04 Mar Five minutes with Formedia’s Managing Director, Anna Murray
Congratulations on your new role as Managing Director at Formedia. How does it feel?
I am very excited about nurturing and growing this company. It’s taken a fair bit of blood, sweat and tears over the last six years to triple the size of the team, win incredible clients, bring in new systems and processes, and significantly grow the business. I have every faith this is just the beginning of our story and that we will go from strength to strength now.
What was it that first sparked your interest in PR and how has your career led you to this point?
I loved English and media and looked to go into journalism initially, but a PR postgraduate course at Cardiff University caught my eye. I knew very little about PR before then and it was an epiphany – I realised that THIS was my niche. That was 18 years ago and since then my career had taken me from Cardiff, to Dublin, to London for eight years, before heading back to Plymouth.
You spent the earlier years of your career working in London and Ireland. What brought you back to Plymouth?
My heart took me to Ireland (blame Mr Murray for that!) and my head (a lot of ambition and drive) took me to London. It was my family and the sea that pulled me ‘home’ eventually. I have a big family in Plymouth, and I wanted my children to grow up surrounded by a boisterous extended family, the coast, moors and beautiful South West. It was a massive wrench leaving London, our friends and jobs we adored, but I’m so glad we took the gamble.
What do you love the most about PR?
I love so much about this job; mostly how varied and creative every day is. I can work across multiple clients and industries every day, coming up with innovative campaigns, sound strategies or sensitively handling a crisis. It’s a challenging and fascinating discipline to work in, and I’m always learning and pushing myself. I also love our clients and my team; I’ve forged some great relationships with clients over the years, worked with some amazing people and made incredible friends along the way.
What is the most exciting project you have worked on during your career so far?
I think clients and projects are like children; you aren’t allowed to choose a favourite! There have been some memorable ones, including going undercover to handle a crisis for Coca-Cola, working in financial services PR when the credit crunch happened (when good PR mattered more than ever!), working with property celebs like Kirstie Allsopp and George Clarke (both lovely, FYI!), and so much more besides.
I feel very lucky to have worked for real titans of industry as well as being able to make a difference to small businesses. And every client win at Formedia has been exciting; in the early post-recession days, each big win was a leap forward and we have been able to keep up the momentum and enthusiasm ever since.
What has been the overall highlight of your career up until now?
I’ve honestly loved so much of everything I have done so far. My time in London, especially my previous agency in Covent Garden influenced me a great deal. I was mentored by some incredible colleagues, handled some huge brands and helped the whole agency harness creative thinking. We were medium sized agency that punched above our weight, and when I helped pitch to (and win) HSBC as a client, it was a massive highlight. That win was epic, and I worked across an array of projects for HSBC from entrepreneurship and women in business, to international trade and rolling out a regional PR programme. It was a lot of fun and a steep learning curve – but so much of what I learnt during that phase of my career has shaped me.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I have two young sons, so virtually all of my time outside work involves Max and Danny! We’ve also been carrying out a big building project on our house for the last year, so that’s a big focus outside of work – I know more about insulation and plumbing than anyone ever should! I’m also a massive foodie and I love nothing more than cooking for a big noisy gang of friends, trying new restaurants around the city, and adding something new to my pretty extensive gin collection!
What kind of scope do you think there is for businesses in the South West that don’t currently invest in PR but are considering doing so?
While I am quite obviously biased in thinking this way, I honestly think any business without decent PR and marketing strategy and support is missing out and putting themselves at a disadvantage in today’s competitive and fast-paced market. Others sell themselves short with half-hearted or inadequate support – and, frankly, they deserve better. It always surprises me that so many great South West businesses ‘walk the walk’ by doing decent, innovative things – yet they fail to ‘talk the talk’, nobody knows the brand, and the look, messaging and tone is wrong. We are lucky to work across various sectors and sizes of businesses – everything from destinations and leisure, to property and construction – and we see them same story repeatedly. Thankfully these issues are an easy fix with a good team bringing a fresh perspective and decades of experience to the table.
How do you hope to see Formedia grow in your first year as Managing Director?
Well I’m already getting stuck in! I’ve done rather a lot of this role for some time now, but I’m excited to bring even more ‘me’ to the role. I’m an unapologetic pedant and perfectionist and I want to make sure every part of the business produces the quality work I know we’re capable of and performs to the best of our ability.
I’ll be looking holistically at the business and making positive changes to the culture, how people develop, and the way we do things. I’m also excited that we’ve made changes to our team, from leadership level down. We have two new additions to the team joining soon; both experienced in PR, marketing, digital, design, you name it – we really haven’t had this degree of ability and creative flair at this level before and I think we’re in for a treat.
What are your longer-term future hopes and dreams for Formedia?
In a nutshell, I want us to grow, to be a happy place, to get better year after year, to have great relationships with great clients and produce award-winning work. It’s not much to want is it?! We’ll get there and I can’t wait to bring our clients along on this journey and find many more on the way!