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Wednesday, 17th April 2024
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The media and the messenger Back  
James Morrissey, Corporate Affairs Director, Fleishman-Hillard Saunders
Public Relations Consultants
Between 6 and 7am The day starts with the delivery of the morning newspapers usually between 6am and 7am. The human alarm clock in our home is Andrew (8) who accompanies me downstairs to breakfast. There are a few ‘musts’ in public relations that have a major bearing on
client relationships. One of these is to make sure to read the morning papers before the client. There is nothing worse than to be stuck in traffic and the mobile rings: ‘Have YOU seen the papers? I think you should read them immediately and perhaps you would get back to me in the next five
minutes…’ It is commercially important for some clients to have an ongoing presence in
the media. For others, absence is even more important. I have clients in both categories and it tends to make life interesting. I must admit I derive marginal enjoyment from wading through piles of papers. It is a job and I tend to speed read my way, focusing primarily on the business and economic-related activities.

6:45am Breakfast, read newspapers, attempt to (force) feed Andrew with cereal and dutifully bring a copy of tea up to ‘The Boss’. Attention to the early morning business bulletin with Geraldine Harney (RTE Radio One 7:40am) is imperative. Frequently client announcements will feature in this slot or news of significance will be imparted which will have consequences for a client.Structuring the day is the easiest task...until a client calls requesting attendance at a meeting which has just been called. It is when scheduled meetings have to be postponed or re-arranged that you know it going to be one of those days.
I try to bring James (13) and Andrew to school at least a few mornings of every week because the car journey into town is shortened and the entertainment value.

8am On Mondays I’m out at Aer Rianta for a weekly 8 am communications meeting which means leaving home at 7am. This meeting usually finishes at 9am which means getting back into city-bound traffic for another hour. I hate driving...all that time wasted when one could read, talk or, occasionally

10am Return to the office to review the weekend’s paper with clients and plan the week. Whatever will be planned will be changed, at least, daily. Uncertainty is the only certainty. Its not unlike a doctor on call. I have always enjoyed tremendous variety in my working career and the fact that clients operate in several sectors ensures that life is never boring… Clients include Dunloe Ewart plc, ITG Group plc, SmartForce, Irish Nationwide, Cognotec and iCommerce. The nature of the work varies enormously from client to client. The main services provided by the Corporate & Financial Division (Paul McShary, Brendan Murphy and myself) at F-HS are communications strategies for major announcements, results and issues

Noon Invariably there are strategy documents and press announcements to be drafted for projects which are in the planning stage. Much of this work never sees the light of day because projects might not happen but it is an ongoing process. Phone conversations are an essential element...hearing the
news, the speculation and the rumours in business and political circles is important. Clients expect their PR consultants to be in the know. The checking of information is vital - the recent Government package of proposals to deal with the demand for housing was being monitored closely in the weeks and days before the announcement. Occasionally there’s a call out of the blue...a London legal firm on the phone. “Your name has been given to us. Could you provide us with a list of your clients? We may want you to do some work for us. Would you mind signing a confidentiality agreement?” Those calls are always interesting. Last year we worked for a client for three months - a company whose own Dublin-based PR firm were kept completely
in the dark. Work tends to involve communication primarily with chief executives and marketing directors. Contact with financial personnel is infrequent - apart from the occasional phone call to indicate that the most recent invoice is exceptionally modest and seeking clarification that it doesn’t need to be adjusted upwards!

1pm The nature of the work leads to curious uncertainty about the working day. As many lunches are cancelled as are organised. Lunches fall into three categories - with a journalist, a client or on my own. Favourite lunch stops include The Schoolhouse, The Merrion Hotel and the Berkeley Court. A
sandwich usually suffices...so that the evening meal is at home in the kitchen.

2:30pm I usually write proposals in the early afternoon. My journalistic results in writing at a fast pace. I detest reading or writing lengthy documents. All my documents are primarily a series of headings which I will talk through with a client.

An inability to delegate results in a high level of inefficiency on my part. It goes back those days in journalism where you had to walk the streets to get the story, conduct the research, make the phone calls, type the story (and occasionally re-write for some awkward sub-editor). However, one of the reasons why I am reluctant to pass clients on to colleagues is because more and more I hear people complain of how their work is passed on to junior accountants, junior solicitors et al. This approach to growing the business may yield dividends but those of us who have lived in recessionary times when you didn’t have to go on a six-month waiting list to buy a car and when you did have to go on a six-month waiting list to get a mortgage (at circa 14 per cent) are somewhat more cautious about relinquishing clients, even on an intra company basis.

4pm On average I would have three meetings out of the office each day and I plan the third for around this time. If I don’t have a meeting scheduled I will respond to e-mails received during the day.

7pm I try to swim a few times each week - before I go home. It is a wonderful way to wind down...and you feel you really deserve the glass(es) of wine over dinner. Evenings at home are as relaxing as they are important...cooking a Asian dish for a Saturday night in winter or pottering aimlessly in the garden in
mid-summer. Hobbies are hugely important - boating, swimming, gardening, ...and Connemara. I have missed going to Cleggan one year since 1960. It is the ultimate escape. I enjoy writing and currently working on a book about the activities of the Congested Districts Board which was established in 1892 to
alleviate impoverishment in the West of Ireland. There is a fever pitch attached to far too many career activities. That said, I can honestly say I enjoy working with my clients. It is exciting being involved with achievers. They expect, and they deserve, professionalism. But clients are to live for...not die for.
And despite all the technological tools the following from clinical psychologist Mark Harrold highlights the irony
of the ‘progress’ of our time… “We are more efficient but have less patience / We spend more but enjoy it less / We have more conveniences but less time / More degrees but less common sense / More knowledge but less judgement / More experts but even more problems...”

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