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What I’ve Learnt: Rebecca Jones, Head of PR, McCann Manchester


Rebecca Jones is celebrating her first anniversary as head of PR at McCann Manchester.

She joined from Leeds-based integrated agency CreativeRace where she was communications director, and has previously worked at a number of agencies including Finn.

Here, she she shares some words of wisdom about what she has learnt over her 20 year career in the industry…


Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Reading. I read a lot. I read fiction and I read every day before I go to sleep. For me, reading is about ending the day by switching off from the realities of work and personal responsibilities and allowing my mind to be completely dissolved into a story that isn’t my own. I really believe it helps me sleep and start each day fresh.

What’s been your luckiest break?

I’m not sure if it was luck, a relentless recruiter or good decision making, but taking the role at Ketchum in 2007 and working on the Head and Shoulders global account really changed the way I viewed the industry and the role played by PR in the broader marketing mix.

It gave me an insight into the benefits of integrated agency teamwork, and how by using each channel holistically but in the right way, you could exponentially improve the impact of a campaign, and the success of a brand, globally and locally. I also got to work with some incredibly talented women, inspirational female leaders, who showed me it is possible to be successful at work and at home.

What’s your best failure?

I’m not sure I’d rate any one particular failure as better or worse than another. For me, a failure is something to be acknowledged, accepted and learnt from. Saying that, the biggest failures I’ve had as a PR practitioner are often connected to not delivering for a client in line with their expectations and so the most important lesson I’ve learnt from those failures, is to help clients understand what it takes to deliver in the earned media space, and be realistic and honest about what can be achieved. However, having only one journalist (who happened to be my cousin’s girlfriend) turn up to the very first launch I worked on, was pretty high up on the list, as failures go.

What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

I always think investing in people and relationships is the best investment you can make. And that’s true whether it’s the team, a client or a journalist. The best results come from making people feel valued and listened to. When I’ve taken the time to invest in relationships with the people I’ve worked with, outside of the job itself, it’s always paid off.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

This changes each time I finish another book. I always find something, in every book I read, to recommend to someone else. But if I had to choose; Fleishman Is in Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. It’s a story about failed marriage told from multiple perspectives and it’s a great lesson in always being open to different points of view.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

It’s OK to not immediately have the answer. We are all always learning. The best piece of advice I was ever given was that it’s fine to say ‘I don’t know’ – I mean, I try to be more professional in how I say it. ‘Let me take that away and give it some thought’ or ‘I’d like to research that a little more before I come back to you.’ But by admitting we don’t know everything, especially when talking to a client who knows their business inside out, we engender trust and true partnership.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

My parents. They instilled a work hard, always do your best ethic in me, from school, through university and throughout my career. A barrister and a teacher, they managed to strike a work / life balance that made them both inspirational and completely available.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I’m actually quite shy in social situations. A shy extrovert. People who know me well will laugh as I’m often the loudest voice in the room, but it takes me a little while to feel comfortable enough to be myself.

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

For me personally, hybrid working as a result of the pandemic, gave me the opportunity to take my current role as Head of PR at McCann Manchester which I would never have considered possible pre Covid.

The shift from location-based hiring, to finding unbelievable talent nationally and even globally, and the connectivity we now have through tech, has opened doors which I think will remain open. In PR specifically, remote working has resulted in the decentralisation of media outreach. You no longer need to be in London to connect with the press. Virtual events, video calls, webinars etc. have evened the playing field in that respect.

What does success look like to you?

Success is time spent with a brilliant team, delivering work for clients which is meaningful, effective and motivating, whilst also commercially sound.

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