Behind the Business: Eleanor O'Leary
What exactly do you do for work?
I’m The Better Brand Consultant. For me the word better means two things:
Firstly, I am drawn to people that seek to drive positive change within their industries, change negative mindsets, and champion a better way to do business. Whether that’s a reusable coffee cup brand, or a sustainable fashion campaign; I work with people who are the change they want to see in the world. Secondly, I bring over a decade’s worth of industry experience to provide informed, honest and valuable PR & Marketing strategy. My work is not about dubious marketing numbers or “PR fluff”; I educate and empower business owners so they have a better understanding of how smart media choices, on-brand partnerships and thought leadership opportunities can deliver real commercial results.
When did you find the work you love?
Quite recently. The start of 2019 has been really excellent and if I can replicate this for the next 12 months I’ll have had a great first year! A partnership I coordinated between frank green & cycling brand Rapha delivered 5x my annual PR fees back to the frank green business; I worked with one of London’s biggest fashion agencies on the UK’s largest sustainable fashion tech & textiles showcase, The Sustainable Angle’s Future Fabrics Expo.; I wrote an op-ed for government lobbyists and think tank Fashion Roundtable; and I hosted a brand workshop with an excellent coffee brand.
How did you get to where you are now? What was your journey?
It’s been a real journey! Sustainability is a bit of a buzzword this year and you can expect a few people jumping on the bandwagon, but I decided that I wanted to take responsibility for my role in the PR & Marketing industry about 4 years ago. I had been working in Fashion PR for quite a few years and reached a point where I got really sick at the thought of how much ‘churn’ there was in trying to get ‘product on a page’ or on a celebrity or influencer. Also not much of what I was doing felt culturally relevant or that it really ‘mattered’. But one of my favourite clients was The Campaign For Wool, and working on their projects was my gateway to understanding that a sustainable fashion industry could even exist.
So I made it my mission to meet as many people as possible in sustainability, learn from them and the challenges they face, and try and also alter my own shopping habits bit by bit. My peers thought I was barmy for wanting to work “only with sustainable brands” and that the industry wouldn’t change because ‘sustainability isn’t sexy’. But quite soon after, I got my dream role working as PR Manager with innocent (a bit of a gear change from fashion to smoothies…) and learnt that big companies can prioritise sustainability, without compromising on being commercial. While at innocent I met a really excellent business coach called Samantha Clarke at a festival the brand had hosted. She recommended a book called Designing Your Life which is an incredible resource for anyone who is getting ‘the itch’ in their career. While I loved my time at innocent, I’m quite head strong, and have always wanted to create my own path and be my own boss. So I left at the end of 2017 and have been working on building The Better Brand Consultant to the success it is today.
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself when you were starting out?
My top 3 tips are as follows:
There is no real time limit: Things take as long as they take, and that’s part of your individual journey. Life happens and that can throw you off course. But looking back I realised those ‘off course’ moments were really there to strip away the things that were holding me back, and as painful as those experiences were, they toughened me up and made me super resilient.
Play to your strengths: Back in 2016 I felt this real PANIC that if I didn’t become a sustainability influencer & start pushing out content on my sustainability ‘journey’ then someone else was going to take my idea and I’d be a failure! I learnt very quickly that I don’t have the patience to be a content creator or editor, and I’m also a bit camera shy. I think I peaked at 113 followers... HOWEVER, what I AM is an excellent people person; I enjoy creating connections with people offline, more than online. After years of ‘spotting the big trends’, I’ve developed a strong intuition when it comes to knowing who is the real deal and who I need to meet, and I can very easily create a good working relationship because I believe in the power of authentic connections. I’ve got a great CV, I invest in myself and my career with workshops and coaches, and have a real enthusiasm for my industry. I believe it’s more valuable to have 10 phone numbers of people who can make shit happen, rather than 1000s of followers on Instagram – half of which may or may not be bots…
Watch where you spend your energy (and most importantly with whom): Not everyone has a ‘founder mentality’, and that’s ok. But what’s not ok is to have your nearest and dearest ‘play devil’s advocate’ or place negative thoughts in your mind because of their own limiting beliefs. My good pal Rachel sums it up with the phrase ‘Vampires vs Cheerleaders’. When you’re being a one-woman show, you really do not have time or bandwidth for Vampires. And sometimes it’s hard to know how much to give in friendships and relationships, so learn your boundaries and don’t be afraid to put them in place. If your friends or family can’t respect that you won’t be able to answer their Whatsapp chatter right away, or help them out with their lives because you are seem to be doing so well, you need to have a cup of tea and a chat about your needs and boundaries…
How do you stay feeling creative and inspired?
