PR is one of the few sectors of business dominated by women, and Kieran Moore, as CEO of the biggest PR machine in the country, is arguably its matriarch. Raised by nuns in a strict Catholic girls’ school, her youth was forged in a culture of female empowerment and academic excellence. “They were brilliant educators and staunch advocates for women,” she says of her habit-clad tutors.
While PR might be run by women, she recognises her industry is an anomaly in this respect. “Just about the entire business community in Australia is dominated by men. It’s an extraordinarily sad and sorry state.” So what is the crux of this gender imbalance? According to Moore, the absence of women from senior positions in business comes down to archaic and detrimental societal attitudes to powerful females.
“A number of studies have shown that women who promote their own interests are seen as aggressive, selfish, uncooperative ball breakers. An equal number of studies show that the failure of women to promote their own interests results in a lack of female leaders. Until one of these conditions changes, we need great sponsors and mentors who are available and visible so that we can help women gain access to the opportunities they deserve,” she insists.
Moore began her career working for a national charity which supported young people with physical disabilities, and was quickly promoted from an entry level position to the role of PR officer which saw her responsible for all speech writing and publicity.
Surrounded by a “formidable” team of women who cared passionately about their work, she learnt mountains about brilliant marketing, stakeholder enegament and PR. She left because of the emotional toll. “A lot of the wonderful people I had profiled in the media were dying due to degenerative diseases,” she remembers. “You got to know people then they weren’t there anymore.”
A few years later she found herself working in London for Firefly consultancy, a role she held for an epic 12 years, during which time it grew from 12 people to 140 and became the 2nd largest independent PR firm in Europe. She joined the Board and became a shareholder. But in 2003 she was Sydney-bound and came home to a job at technology agency Howarth – part of Ogilvy PR. In 2011 she took over as CEO of Ogilvy PR.
Working in the dynamic world of new media Moore says the biggest challenge for the PR sector is to develop content that both informs and entertains. “Social media has changed the dynamic. Brands can’t talk at consumers they must talk with them.
“Social media demands authenticity and we believe the age of spin, after being on life support for several years, is now dead… Our role will increasingly be about helping socialise organisations as the ability to make friends with target audiences will make or break the brands of the future.”
As for the issue of PR increasingly usurping the duties of creative and digital agencies, Moore believes the PR industry will continue to broaden its approach to solving brands’ problems. She says the quest to create entertaining and informative content will “drive even closer synergies between public relations, advertising and marketing, with a concentration on ideas-based thinking rather than the more siloed areas that the professions currently inhabit.”
For Moore, who is married with a six year old daughter, the notion of work life balance is a myth. “The only hope women have is to balance their energy flows. This means basing my priorities and commitments on those activities that excite and energise me, both at work and at home.” Being perennially run off one’s feet, she insists, should never be treated as a hallmark of talent or virtue. “I learnt a long time ago to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol,” she notes.
In essence it’s been her attitude which has elevated her to the top of her field. “I constantly challenge myself to cultivate and celebrate my authenticity and not try and be someone who people expect me to be. That means letting go of comparison and only measuring yourself against your own set of standards. I constantly work on being resilient, not emotional and to trust my instincts.”