Embrace Millennials — they are natural early adopters and the next huge market. They live in a real-time world and we need to be able to deliver what they want, instantly.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Marie O’Riordan who is Senior Public Relations and Communications Manager at high-profile FinTech Prepaid Financial Services which is seeking to launch an IPO next year. The veteran former broadcast news Journalist presented and produced primetime shows and conducted live interviews with the presidents of countries, later consulting for 11 nations. The International Business Awards judge has received industry awards on 3 continents and was flown to Abu Dhabi, UAE to collect an international honorary philanthropy award for her work in Africa.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have had a close connection with words and numbers since I was a young child. That is how I helped to make sense of the world, it still is. When I was given a Petite Super International typewriter aged 5, I knew I wanted to be involved in Journalism when I grew up. I look back now and realize that I felt a deep sense of justice within me from a young age and this feeling of doing the right thing remains. I started at a new school when I was 13 and began mailing creative writing work I did to national radio and television producers. Little did I think they would call back the next day. A major division at our national broadcaster was the Young People’s Programmes Department. This was one of the places, including local radio and newspapers, where I cut my teeth in news departments on and off the air until I went to college at 18 and studied Journalism.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
I clearly remember the first History lesson I had at school aged 7. I learned about Mother Teresa and I said in class that I would meet her someday. 15 years later, my wish came true. In 1997, I felt passionate about making a documentary in the slums of Calcutta, India to highlight the plight of the people there. Two traditional banks turned me down for a personal loan to fund the project, but my local credit union lent me the money. I will never forget how I felt back then when I was 22 years old and the traditional banks let me down. Perhaps, this is another reason why I embrace the challenger culture and the FinTech industry? In my heart, I feel that for me, PFS is the opportunity of a lifetime. Back in Calcutta, one of the most overpopulated cities on Earth, I was invited by an Irish nun to meet her at an address the next morning on the day before I flew home. I had no idea that Mother Teresa was back in the country as I thought she was still with Princess Diana in The Bronx. Who would have imagined that both women would have died within a week of each other? The address I arrived at was known locally as Mother House, where Mother Teresa lived. Years later, when I met one of her nuns in London, I learned that Mother Teresa kept her Nobel Peace Prize in a box under her bed. I could never have predicted the interview I did that day would be the last interview she gave before her death. At this moment, I feel overwhelmed remembering her hugs — remarkably comforting, with a force-like energy as if a warm breeze had swept through me.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I went to the boss of a radio station within a large media group with an idea for an on-air competition. I had a hunch and I wanted a way to measure the effect of gradually building up excitement for a prize with wording and the human voice until the telephone lines were finally opened up for listeners to call in. This was in the time before Social Media and people dialed a landline instead of texting or using apps. The only problem was that the publicity stunt worked too well. There were so many calls that the local telephone exchange for the area crashed with the call volume overload. I was informed by the national telecommunications company if I ever pulled a stunt like that again, the landlines to the companies involved would be shut down and the contracts revoked for breach of service. The lesson I learned is that it is alright to experiment, but there can be unforeseen consequences. I still believe in taking a chance on an idea and going with my gut.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
From day one, I have felt a huge affinity with my colleagues and the leadership, especially the intrepid Noel Moran who is CEO, his inspirational wife Valerie Moran who is Head of Client Relations and Operations, and the dynamic Lee Britton who is Commercial Director. The charisma they exude and their incredible work ethic inspire me each day. Previously, I took the risk of setting up businesses on two continents in the height of the recession. It was a rollercoaster filled with highs and lows that helped me to achieve almost every career goal and to check off personal bucket list items I had in that time. But something was missing and I found what I was searching for with PFS. I gained a reputation in my previous work for being able to spot a winner. I see staggering potential in this company and I have never been this excited about a firm in my life. The company’s financial and philanthropic record speaks volumes. The PFS story will continue to be written for years to come.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We continue to focus on making people’s lives easier by inventing the future of FinTech. Our Tech Lab wizards in sunny FinTech-friendly Malta will be moving into their state-of-the-art new facility in early 2019. The $1,000,000 PFS FinTech Innovation Fund continues to incubate and launch innovative new ideas in the payment space. The company continues to collect industry awards for nextgen innovation. In addition, our CEO, Noel Moran, will be presented with two significant accolades later this month. News of one of them will be revealed at Davos in Switzerland in January. Above all, the aim to launch an IPO is the most exciting prospect of all given the potential to accelerate the rate of expansion of the business.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?
I enjoyed an early tipping point when I was 15 years old. This was when I won my first national award for filmmaking and the judging panel was headed up by a Director who worked with the late Peter O’Toole of Lawrence of Arabia fame. The award was backed by a national television station and the main sponsor was the electronics giant, Sony. HQ ensured I was given the latest high-tech camera equipment and supplies as prizes to help get my career as a young Videographer started. This all happened on Saturday the 22nd of December, 1990. The course of my life changed that day and I could feel that nothing would ever be the same again. It never was. Precisely 27 years later, on the evening of Friday, December 22nd, 2017, I was told by a university professor who was reviewing my early life that, retrospectively, instead of starting school when I did, I should have gone to university. Today, there are options for young children with accelerated timelines who were like me, but not in 1980 when I was 5, and I am glad. How different my life could have been? I may have swapped my love of words for my adoration of numbers and a typewriter for a calculator?
