Interview | KARI OWERS

In Conversation With

Issue 34

What were your career ambitions growing up?

I was the one who hung out in the art room and read books, so as a girl I just wanted to do something creative. I studied art and then fashion design but it was a love of the written word that led me to my career in comms.

Tell us about the inception of O

I started O Communications in 2005 when my daughter was a new born. It quickly grew from the kitchen table and I realised I really enjoyed building a team as opposed to working alone so we became an agency – becoming a mother made me more ambitious than ever.

What services do you provide?

We are known for our PR but O has grown its digital services considerably in the last few years. Our digital team helps clients become more visible online through robust social media management, influencer relations and by creating SEO strategies around great content. Creative content is our fastestgrowing service, as we are now becoming a nation that prefers to digest images over text. Our studio manages all creative design, video and photography primarily for social media marketing.

What’s your proudest business achievement?

We were a finalist in Best Agency Outside London at PR Week Awards last year which has been our vision from day one – to work on exciting brands and be happily HQ’d here in Newcastle. I’m very proud to see the young people grow within our company and work their way up to senior roles and help shape the business.

What challenges have you encountered?

I think for any SME it’s a challenge trying to move to the next level and break into larger companies, yet we’ve worked with global brand names like Dr. Martens where our size and location was actually an advantage. Breaking the door down of that dream client can be a challenge, but small entrepreneurial businesses are agile and creative and we bring fresh perspective to large corporates. We have a strong creative and digital scene with some superb agencies here in the North East that are doing world-class work, so perhaps our sector just needs to shout a bit louder, which is why I am a board member at Digital Union.

How has the industry changed in the last 10 years?

The biggest change has been our biggest opportunity – the rise of digital media. Every business needs to embrace how people now search for products and services, engage with brands and share their passions – digital, and especially social media, dominates those behaviours. Local press for example is still one of the most trusted sources – but so is a recommendation from someone you follow on social – so we have to be strategic about understanding the customer and their journey and look for ways to tell that brand story at every opportunity. Our work is travelling across so many more channels than 10 years ago.

What are you currently working on?

The refurbishment of our new 4000sq ft office, we have invested recently in a great agency space in Sandyford which was part of an old brewery dating back to 1831.

What is the best piece of business advice you have been given?

Know your numbers.

Is there a mantra you always aspire to do business by?

Enjoy it, why else would you do it?

Who are your heroes in and out of business?

I’m obsessed by other entrepreneurs’ stories, especially women. At the moment I’m in awe of Marcia Kilgore who founded Bliss spa, Soap & Glory, Fit Flop and now Beauty Pie to disrupt the luxury beauty industry. I’d love to meet her.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Work in progress.

How do you like to unwind?

Hotpod yoga – it’s a perfect mix of sweat and serenity.

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