a Former President of Women in PR.
Q1: What was your first ever job?
I worked for David Crewe Associates, a small B2B PR agency run by a husband and wife team. I was one of four employees. One is now an MBE and another is on his second agency earn out. They trained us well.
Q2: How did you fall into PR?
I’m one of the few people I know who didn’t fall into PR and planned my entry. I discovered PR while researching advertising and blagged my way onto a CIPR careers day when I was in the sixth form. I was hooked and decided that it was the career for me. During my business studies degree, I wrote (typed letters that I signed in ink!) to 50 PR agencies and one of them, David Crewe Associates, gave me a job as a trainee.
Q3: What is your proudest work moment so far?
Too many to find a single one: launching Orange into the UK market; managing the opening of Samsung’s £450m factory by The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh; repositioning Butlins after it lost £1m of bookings; representing De Beers when they merged with LVMH; running the best press trip ever to Inmarsat’s I-5 F4 satellite launch at SpaceX in Florida; seeing my CEO launch British Patient Capital at a roundtable with the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and three Secretaries of State
Q4: If you could ban one piece of jargon, what would it be?
All of them! I love everything Lucy Kellaway has ever written about business jargon. When I experience it, I think “That was a really W1A meeting.” I once worked with two colleagues who (not so secretly) ran a bingo list in meetings, ticking off all the marketing and PR speak (swim lanes, quarterback positions, rinse & repeat, ideation etc). The worst I heard this year was ‘when we were inventing the Internet.’ It wasn’t Tim Berners Lee.
Q5: What have you learned from any mistakes you’ve made in your career?
Q6: If you were a student right now and need to write a dissertation, what topic would you choose?
“The role of AI and VR in PR.” My husband works in human resources. He’s just delivered two huge AI and VR projects. We’re way behind as an industry by comparison. Needless to say, I’m not doing either myself…
Q7: Job hunting on social media – yes or no?
Yes! Of my last four roles, three came via social media and one via personal recommendation.
Q8: What’s the most surprising thing you have learned about the PR industry since working within it?
That mediocre people can get to very senior roles.
Q9: As a former president of Women in PR, what would you say to women, who want to step into leadership positions?
The rules of engagement for men and women are different. I made that mistake once. It’s a tough lesson to learn but a reality.
Q10: What advice would you give to your 18-years-old self?
Do what you love as you spend more time at work than with friends and family.
I would like to thank Mary for the wonderful answers.
Follow Mary @marywhenman
Hi there! Welcome to my blog about PR and things that I find fascinating.