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
I am a member of both the Academy of Marketing and the Public Relations and Communications Association. Recently, the PRCA shared statistics on mental health in the industry with the membership. I was not at all surprised to read that News Reporters and PR professionals are involved in two of the Top 10 most stressful jobs in the world. I believe you need to know your limits. I am an introvert and I know what I need to do to recharge and replenish my mental and physical energy levels. While the people closest to me, nature, silence, exercise, mindfulness and sensory experiences are my safe havens, everyone is different. I have happily paid for high-level life and career advice from the same professional for the past 21 years. This has been an invaluable investment in myself as well as my well being and happiness. The other side of the coin is that I thrive on a certain level of stress. For many years, I had live news deadlines every 15 minutes and I would have to get up at 4 in the morning to be early for work. I still have a long commute and, in many ways, I need this as my incubation and decompression time before and after work. Everyone needs someone to talk to about their life in general. I am fortunate that I am surrounded by a small circle of people I trust with my life and they know that they can trust me with theirs. There is nothing more important to me in life than loyalty. It is never a grey area and there has never been an in-between. When I commit to something, I am wholeheartedly 100% in and this can add to my natural workaholic-like tendencies. I get this from my hardworking family. I am more aware of it as I get older.
How do you define “Marketing”? Can you explain what you mean?
To me, Marketing is so much more than a sector, an industry or a profession. It is an experience which should be all-encompassing. In essence, Marketing should evoke a feeling. I always ask, how as Marketers can we make people physically and emotionally feel better about and connect with the company we work with and want to do more business with us? I am comfortable in my own vulnerability and I feel that breaking down barriers and truly being able to reach out to other people is crucial to the survival of Marketing.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful that my family gave me the freedom to pursue my dream from a young age. There is also family in America who stand out. One of them went on to become CEO, President, and Chairperson of a Fortune 200-listed company and has been a White House Senior Advisor for some years. Although retired, he currently serves on the Board of a country’s energy programme. The other graduated with an MBA from Harvard in 1960. He went on to become Vice-President and Senior Vice-President of Marketing for an international airline, a global car hire company, and a major US bank. I thank my lucky stars that they took me under their wings from when I was 14 years old and we remain extremely close to this day. I recently got to spend some wonderful quality time with one of them, his wife, and one of his granddaughters.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners?
Every day I get to speak with Journalists around the world. AI is one of the hottest trends right now and the cloud makes it more manageable than ever. After all, if you lost your smartphone today, the cloud lessens that loss. AI and big data analytics are inextricably linked — they both need each other to thrive. Conor Doyle, CTO at PFS said: “Machines can “think” faster, they are more accurate, more secure, and if built correctly, more intuitive.” Within FinTech, the company has a 10-year dataset — one of the highest volumes of data in our industry in the world. Given time, R&D will ensure that AI becomes even more intuitive and “smarter” at learning what you need, perhaps before you know it yourself? I find the prospect of IoT incredibly exciting as the possibilities to explore are endless.
What are your “5 Non Intuitive Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses”?
1. Storytelling — the power of sharing empowering personal stories cannot be underestimated. Think about mass media success stories down through the decades — they were all “Based on a True Story.”
2. Embrace Millennials — they are natural early adopters and the next huge market. They live in a real-time world and we need to be able to deliver what they want, instantly.
3. AI is your friend — it can help you to power strategic Marketing decision making as well as analytical tools. It does not want your job — it has its own work to learn to do!
4. IoT changes everything — smart homes have been here for some time. Now, get ready for a smart-life world with seamless personalized Marketing integration to make your life more convenient while saving you time — and money.
5. Ask better questions — stop simply scratching the surface and aim to see 360. Develop an insatiable curiosity and ask why your campaign is important? How will it positively impact your target market? Do not be afraid to delve deeper.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
PFS witnessed this very ideal this year. Our CEO Noel and his wife Valerie felt very deeply about helping hungry children in Mali, Africa which is one of the poorest countries in the world. Their campaign with Mastercard and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) meant that 200,000 school meals were donated to children in the West African country. My sincere hope is that goodwill gestures like this will be adopted by other FinTechs so we can all work to help the most vulnerable people on our planet. My wish is that more financial technology companies are inspired to develop their own philanthropic initiatives that can make a real difference in the lives of families who are struggling on a daily basis. Together, we can ease their plight.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When you are in the presence of Oprah Winfrey, she effortlessly makes everyone in the room feel like everything is going to be alright. This is one of my favorite quotes from her. “Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”
How can our readers follow you on social media?
PFS’ Twitter handle is @PrepaidFS and mine is @MarieORiordan. PFS’ LinkedIn account is https://www.linkedin.com/company/prepaid-financial-services/ and mine is https://www.linkedin.com/in/marieoriordan/
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.