International Women’s Day Q&A: Caroline Farley, MD
As we move into March, here at Fever we want to celebrate all of the amazing achievements of our women in leadership, paving the way for all of the new juniors of PR who are ready to learn and thrive in the industry.
Now, who better personifies women in leadership than our very own female MD – Caroline Farley? We sat down with Caroline to chat all things PR, how the industry has changed since her time as a junior, and all of her best tips and tricks for climbing the ladder.
Hi Caroline! PR is such a fast-paced and ever-changing industry. How is PR different now to when you first started?
It has changed massively – the media landscape has evolved significantly (there was no social media when I started out!) and the way of approaching briefs is much more multi-channel. There’s more flexibility and efficiency in the way we work and a lot more digital solutions and tools at our fingertips to help unearth important insights and shape strategic direction. Influencer marketing has completely revolutionised the way we approach advocacy and endorsement and there’s been a seismic shift in the relationship between brands and consumers with the emergence of conscious consumerism and the drive for more purpose-led comms.
What are some of the greatest challenges you faced as a woman climbing the career ladder?
I definitely suffered from imposter syndrome as I was climbing the career ladder and would regularly compare myself to my male counterparts. I was once told that I needed to be more ‘Don Draper’ which only fuelled that feeling of inferiority, and whilst it was wrapped up as ‘advice’, it definitely was something that demotivated rather than empowered me given the context of that show and the very clear inequalities between the men and women. I have definitely experienced board room situations over the last 16 years where the male voices in the room were the most respected and listened to but I think as I grew, I found my voice and confidence and would work harder to be heard in all professional situations.
Is there one piece of advice which was given to you early in your career that you’ve always stuck to?
The best piece of advice I was ever given was being given the reassurance that it is OK to say you don’t know the answer to something and to not view that as a failure but as a catalyst to go and find out the answer. As PR professionals there is so much knowledge we need to have at our fingertips and there is also an immediacy to providing that knowledge, especially in client situations. No one knows the answer to every question (especially at the start of your career) and being told by someone senior that wasn’t the expectation and to be honest where you need further help, support or guidance was really valuable to me.
An old boss also once told me ‘never to turn down a meeting’ with someone in the industry you could learn from – whilst it might not always be the most relevant meeting at the time, it helps you build connections which is ultimately what our business is built on. It’s a small industry, people move on and new opportunities present themselves all the time and it’s best to be on the front foot of that.
You mentioned you suffered with imposter syndrome when you started your career. What advice would you give to other young women starting out in their PR career, particularly when it comes to dealing with those feelings of insecurity or judgement?
First up, I would say build your support network or your ‘village’ and fill it with other women who are navigating the same path as you or women that inspire you and stand for success in your eyes. Enrol in a mentorship programme and find a female mentor whose experiences and advice you can learn directly from – chances are she will have experienced many of the same feelings or concerns as you throughout her career path and can act as a brilliant sounding board. I would also recommend requesting unconscious bias training from your employer – a vital piece of training to help you embrace diversity in the workplace, but it also shines a spotlight on some of the gender stereotypes and inequalities that are still very much at play today and how to avoid succumbing to them. Finally, I would say don’t be afraid to air your opinions – every single person is entitled to them. When I look back over my career there are definitely situations where I feel regret at not having shared my views more vocally or standing up for myself.
And finally, while we couldn’t imagine you as anything other than PR Guru at Fever, what career do you imagine you would have pursued if not PR?
I think I would have most likely trained to become an interior designer – interiors is one of my greatest passions and I spend pretty much all of my spare time on Pinterest or rooting around antiques markets trying to find vintage pieces.