It seems appropriate to feature an Irish agency owner as the St. Patrick’s Day weekend wraps up.
So today we put the spotlight on Kathryn Mason of MASONRY, a Dublin-based PR and marketing agency. I have been fortunate to get to know Kathryn through the Spin Sucks Community.
Hopefully you will find her insights music to your ears.
Tell us about yourself and your agency.
This year I celebrate 30 years in the music industry, I was very young starting! The first half of my career was spent running the PR and Marketing departments of BMG Records (now part of Sony Music) then Universal Music Ireland. Following a sabbatical, I worked on freelance projects, then I started MASONRY in its first form (Kathryn Mason PR & Marketing) in 2011. In 2017 I decided to change the company name to better reflect that we were growing (Gini Dietrich take a bow!) Our primary business is PR in the entertainment sector working with Ireland’s largest concert promoters, leading theatres, bands/musicians and festivals.
How has your agency changed over the years?
The biggest change was a name, sounds silly but as we grew in staff and clients I felt having my name solely as the business made it seem smaller. When I undertook the 2018 Spin Sucks PR Challenge it made me realise it was definitely time to change. I remember hiring my first part-time staff member and being very panicked! I was devastated when she quit to move to a permanent job but of course in time I realise she did the right thing. Employing staff is another big change. I have one full timer with a long-term intern, it means I can actually take time off and not feel guilty about leaving the office…
If you could turn back the clock 10 years and give yourself some advice, what would it be?
Think BIG and don’t be afraid to charge your worth. I really wish I’d known then how badly I was undercharging and yet working all the hours. I was so exhausted and nearly packed it in until I had a stern word with myself. I always wanted to grow but I didn’t know how that was going to happen. My advice to myself would have been get goals on paper, chunk them down, don’t panic and learn about financials! I really stuck my head in the sand with my accounts and they were in a messy state, I didn’t know what it cost to run my business, all I knew was there was money in the account. No business should run like that. Lesson well and truly learnt.
What will be your agency’s biggest challenge in the years ahead?
Being in Europe, the B word (Brexit) is a major concern. 2018 was our best year ever and the sentiment for PR and people spending on it was strong. 2019 has been busy but there is a definite fear and concern about the economy. As the only country land-tied to the UK we are in a unique position. The island had a lot of troubles, and we don’t want that to return. With no clear path as to what will happen with Brexit, we are finding a definite withholding on commitments from business.
Who is someone who influenced your career and what impact did they have?
I read Seth Godin’s “Permission Marketing” in the mid 90’s and it totally changed my perspective on how I worked. It made me stop and think about the one person I was targeting with my work rather than the mass. I have to say that this one book changed and transformed my career forever. I still go back to read chapters when I need to refresh myself. The simplicity of how it looked at communications was mind blowing at the time. The web was only really starting to make an impact and suddenly the days of mass blasting was gone! His book Purple Cow was the next one to make a difference, he helped me forever creating that story. Still to this day I think “where is the purple cow here”, it’s such a straightforward and easy way to stop and think. Thanks Seth!
The other person that has influenced me is athlete and skier Lindsay Vonn. She firstly is an incredible sportswoman but her tenacity to keep fighting even when things are tough (in her case injury) reminds me that I can do it! When I have tough days I think “what would Lindsay do?” Why has she influenced my career I hear you ask, well indirectly it’s helped me become a better business woman, I can be strong and powerful without being aggressive and pushy. She has mental strength I admire and that tenacity has become my motto. Now if I could only win some Olympic medals!
How would you describe your leadership style?
I’m a very inclusive person. I want my whole team to feel part of all the work successes we have. An agency is about a group of people not one, yes you need one at the helm but the sum of the parts makes it a whole. I’m a definite optimist, the glass is half full so I try to bring this into my management style as well. If we are talking positively, good things will happen.
How did you first get involved in PR/marketing?
Purely by accident! When I first started in the music business I wanted to be an A&R woman, never struck me that PR/Marketing would be my thing. My first job was working in the art and video department for the record label Virgin. I saw a whole side of the industry around the marketing of a band/artist and blew my mind. When I returned to Ireland I started working in an admin role and was doing the mailouts and faxes (yes remember those!)
What is the biggest career mistake you ever made?
I genuinely don’t believe I ever have made one. I’ve been lucky and things have happened for a reason. Some people thought I was making a mistake going on a sabbatical but it was the 100% right thing to do for me. I was burnt out and need the headspace. It gave me time and space to get back to me.
What book is on your nightstand?
I have two currently…Predictable Success (Thanks Gini!) and The Artists Way. I plan on bingeing on this over the weekend as I need a kick start on a few projects, and there is nothing like a good book. Am in love with the smell of brand new books it’s one of the best aromas!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a town about 15 miles outside of Dublin Ireland called Bray, Co Wicklow. It was a typical seaside town with funfairs etc. The best thing I ever did, leaving it aged 17 to go study in Scotland to work in the business side of the music industry. So many girls I went to school with never left, and I feel blessed to have flown the coop!