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International Women’s Day – The power of trusting your instinct, taking a leap, and being yourself

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To mark International Women’s Day, Liberty PR co-founder Lisa Jolly talks about her career journey, how she came to be heading a successful PR agency, and the advice she would give to her younger self.

When she was growing up Lisa Jolly never imagined she would one day run her own company, but that wasn’t down to lack of ambition or confidence. She simply had other plans.

“I was set on being a journalist,” she said. “I had this mapped out from the age of nine.”

After leaving Newcastle University in 2002, Lisa joined The Rutland Times and over the next 11 years worked on a range of local newspapers including as editor of the Bourne Local, and news editor at the Rutland and Stamford Mercury.

But with a changing economy and the emergence of the role of the internet and social media, the world of local newspapers changed significantly over the years, making career progression and job security uncertain.

Lisa began to think about other areas where she could use her expertise and build a successful career. It was not an easy decision as she admits the changing landscape in local newspapers threw her for a while and staying with what you know initially felt like the safe option.

But in 2013 she made the leap and took her skills to the world of PR. After years of working with PR agencies as a journalist and editor, she became a PR executive herself.

“It was scary being on the other side of things, but I was quite happy with what we needed to do, and it worked,” she said.

The years in news gave her an in-depth knowledge of how the media works, and what makes the difference between a press release, or story idea that gets a good showing online or in print, and one that ends up at the other end of the delete button.

“Those 11 years in media were a good grounding,” she said.

She worked her way from account executive to account director and within just four years, she made the decision to take another leap, by setting up Liberty PR with co-founder David Watts. The company was launched on 4 July 2017.

The push to do it was very much about creating the kind of company that Lisa and David wanted to work in.

Lisa said: “We had strong opinions on how things should be done.

“We believed that if you put the client first and deliver something that works and you create a quality of content, the rest will follow. We were determined to make it work.

“We wanted to create something that is not ‘off the shelf’, but that looks at the clients’ issues. It may be an overused term, but we wanted to create something that’s bespoke, and that’s what we do. It was also important that we create a nice place to work.”

The business became busy quickly. She remembers getting a good piece of advice that it is well worthwhile to pay other people to do the tasks that are not your own speciality, and doing this has allowed her to focus on her own areas of expertise.

Is it more difficult to be a female business owner? Lisa can certainly recall times when perhaps someone has assumed David is her boss, or that something has been said that might not have been said in the same way to a man. But within the PR industry and among clients she has not found any such out-of-date attitudes.

Going into running a business has been a success although it was not the path that she had imagined for herself when she started her career.

To do this she had to transform her own outlook and find a new approach. “I stopped overthinking things,” she said. “I thought, ‘let’s just see what happens’, and I learned to go with my instinct.

“When I was younger, I would plan every step. I had it all mapped out and I was too rigid then in how I wanted that to look. If I could go back to my younger self I’d say to her, ‘relax a bit!’”

She advises anyone starting a new business to immerse themselves and get involved in their industry. She found her membership of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) invaluable as it has provided a community, contacts, and useful advice.

She says that talking to business owners in other industries about their experience can also be very useful.

And to other women thinking of taking a leap into running their own business she says: “Have faith in yourself if it’s an area in which you are confident you know what you are trying to deliver. You can be yourself and succeed.”

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