Behind the Headlines with Time Inc. UK’s Holly McNally

Holly McNally, PR manager at Time Inc. UK, on breaking the habit of checking emails before getting out of bed, what marks out campaign success, why there needs to be a shift in PR value and her secret penchant for Pot Noodles.

Time Inc 1

Holly McNally

Before I reach the office in the morning, I’ve already…
Had my caffeine fix, watched a vlog, read a blog, listened to a podcast, checked my emails, obsessively searched for press coverage, read the headlines, scanned social and not necessarily all in that order – I’ve just managed to break the habit of checking emails before I’m out of bed.

I work across both trade and consumer PR, so I make sure I consume a breadth of news across different platforms. I basically use my commute to get a head start on the day, consider any problems that need solving and to come up with ideas for projects.

You’ll mostly find emails about…in my inbox.
Current or upcoming campaigns, feedback on press releases or feature ideas, along with a healthy volume of industry newsletters covering off the latest in media, advertising, marketing, publishing and music.

Time Inc. UK has over 50 brands, including events and e-commerce businesses, so I could be reading about anything from cycling and equestrianism through to celebrity, music or politics and on a trade perspective, commercial deals, new launches and industry trends.

I know I’ve had a good day if…
I’ve done something new. I like to push myself outside of my comfort zone – even if it feels nerve-wracking at the time – because that means I’m stretching my knowledge, building my expertise and, in turn, becoming more dynamic in my work.

Working at a media company that is growing its portfolio of events and e-commerce businesses and has a broad range of brands has certainly offered up plenty of opportunities for me to do this. Last year, one week I was announcing Time Inc. UK’s acquisition of UKCE – the UK’s leading provider of premium cycling events – and within two weeks I was on the red carpet at the annual NME Awards. I was also lucky enough to be handling the PR for NME’s brand transformation last year, where the magazine relaunched as a free print product and it has been the greatest privilege of my career so far.

My first job was…
A newspaper-round when I was 14. I couldn’t wait to start earning my own money so took on two rounds and earned about £5 for each one.

I can tell a campaign is succeeding when…
Journalists start approaching me for the story and the coverage has all the key messaging. It can be really exciting when you know a story is getting pick-up, especially when requests come in and the day becomes fast-paced.

I eat….when nobody is watching.
Pot Noodles. The Sweet and Sour variety. It’s a rare occurrence, but there is something comforting about it.

The first time I pitched to a journalist…
I was really nervous and was conscious that my new manager and team were sat next to me, probably listening to how I was doing. I was keen to impress though so I pretty much just went for it and my Drama A-level came in handy to conceal my nerves. I was sat with my press release, a script I’d written so I didn’t forget key points and a spreadsheet to keep track of who I’d spoken to and what actions came out of the phone call. I think the first call went to voicemail which was a massive anti-climax when you have just built up the courage to pick up the phone.  I heard ‘send me the press release’ quite a few times – which for the most part was code for ‘not interested’ – and ‘no’, but that meant I learnt to just keep on picking up the phone, taking on board feedback and changing tack.

The worst thing anyone has said to me is…
I shouldn’t take the 11-plus. It made me feel stupid and affected my confidence, but it equally motivated me to prove to myself that my teacher was wrong. I went on to get three As at A-Level and study science at a Russel Group university. To this day I have a fierce determination to work hard and do the very best I can, so in hindsight, maybe it was the best thing someone ever said to me.

The last book I read was…
The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which I highly recommend. The plot moves more quickly than the author’s Pulitzer prize-winning The Goldfinch, but I would still say the latter is better, even if it is a slow read.

I’ve never really understood why…
PR value is so often weighted with more importance over other factors such as whether the coverage appeared in outlets reaching the target audience, level of branding, quality, key messaging and OTS. It’s a problem we need to solve as an industry as AVE just isn’t an accurate measurement of how successful a PR campaign is. Coverage in trade outlets is so targeted that a PR value often isn’t calculated as it isn’t representative of the value of the coverage, and a similar shift needs to happen with consumer PR.

If I could go back and talk to my 10-year-old self, I’d say…
Stop worrying, you are 10!

This time next year, I’ll be…
Looking back at how much I have learnt in the last 12 months and working out what skills I want to crack in the next.

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