Prospect presents Lorna O’Neill

Posted by Prospect‘s UK Team

Prospect Presents Lorna O’Neill – Head of UK PR, Trainline 

You’ve been at Trainline for just over a year, how would you describe the vibe there?

Fun, lively and vibrant. Trainline is a cool, fast paced tech business full of very smart people, I really like it here.

How does working for an online disruptive company affect your role as a PR professional?

The emphasis on being up to speed on the latest trends and innovations feels more important than ever, because this industry moves so quickly. I need to be hot on the news agenda, our wide stakeholder map and identifying opportunities and acting on them swiftly. Time does not stand still in tech.

What key attributes do you need to succeed at Trainline?

I think you need to be passionate about the task at hand. We are ruthlessly focused on improving the way people travel by train, using technology to do so. That motivates all of us, as the opportunity is huge and we are in a moment in time right now that I think is going to define the future of train travel across Europe.

You also need to be really good at what you do – I am constantly amazed by how many brilliant people work here, it’s really inspiring.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

In my whole career, I would say my biggest achievement was landing in Sydney with a dream of furthering my PR career and doing just that. I arrived with a suitcase, no job and nowhere to live. I networked, I had coffee meetings, secured a great job and built a career I am proud of and a network of contacts that I keep in touch with today. That makes me really proud.

What’s the best piece of career advice anyone’s ever given you and why?

I don’t know whether these are really pieces of career advice, but more tips that I have taken throughout my career. There’s two;

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.” My boss at Hilton, Josh Roberts had that pinned above his door and I was stressing over something minor one day, he pointed to the sign and told me that sometimes, when the little things annoy you, you really shouldn’t let it get to you.

“Bring me solutions, not problems.” Another great manager of mine, Vicki Richards at Marriott instilled this in me, in that when I had problems, I more often than not would have the solution myself if I took time to smell the roses. That stuck with me, so I always went to her office with solutions, or at least a suggestion of one, rather than problems. It’s amazing what you can come up with when you have confidence in your own abilities.

What do you love most about PR?

I feel lucky to be in a career like PR. There are so many things I love about this job – the people I work with, the media, creating news, nailing a strategy, developing messaging, seeing your hard work in print (or online, but still no feeling like opening the paper with your coverage in there!)

Any bug bears?

I do find it challenging to smile through the times when someone approaches you with a ‘great PR idea’ (when it isn’t) or someone just really doesn’t understand what PR and earned media is! In fact, those two things usually come hand in hand.

Everyone has an awkward/embarrassing PR story – care to share one of yours?

I was a Senior Account Executive and had a client which was a huge UK bed retailer. I organised a media launch in London to showcase a new range of beds that had been developed with innovative technologists from the USA. The idea was for media to come, they would get their own bespoke profile using this new system and then the perfect mattress for them would be recommended.

The stakeholders from the USA flew over, venue booked, food, drink….and just two journalists showed up. And they weren’t even good ones. I was inconsolable.

The lesson? Go with your gut. Whilst I had 20 RSVP’s, deep down I knew that the majority would not show up and that actually a 1-1 media education program would have been a better strategy. That said, I was fairly junior and was encouraged to go along with the launch from my colleagues. I should have fought harder to change strategy and gone with my gut.

Even now, media launches absolutely terrify me….

Prior to Trainline you worked in Travel PR, both in London and Sydney. What advice would you give to someone thinking about moving location or sector?

Change of any kind takes bravery, determination and tenacity. I truly believe that if you put your mind to something, anything is possible. You get out what you put in – that’s my mantra.