Sunday 4 December 2016

Mary gets a gong after a lifetime of minding her men

PR guru Mary Finan offered sage advice and guarded the reputation of the most powerful men in Irish business, writes Niamh Horan

Published 01/11/2015 | 02:30

PR GURU: Mary Finan will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement award at the 2015 IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards this week
PR GURU: Mary Finan will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement award at the 2015 IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards this week

She has been the PR guru to some of Ireland's most successful men for more than 30 years, guardian of their reputation and a wise advisor during times of crisis. And this weekend, former RTE chairperson Mary Finan shared some of the secrets of working with high-profile entrepreneurs, including Dr Michael Smurfit and Dr Tony Ryan - as she revealed her golden rules for keeping reputations in check.

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Ms Finan will accept the Lifetime Achievement award at the 2015 IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards this week. The Wilson Hartnell Public Relations (WHPR) co-founder explains: "The one guiding principle I have always told my clients can be surmised in three words: honesty is invincible." "If you are honest, no words will ever come back to haunt you. Now you might have been wrong, but you were honest at the time about what you knew. And honesty is very disarming.

"That doesn't mean you tell everyone everything all the time. But it does mean every single word you utter is truthful.

"The second is to never make assumptions," she says. "Mostly, assumptions are wrong and they are very dangerous. I have found in my professional and personal life, I was usually wrong if I ever made them. And out [in the public eye] if you've made an assumption, you're eating your words."

Her third piece of advice is: "To always do your best. Because then you can never have regrets. It just wasn't meant to be. If you have done your best, people always know it and respond well to that."

Speaking about what it was like to work with Dr Smurfit, she said the tycoon "was a very quiet man but had a very strong presence".

"I worked for him for over 30 years and I never heard a cross word from him. He was very clear in his briefings and about what he wanted done and you just had to go and do it.

"I remember if you were making a proposal to him, he always wanted it on a single sheet of paper because he didn't have a lot of time. You had to be clear and concise.

"I found Michael very loyal too. A lot of the people were there when I started and ended. Once you did the job, Michael kept you."

Speaking about Ryanair founder Dr Tony Ryan, she said: "He was very, very demanding and exacting. He was a visionary. He saw the potential in things and he could see the future. You couldn't really compare him, he was so different to anyone I've ever met."

She said the common denominator among high achievers was that they could spot talent and hired the best. "They also had an incredible work ethic, working around the clock. They gave the job all the hours it required and you got sucked in by that type of enthusiasm. They inspired the people around them."

Asked what advice she would give women in business, she said: "I wouldn't think of myself as a woman in business. Just think of yourself as a person doing their job to the best of their ability. It's as simple as that in my view."

Sunday Independent

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