Meet the MD: Kari Owers, O

Meet the MD: Kari Owers, O

Kari is not a woman who likes a quiet life. As well as founding and running creative PR and communications firm O, she's a non-executive board director at Northumberland Tourism and Generator, the development agency for the commercial creative industries. She found a few minutes to share some gems with us before Christmas.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

As MD, my day job is steering the agency’s growth in an industry that’s changing by the minute and ensuring clients understand what we can do for them as editorial storytellers across multiple-channels.

I lead the team on client projects across everything from raising their media profile to effective digital communications, social business strategy to internal employee engagement – basically everything that involves how they tell their brand story and interact with people.

What is it the company does?

We started out primarily as a PR agency but we do much more than media relations nowadays - we have teams that specialise in social media and digital influencer outreach, we organise launch events and create native media partnerships. We also have an in-house content studio which creates multi-media assets for all our campaigns from videos to infographics.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

Someone that walks the walk and obviously enjoys their job - I genuinely love the industry we are in, so leading and motivating the team is the best part of my day.

I’ve also learned from some very successful entrepreneurs that good leaders talk in plain English, don’t sugar coat what needs to be said and keep everyone updated regularly.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Our biggest challenge is communicating what we can actually do in 2016. PR is a misunderstood profession that gets pigeon-holed into just being media-relations.

In actual fact we are at the epicenter of marketing communications right now, Google loves us because we create and share unique content with influential online sites like blogs and media, brands love us because they want to work with big influencers online and we are great at that relationship building with bloggers and celebs, and social media is now understood as a hugely important community so we are a safe pair of hands in managing and growing brand channels.

It’s challenging but exciting to be in a sector that is expanding its influence rapidly in the marketing mix.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

My weeks are really busy so I try to weave in some exercise by running to work the odd day in the summer months and I train at Sound Mind and Body gym in Longbenton twice a week.

Weekends are when I decompress. I take long walks with my Labrador Beau, go shopping for a little retail therapy and cook big meals for the family to gather and unwind.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Editor of a fashion magazine - it’s still in my game plan somewhere!

Any pet hates in the workplace?

Bad manners – a little thank you can go a long way. I try to remember to thank clients, suppliers and staff every time I get the chance – it doesn’t take much to say thanks and is one of the most important parts of doing business.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

Five years ago Instagram was just invented, now it is the fastest growing social network and really hard to predict what digital communications people will be using in the next five years! We have to plan for that and invest heavily in R&D to be able to move with the next communications trend.

The agency will hopefully be settled into much bigger premises to accommodate our growing team next year, as a result of the client growth we’ve had in the last two years.

I have a superb team of ambitious young people, so I see them very much at my side leading the business in five years’ time.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Get a mentor from day one – they are a lifeline of knowledge from the “been there and done that” school of life.

Put your game face on – get out and network no matter how busy you get, your next customer is out there waiting to meet you.

Stay optimistic – you’ll need a ‘glass half full’ attitude to survive.

Where did you start your career?

I started out straight from university at a small agency in Newcastle and stayed as it grew to become a national chain and I worked all over the UK.

Looking back now, I’d totally recommend joining a small business with big ambition – it’s challenging but thrilling to be part of a fast-moving entrepreneurial journey, help make decisions and not have to watch from the sidelines.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far

Studied art and design then fashion at university, knocked on lots of doors and got a day’s trial at a Newcastle PR firm. Stayed for almost five years and rose through the ranks, working on a range of national consumer clients and learning my trade.

Moved on to help launch the region’s first pay-as-you-go PR agency, where I worked through the excitement of the Dot Com Boom.

Then I started O Communications Ltd with a newborn and a toddler, now the agency is 10 years old and has clients all across the UK.