How Pauline came to work here
26 May 2016
From teacher training to company director via tabloid journalism, here's how our PR Director, Pauline McLaughlin, ended up at Equator.
Work hard, create your own chances and make tea - the secret to a rewarding career. I should know, I’ve had three (almost four) of them!
I bumped into someone I went to school with the other day and they asked me what I did. When I told them I worked in PR and social media they looked confused and said “Oh right, didn’t you do teaching at university?”
Admittedly it was a while ago now, but I had genuinely forgotten that I had started a degree in primary teaching when I first left school. It only took me a few months to realise that I had absolutely no patience and that working with small children was not the career choice for me, so I ignored everyone’s advice and dropped out to study journalism at college.
Journalism was what I’d always really wanted to do and it was my ambition to one day work for a national newspaper. However, parents, teachers etc had warned that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” and I was persuaded to opt for the safe career of teaching.
The advice turned out to be a lot of crap and I learned very quickly that it doesn’t matter who you know, it’s all about how hard you are willing to work. Like with everything else in life, you get back what you put in to your career.
I went to study journalism and 18 months into my course I again dropped out. This time with the blessing of my course leader after being offered a job with a local newspaper. The editor was willing to train me up in-house after proving my eagerness to learn, work hard and, most importantly, make tea during a week-long work experience placement.
After cutting my teeth on the local newspaper I graduated on to a national press agency, writing for the full spectrum of national newspapers, from the Daily Sport to the Independent. I did a couple of freelance shifts at the Daily Mail and again my willingness to get stuck in, do the jobs no one else wanted to do and make tea, soon got me noticed by the news editor.
So I fulfilled my ambition of becoming a reporter on a national newspaper. The job was fast paced, exciting and completely unpredictable. I was often at political press conferences by morning and covering crime stories by afternoon. I was contracted to carry my passport at all times and keep an overnight bag in the boot of my trusty Fiat Punto. I travelled all over Scotland and abroad covering everything from celebrity weddings to a plane crash. Each morning I left the house, not knowing if I would be back home in eight hours or eight days. I lost count of the number of times I was on my way home from a long shift only to receive a call from the news editor to say “There’s been a murder. Get your ass to Dundee/Inverness/Dumfries/Auchtermuchty…”
After seven years as a reporter, and one shagging politician stakeout too many, I got tired of the unpredictability and travelling and hung up my notepad to take a year out to erm…go travelling.
When I returned to the UK the media landscape had changed. That internet thing had really caught on and people were consuming their news online instead of buying a daily newspaper. Journalism jobs were being slashed so the time seemed right to take the common path to PR.
To cut another long story short, I ended up running the Manchester office of a national agency specialising in traditional PR and media relations. I got the opportunity to work with some amazing clients including Marks & Spencer, Sky and easyJet – a particular favourite as a result of their brief to “put the fun back into the brand”. This resulted in a series of outrageous stunts including taking a mobile sauna around London to promote a new Helsinki route, camel racing at Westminster to promote Marrakech and persuading Black Lace to re-record their greatest hit “Agadoo” as “Agadir”.
Becoming a mum brought me back to Glasgow and I transferred to the agency’s Scottish HQ. Before long I could see that clients were investing less in traditional marketing in favour of digital and I was concerned about being left behind.
Around the same time, an old friend and Equator veteran Grant Dickson tipped me off that the agency was looking for an in-house PR Manager to help raise the profile of what was essentially “Scotland’s best kept secret” and he introduced me to Equator owners John, James and Garry.
Joining Equator was like stepping into another dimension. Everyone, it seemed, was young, hip and speaking in a strange language of digital jargon and I had no idea what they were on about. So I did what I had done previously and worked hard. I read articles and blogs on digital, I wrote down the strange phrases I heard during meetings and Googled them afterwards. I also strived to prove the worth of PR to the business and the benefits of adding it to the business’ integrated offering. And I made tea.
Fast forward three years and my department of one has become a business in its own right employing a talented team of PR and social media consultants. Equator PR is a boutique agency with its own clients in addition to being the PR and social department of the wider Equator business. We work with some of the UK’s best known brands and smaller independent companies across a spectrum of industries from travel to finance.
Despite Equator’s scale, it still retains the entrepreneurial flair that has been integral to its success. Nowhere has the belief that you get back what you put into your career been more evident than in Equator. Provided there is a clear business benefit, people are given the chance to map out their own career paths and opportunities with every suggestion and ambition given time and consideration by the board.
Today I do less of the day to day PR and social media, although I still love to get hands-on wherever possible. Instead I am probably learning more than I have at any other point in my career with my remit covering everything from managing finances to resource planning to business development. I also have a fantastic team who teach me new things about social media and digital every day.
Running a small boutique agency with the support and mentorship of the board of Scotland’s most successful marketing agency - not bad for a primary teaching drop out.
So the moral to this (rather long sorry) story, if there is a moral, is work hard, create your own chances - and don’t forget to make tea!