Behind the Headlines with Jennifer McDermott
Just a few months ago, Jennifer McDermott joined finder.com, a personal finance comparison website, as the Communications Manager. She joined the site with a multitude of PR experiences — from working in both Australia and the UK to spending eight years in the travel PR industry. Just this last year, she was even awarded PR of the Year at the inaugural Travel Weekly Women in Travel Awards!
Jennifer sat down with me to discuss her PR career thus far, the differences in communicating across cultures, and the importance of analytics in driving PR strategy.
How did you get your start in PR?
I originally studied marketing in college, however the only jobs that appealed to me when I graduated were in PR. I soon landed an entry level PR role at a boutique agency and what was meant to be a detour turned out to be the right track after all. Working at a small agency, I was able to be more hands-on across the business than I would’ve been at a larger company. I also had the opportunity to work directly with senior professionals, who taught me a great deal.
You’ve worked in public relations in a variety of countries including Australia, the UK, and the US. Is there a difference in how you approach communication across countries or cultures?
We may speak the same language in Australia, the US and UK but there are plenty of differences in our communication styles. This is something I was very aware of whenever I moved countries and I tried to observe and absorb as many of the idiosyncrasies as possible. I’ve doled out my fair share of apologies for unintended gaffes but for the most part, people are pretty forgiving.
What has been your favorite moment or accomplishment in your PR career thus far?
I’m always setting new goals and benchmarks so my proudest moment to date would have to be landing a job at finder.com in New York. Living and working here has always been a dream of mine, so it’s my greatest achievement to date — from both a professional and personal standpoint.
After a successful eight years in travel PR, you switched specialties to personal finance. What motivated that switch, and what has been the biggest learning curve? What about the easiest part of the transition?
I thrive on challenge and change! Travel is a fantastic industry to work in and certainly afforded me a lot of opportunities, but moving countries opened up new paths I may have otherwise overlooked. Personal finance has always been of interest to me and then when I met the finder.com team, I knew it was the right move.
I’ve been very well supported through the transition with an awesome bunch of colleagues who are always gracious with my incessant questions. The learning is an ongoing process (do we ever stop?), but I’ve really delved into the subject matter. Having a genuine interest certainly helps a lot and is something that skill alone can’t replace.
With so much content saturating the marketplace, how can you ensure your messaging for finder.com resonates?
finder.com is a personal finance comparison website that is all about helping people make better financial decisions. We understand that the best option for one person may be totally wrong for another, and so we approach our communications strategy as such. Whether looking at personal loans, credit cards or shopping deals, we seek to inform first and foremost. We’re still a startup here in the US, having launched in late 2015, but this is the road map that has lead the Australian business to become the country’s most visited personal finance website.
How do analytics drive your PR strategy?
As an online business, analytics are incredibly important in determining what is and isn’t working. We are constantly reviewing data such as site traffic using Google Analytics to help drive PR activity for the months ahead.
What advice do you have for brands looking to improve their communication and better connect with consumers?
It’s important to step away from the business from time to time, and really try to view it from an outsider’s perspective. It’s really easy to get caught up in language, ideas and issues that are second nature to your industry, but too much assumed knowledge can alienate an audience. At finder.com we’re all about breaking down really complex ideas, and making them accessible so anyone can make better choices with their finances. We’re constantly asking questions, trying new methods and fine-tuning as needed.
1. If I was a superhero, my powers would be…the ability to speak and understand every language in the world.
2. My spirit animal is….my pug, Frank.
3. If I had a billion dollars, I would…keep it very quiet.
4. If I could go back in time, I would travel to… the 80’s. It’s a shame I was a baby then and missed all the fun.
5. My favorite book is….most recently, Past the Shallows by Favel Perrett.
6. If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be…my sister, Andi. She lives so far away and we always have so much fun.
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