This is a good question. I get my best ideas in the bath so lots of those! I always envy people who get to relax in the bath; I try, but a few minutes of “active rest” and I’ve got at least a dozen ideas that need to be documented or committed to voice note!
I feel inspired by many of the people I meet through “networking”. I hate that word because it sounds so sterile and insincere, and the reality is that most of the women I meet are so genuine and keen to help one another. Specifically, I’m inspired by people with a slightly ‘rebel’ mentality; often they’re not the loudest voices in the room, but they’ve got a fire and passion about what they do, and they’re doing it because it feels ‘needed’ rather than a vanity project.
What does a good work-life balance look like for you? And how do you maintain it?
This is something I’m trying to improve. Blocking out time in your week is an obvious one, but I’ve been reading a lot about cycles recently, and trying to pay attention to what my body needs and when at different times of the month. “Productivity” takes different forms; sometimes I literally can’t sit still and need to be out in the world, talking to EVERYONE. Other times, I need to apply myself to admin and emails and feel a bit more reflective. So paying attention to those cues and also making time for fun, disconnecting from my phone and ALL screens (TVs included), and not feeling guilty about switching off.
How does being a woman affect your work?
My pet peeve is the term “PR girl”. The idea that we have Ad Men but then PR Girls. That makes me cringe. But if someone used that in front of my, they’re corrected quite quickly, so I wouldn’t say it affects my work too much 😉
How do you stay motivated when work and life get tough?
Time out is the only answer. Part of my job is to keep on top of what the media are writing and the various ‘tones’ of different titles. Being really honest, in the past couple of years, it’s been hard to read the news, watch the news, and spend a long amount of time on social media because everything feels so destructive and farcical. No one really talks about mental health in the PR industry, but when you start your day “going through the papers” it can put you in a really low mood. Especially when it’s your job to try and get your clients in to these papers. I love my work now because I know that the brands and people I work with are on a mission to do some good for the world, so I’m bought in to their purpose and it makes my job that bit easier…
How do you ensure you practise self care?
Some days self-care is an afternoon getting lost in the woods in Hampstead, sometimes it’s buying myself flowers and cleaning my room. The other day I ate a crème egg in the bath. Probably not a clinical definition of self-care, but it felt very indulgent, so that was nice. I think self-care was a bit of a buzz-word last year, and it’s been marketed, packaged up and sold back to us as a candle and a face mask. It probably doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re creating space for yourself and re-setting your energy so that’s you’re not completely frazzled by this world we live in.
What does money mean to you?
Funnily enough I’m reading a book at the moment about money and so my attitude is starting to shift. It’s funny how many unconscious and inherited beliefs we have around money, and it’s real privilege to be able to uncover these and establish a new relationship with it.
What one piece of money advice would you give to your younger self?
KNOW. YOUR. WORTH. I used to be so grateful for intern expenses (peanuts) and then as I developed in to my career still felt like I couldn’t ask for more, because this was my learned attitude. But nothing gives you a speed course in knowing your worth like being your own boss, and now when I speak to women who are in their mid-20s and are so terrified to ask for a pay rise at their review phase - which they are more than entitled to - I get a bit carried away with giving them advice…
What’s next for you?
Crème egg and a bath? Only joking. I’m on a mission to support the big brands of tomorrow; the ones built on purpose, not profit. I’ll be speaking at the Know The Origin pop up for Fashion Revolution Week, and am crafting a few more articles around ‘better brands’ for key press. Watch this space.